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Dedham couple start mediation practice

Chouteau Levine

MEDIATION FOR FAMILIES: Divorce can be painful - both emotionally and financially if the matter drags out in court. The husband-and-wife attorney team of William M. Levine and E. Chouteau Levine of Dedham last month launched a business to mediate disputes involving family law, such as divorce and probate, before they get to court.

Negotiating a settlement in a neutral setting, they say, allows the clients to head into court with an agreement in hand, which saves them money in legal fees and makes judges happy because it doesn’t clog an already crowded caseload.

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Chouteau Levine should know: She is a retired associate justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, and before that was a partner at Brown Rudnick Freed & Gesmer in Boston. Her husband is retired from the Boston firm of Lee & Levine. Both went through divorces themselves; they have been married to each other for eight years.

Their new business, Levine Dispute Resolution Center, with locations in Westwood and Northampton, is unlike many other husband-and-wife legal mediation services, Chouteau Levine said, in that is the only one specializing in family law. Her practice focused on high-net-worth divorce and complex child-custody cases, she said, while her husband has more than 30 years of experience in private family law practice.

“Divorce is a fact of life,’’ she said. “It’s our honest belief that by facilitated negotiation, a far more satisfactory solution can be arrived at.’’

The cost saving of mediating a solution ahead of time can be substantial, she said. At her husband’s law firm, his hourly rate was $750. With hundreds of hours spent on complex, drawn-out cases, the final tally would be huge, she said. The Levines’ charge for mediating disputes is $400 an hour.

“That’s usually split between each of the parties,’’ she said. “It’s hard to quantify how much people can save, but with us you’re paying for the mediation here, versus hundreds of hours to fight out a contested matter in court.’’

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Both retired from their jobs late last year and started their new business because, Chouteau Levine said, “we were too young to really retire. But the other thing is, this is what we truly believe in. This way of resolving disputes is the most humane and efficient way to resolve situations that can be very, very unhappy.

“Nothing is more stressful than a bad divorce. . . . ’’ she said. “I saw many cases before me of people just not trying, and the destruction to the family emotionally and financially is enormous.’’

The Levines have both been recognized by fellowship in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, where William Levine is a former arbitration chairman. He has been named one of the “Best Lawyers in America’’ from 1995 through 2011 by Naifeh & Smith, an attorney-ranking organization, and in 2005 he was named one of Worth Magazine’s “Top 100 Lawyers in the United States.’’

For information on their company, visit www.levinedisputeresolution.com.

NORWELL THEATER WINS AWARD: The Company Theatre in Norwell took the Moss Hart Award for Best Musical by a Community Theatre for its 2011 production of “Singin’ in the Rain,’’ given by the New England Theatre Conference. It was the fourth recognition by the conference, which previously made the award to the theater group for “Gloryland, The America Show,’’ “Into the Woods,’’ and “Big River.’’

FIRE DEPARTMENTS OBTAIN GRANTS: The fire departments in Bridgewater and Weymouth have benefited from $10,000 grants each through the Liberty Mutual Insurance “Be Fire Smart Safety Pledge’’ program, in which residents of communities take an online fire-safety quiz, with each completed quiz marked as a credit for the fire department in that community. Nationwide, 10 communities are chosen to win the grant.

In Bridgewater, where 1,075 residents took the quiz, Fire Chief George Rogers said he plans to use the $10,000 to buy rescue gear for the station’s new fire engine. Weymouth Fire Chief Robert Leary plans to buy thermal imaging cameras to replace the station’s outdated camera equipment. Weymouth also won the award in 2009.

ORCHESTRA ADDS BOARD MEMBERS: The nonprofit Neponset Valley Philharmonic Orchestra has added two board members, Marie McIlwrath, CEO of Make Me a Match and a former teacher and educational consultant, and Brian Welsh, marketing manager for the US Sailing Association, who performed in orchestras and groups growing up in Washington, D.C.

BUSINESS BRIEFS: James Feen (below) of Rochester has been promoted to director of applications and systems development in the management information system department at Southcoast Hospitals Group, which includes Tobey Hospital in Wareham. He had been clinical systems manager at Southcoast, and before joining the company was a senior supervisor at Meditech in Norwood.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at Kandarian@globe.com

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