Find a Mediator

Find a Mediator

The Family Mediation Blog

The Alimony Reform Act: Lessons Learned in the Last Six Years

Friday, December 7, 2018
alimony letters sm.jpgThe Alimony Reform Act: Lessons Learned in the Last Six Years
The Alimony Reform Act of 2011 defined what alimony is and how it should work in much greater detail than the prior law.  The Alimony Reform Act, 2011 Mass. Acts ch. 124. However, it also left many questions unanswered. In the six years since the Act became effective, on March 1, 2012, the courts have slowly been further clarifying, and in some cases arguably undercutting, the Act.  In this article, we will summarize the provisions of the Act and note the court cases that...

This December Don’t Dread Divorces

Monday, November 12, 2018

This December Don’t Dread Divorces

by John Fiske

Thanks to the 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, (“TCAJA”), divorce lawyers and mediators know that December will be a busy time and some of us may be working right up to the bell on Monday, December 31st.   Under the TCAJA the alimony exclusion has been repealed for all separation agreements executed after this December (technically you could say the alimony exclusion is suspended, because the TCAJA repeal expires on December 31, 2025).
We can only imagine the conversations we will be having in December with clients who call us looking for a divorce and learn they have less than a month to write a separation agreement if they want to preserve the ability...

Wanted: Diverse Divorce Practitioners. Why Diversity is Good for All of Us

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Wanted: Diverse Divorce Practitioners. Why Diversity is Good for All of Us

By Valerie Qian

Cultural competence and sensitivity to the needs of diverse clients are an essential part of being an effective and successful professional.


Photo Array of Diverse Professionals sm.jpg


My father-in-law recently underwent surgery to remove a kidney stone. It happened at a big hospital in New York City which, I understand, has an excellent urology department. As a first-generation immigrant from Shanghai, my father-in-law speaks limited English. After the surgery, while he was...

Facilitated Family Meetings

Monday, September 17, 2018
Facilitated Family Meetings
family discussion with two men.jpgI suspect many of us have experienced, at one time or another, how quickly extended family conflicts can unfold, and the damaging impact on valued relationships that often follows.  Identity and values conflicts among family members may emerge and communication may unravel.  Even in the closest of families, feelings about issues relating to aging parents or other loved ones run deep, and adult children and grandchildren may have vastly different perspectives regarding how evolving challenges should be managed.  It is not uncommon for longstanding sibling rivalries to manifest as family members attempt to tackle...

Letter from Past President Barbara Kellman

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

It has been an honor to serve for two years as MCFM President.  Now if I could only convince Mr. Trump of the value of a two-year presidency. . .  but, back to reality.

Our profession is extraordinarily important as we encourage parties to actually listen to and to hear the real (i.e., non-fake) needs and interests of each other.  Whether their needs and interests intersect only a bit or a lot, in one place or in several, it is our job to help them to see and strengthen those intersection(s).  

Easier Said Than Done 

Though it is easier said than done, like our Senator Warren, we Persist.  We seek connections that have been lost or perhaps were never sufficiently strong.  We promote disclosure in situations that can be fraught with mistrust, suspicion, and secrecy.  We encourage looking forward through the whole, wide windshield in front of us and not back through the small rearview mirror, as Kate Fanger taught me.

Why do...

In Memoriam: June Adams Johnson

Monday, May 28, 2018

In Memoriam:  June Adams Johnson

by Shuneet Thomson, Mediator

Our friend and colleague June Adams Johnson passed away on April 18, 2018 in her home in Groton, MA, surrounded by family and accompanied by the music of the Threshold Singers of Indian Hill Music. She was a wonderful person and a valued member of our Mediators Education and Support Group, which meets monthly in Interpeople’s offices in Littleton, MA. Her passing was sudden and we still feel shocked and bereft.

June was born June Louise Adams in Portland, Maine, on June 1, 1939. She leaves behind her devoted (second) husband, Steve Lieman, four adult children, five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

June graduated high school as...

President's Message: 2020: A Vision for the Future of MCFM

Monday, May 21, 2018


by Vicki L. Shemin, J.D., LICSW, ACSW

As the 24th President of MCFM, it is a formidable task to pen a President’s message. In thinking about all that I would like to convey, I was struck by the fact that my presidency will span the years 2018-2020. 

The irony of 2020 did not escape me. The familiar maxim that “hindsight is 20-20” is commonly understood to mean that we don’t always see clearly in the moment and that we only gain a perfect view of events after they have transpired - - that is, we are better able to evaluate past choices in retrospect rather than at the time of the occurrence.

But what if one had the benefit of an amazing Board of Directors who brings a perfect equipoise of past experience and fresh insights? And, what if one had the benefit of energetic and...

The Generous Prenup: How to Support Your Marriage and Avoid the Pitfalls

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

“The Generous Prenup: How to Support Your Marriage and Avoid the Pitfalls”
by Laurie Israel

As some of you may know, I spent a good part of the past 3 years writing a book about prenups. Our mediation (and law) practices sometimes take interesting turns. I started out as a tax lawyer, and then morphed into a general practice lawyer, concentrating on family law and estate planning. I’ve been practicing for a little over 30 years.

About 10 years ago, after representing a number clients in prenup negotiations, I wrote an article called “Ten Things I Hate about Prenuptial Agreements” and posted it online. This was during the relative infancy of the World Wide Web. Because the article was written by a lawyer, and because it...

The Amygdala Diaries

Monday, April 2, 2018


The Amygdala Diaries

by David Kellem

Mediators are challenged to guide clients through a lot of obstacles along the way to settlement.  One physically small but stealthy and strong obstacle is the human amygdala. Amygdalae are almond-shaped organs in the left and right hemispheres of our brains that can subconsciously derail rational negotiation.

The amygdala, it turns out, is the root of some of our less-rational and more problematic behaviors. It has been identified as a primary organ of the paleomamillian mind - the mind of early human beings who spent their days mostly just trying to survive in a hostile world full of beasts of prey and other physical threats. The amygdala is an alarm system and an army all in one. If it senses...

Revoking the Irrevocable Trust in a Divorce - Or - Never Say Can't, Say Decant! - Part II*

Monday, March 19, 2018

Revoking the Irrevocable Trust in a Divorce - Or - Never Say Can't, Say Decant! - Part II*

by Jonathan E. Fields

Even with Pfannenstiehl behind us, the complex interplay of the irrevocable trust and divorce continues to vex practitioners.  The topic du jour is decanting and divorce -- and the SJC just dove right in with Ferri v. Powell Ferri, 476 Mass. 651 (2017).

Before we go further, a quick primer.  “Decanting” is the process of pouring assets from an irrevocable trust into a newly created trust.  The big question at the heart of decanting and divorce: what if, during (or anticipating) a divorce, the trustee decanted the assets into a newly created trust that was, say, more...