To help divorcing couples settle their financial and other issues, the Family Court of the First Judicial Circuit and the Family Law Section of the Hawai`i State Bar Association collaborated to develop a Volunteer Settlement Master (VSM) program. The Mediation Center of the Pacific currently provides administrative support for the Program.
Through the Program, licensed attorney members of the Family Law Section apply to be a VSM and are assigned to cases according to need and availability. The Senior Judge of the Family Court selects and appoints the VSM from a list of approximately 50 family law attorneys who have been selected to serve as VSMs.
The couple is required to organize their financial paperwork before the meeting with the VSM, to better prepare the VSM to help the couple. The VSM will meet with the divorcing couple and their attorneys for up to 3.5 hours, or longer, to give them an opportunity to express their points of view. The VSM will not take sides or make decisions for the parties. Instead, using his or her skills and experience as a family law attorney, the VSM will try to help the parties reach an agreement that is fair and that everyone can accept. The VSM guides the process; the parties create the agreement.
The VSM process is confidential. Subject only to the provisions of the Hawai`i Rules of Professional Conduct and the Hawai`i Rules of Evidence, all communications among and between the master, the parties, and their attorneys will not be disclosed to the Family Court or anyone else. After the meeting is over, the VSM will send a report to the Family Court saying whether there was a meeting, who attended, and whether the case settled. The VSM will not tell the court anything else about the VSM meeting.
There is no cost to the divorcing couple for the services of the VSM. At the end of the process, the VSM will give the divorcing couple and their attorneys a questionnaire to fill out and return to the Mediation Center of the Pacific so they can write about their experience.