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Alternative dispute resolution includes different mechanisms by which a case may be resolved short of a courthouse trial including arbitration, mediation, conciliation and collaborative law.  For many couples and families, the thought of litigation or a courtroom battle is stressful.  Not every dispute or legal issue needs to be tried before a judge, especially when families want and are able to work together to find an effective resolution to their legal issues.   Alternative dispute resolution is an alternative for those who have legal issues to address and want a more amicable and timely way to resolve matters.   Some forms of alternative dispute resolution allow parties to maintain control over the possible outcome of their case as it will be determined by the parties involved as opposed to the court.  The Law Office of Rosemary Purtell has experience and extensive knowledge of three types of alternative dispute resolution—arbitration, mediation, conciliation and collaborative law. For more information on alternative dispute resolution go to


An arbitrator of a legal dispute acts similarly to a judge. This neutral third party, usually a retired judge or a long-practicing attorney is engaged by agreement to act as arbitrator.   The parties involved have control over the time and place for arbitration hearings, unlike court hearings.  The parties cannot unilaterally terminate the arbitration process.  The result and decision of an arbitrator is binding, similar to the decision of a judge of the Probate and Family Court.  Arbitration can result in a more creative or alternate resolution that may not be obtained in a normal courtroom setting.  Often the biggest advantage to arbitration is the speed at which a hearing can be scheduled as some of the Probate and Family Courts are currently scheduling trials many months after the Pretrial Conference date and over a year after the divorce is filed.


Mediation is a voluntary, informal process handled by a neutral party who works to negotiate a settlement between parties. The mediator, unlike an arbitrator, does not  hand down a decision; rather, the mediator assists the parties in reaching their own  agreement if they are able.   The mediator will work with both parties to come up with creative solutions that can then be memorialized in a Separation Agreement.  Very often parties will schedule several sessions with a mediator in order to resolve the case.    During the mediation process the parties’ respective attorneys may also be present or the parties may proceed to the mediation without their attorneys being present.  The focus of mediation is on problem solving together. Mediation can be used to resolve all types of domestic relations matter, including divorce, child support, paternity, custody, modifications, and post-judgment proceedings.  Attorney Purtell is a certified domestic relations Mediator as well as a litigator.


Conciliation is akin to mediation but where the professional facilitating discussions provides more input as to what a likely outcome could be were the case to proceed to trial.  Conciliators work to lower tensions, improve communication, interpret issues, provide technical assistance, explore potential solutions, and bring about a negotiated settlement.  Many of the counties in Massachusetts have established free conciliation programs to which the Court can refer parties.  These involve attorney conciliators who serve voluntarily and without compensation to assist parties in resolving their cases. Attorney Purtell is a trained Conciliator.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is a legal process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and other family professionals, such as financial advisors/professionals and mental health professionals, in order to resolve the issues in their case.  This allows the parties to dispense with the uncertainty of a contested proceeding in the Probate and Family Court and to proceed without the underlying threat of litigation.  Some cases are well suited to this process; however, others are not.  Attorney Purtell can evaluate your case and determine whether your case is suited to this process and advise you accordingly.

All the alternative dispute resolution approaches can be extremely useful in a number of situations depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.  Attorney Purtell is trained to explore each approach and help you get a fair, timely, cost-effective, and amicable resolution. With a focus on communication and a dedication to pursuing creative and workable solutions, you can rely on Attorney Purtell to help you navigate any family law matter you wish to remain out of court.