by Les Wallerstein
Mediators rarely accompany their clients to court during their divorce hearings. Most clients don’t share their court experience with their mediators. Even when clients do report what happened in court, their recollections are always subjective, and often imprecise. Now there is an alternative.
Audio recordings and transcripts of virtually all Massachusetts court proceedings are now available to the public online, including contested and uncontested matters. Everyone: parties, lawyers, and non-lawyer mediators, may register and listen to verbatim court proceedings through a program called “For the Record” (the website with information through the Massachusetts Courts is https://www.mass.gov/service-details/ftr-for-the-record-recording-requests).
To become a registered user, go online to https://us.court.fm. Applicants will need to provide a credit card to pay for each recording [or transcript] ordered. Printed transcripts are also available at a cost of approximately $3 per page. There is no charge to register, and cost waivers are available for indigent users.
Once registered, users will need to know the case name, the court, and the date of the proceeding. Although users are asked to state the “exact” start and end times of each proceeding, entering “9:00 AM to 5:00 PM” suffices.
I bought audio access to two separate, Middlesex Probate and Family Court divorce hearings. Each audio purchase cost $10, and allows 12 months of unrestricted access to each recording on the FTR Court website. When I complained that the FTR website didn’t accept the password I proposed, I was quickly contacted by the FTR support staff, and the matter was soon resolved.
The For the Record Court website offers a product sheet (accessible here) and upon creating an account a free, 52 page guide in PDF which is filled with detailed information. Listening in is now an option.
Les Wallerstein is a family mediator and collaborative lawyer in Lexington. He can be contacted at 781-862-1099, or at email@example.com