No Rubber Stamps

Recently in the midst of a mediation session, Rob and I were asked, “What normally happens in this case? You know, what does the judge say?”

Time and time again, couples who have decided to mediate (instead of litigate) their divorce want to know “what happens when . . . ” And time and time again, I say, “That’s the beauty of mediation. The two of you get to decide what happens when . . . ” While it is true that most family and probate courts judges could do a pretty decent job of setting down the terms and conditions of an asset division and parenting plan from simply looking at the couple “on paper,” mediation permits the divorcing parties to be the “experts” of their lives and to be the ones making the decisions.

As a lawyer, I could take a fair guess at “what happens when . . . ” knowing that there exists something of a “rubber stamp” if a judge asked to decide for the divorcing couple. In fact, when couples end up litigating their divorces, that happens a lot: the judge makes a decision for the couple.

Holistic Mediation isn’t in the business of making predictions, speculating on “what happens when . . . ,” or telling the couple what they should do. Why? Because the two people best suited to make choices about the terms and conditions of a separation agreement are those two people who it affects the most, i.e., the individuals who are divorcing.

In mediation, there are no rubber stamps. There is open dialogue and collaboration. Holistic Mediation honors that sort of decision making as it done by those best positioned to make those choices.

 

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If you or someone you know is considering divorce, please contact us to schedule a 1/2 hour free consultation to see if mediation would be right.

Jenna can be reached at 978.760.0482. Rob can be reached at 978.479.2923.

 

Why Co-Mediate?

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In co-mediation sessions, the clients get a double benefit through their access to two different skill sets brought by Rob and Jenna.

As an attorney, Jenna addresses the legal, logistical, and analytical aspects of conflict; as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Rob hones in on the relational and trauma-based aspects of people in dispute.

While Jenna is an attorney, and Rob a consulting psychotherapist, we do not represent mediation clients as an attorney, nor offer clinical explanations that underlie any disagreement. During the family mediation process, Jenna will share legal information but is precluded by ethical rules to give legal advice. Rob, through his years of experience working with conflict circumstances provides insightful direction in getting at the core of the areas of dispute.

This two-skill-set model offers to all clients a much richer experience in the crafting of legitimate and personally meaningful resolutions.

As the facilitators, Rob and Jenna promote discussion and negotiation that allows the conflicting participants the opportunity to exchange divergent views, ask questions, discuss difficult topics and find solutions. As co-mediators, they assume the role of neutral, third-party observers, assisting the participants to explore and find collaborated solutions. What generally results is the creation of a sound, mutually-acceptable agreement to address the parties’ particular circumstances.

Predicting the Future

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Rob and I do not have a crystal ball in the middle of our mediation room. It is plain and simple: we cannot predict what will happen once our divorcing clients leave the room to head to court. We can make generalizations about how judges tend to come to their findings. These generalizations are informed by what has traditionally been the decisions made in run-of-the-mill cases.

Many people find themselves in mediation for one of two reasons.

  1. They don’t want to litigate; or
  2. They believe their circumstances warrant a not-so-run-of-the-mill approach

While we at Holistic Mediation will honor either of these objectives (or a blend of the two), we can’t assure you–with 100% confidence–that your agreement will be accepted by the judge. We can tell you that we’ve never heard of any “rejected” agreement. This gives us feedback that what we draft for couples is considered by the judge as “fair and reasonable given the circumstances.”

Let us caution anyone who is being told, “I can write your agreement in a way that will be accepted. Guaranteed.”

That sort of statement implies a knowledge of events which have not yet occurred. We believe making those sorts of “I’m 100% confident that the judge will sign off on this” is not only not responsible, it’s also not possible.

If you have come to a point in your search for a way to civilly come to an end of your marriage, we suggest trying mediation for all of its challenges and empowerment. The process is tried and true, unlike the guesswork of gazing into a sphere of glass.

When Life Feels Out of Control

Most of us are accustomed to life going along at a predictable and manageable pace. We stick to routines, we have appointments, we meet expectations, we go day to day with confidence about how life will unfold.

And then, something flips.

For people who find themselves questioning their role in an unhappy, if not painful marriage, the feeling that their world is out of control can go from a low lying hum to a deafening scream, depending on the level of crisis in any one moment. The stress and anxiety caused by this “place in life” is soul-depleting, sometimes leaving people to turn even farther away from the crisis.

When the day finally comes that the unhappy person can verbalize a need to make a change, that’s when the hard work begins. The couple has choices: stay unhappy, find a way to foster happiness, go in separate directions and seek independent happiness.

(Side note: “happy” and its derivatives is a very broad term used in a general way.)

At Holistic Mediation, we believe that you can be in control of your life.

No one is more skilled in making thoughtful and proper decisions about your life than you are. Imagine how empowered you can feel when you make a choice about your life, rather than a stranger in a long black robe who was given information through “translators,” i.e., lawyers.

Mediation honors your autonomy.

Mediation welcomes your insights.

Mediation respects your decisions.

Our role as your mediators is to facilitate your client-led negotiations, and if needed, we will draft your collaborated agreement. We know that peacemaking can prevail and that civility can be found even in the most emotional and challenging arena.

Negotiations & Love Songs

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Paul Simon wrote these lyrics back in 1983:

Two disappointed believers
Two people playing the game
Negotiations and love songs
Are often mistaken for one and the same

Sometimes when I’m sitting in a mediation session, those words go through my mind, along with the melody. When a couple is going through a mediated divorce, they will need to negotiate the terms of their future Separation Agreement, which really ought to be titled “Contract for Dissolution of Marriage.”

Entangled in the process of going from legally (and oftentimes unhappily) married, the parties must come up with a contract that defines their future division of their marital assets and future obligations to their children and each other, i.e., a lot of negotiations.

The backdrop of a divorce mediation is what had been the intention to “have and hold, until death do us part,” i.e., a lot of love songs.

While I am charged with managing the legal, logistical, and analytical aspects of the process, Rob is uniquely qualified to manage the trauma, transition, and communication matters that are always present in a mediated divorce. Negotiations are for the lawyer to address; love songs are for the licensed mental health counselor.

At Holistic Mediation, we take to heart all aspects of the legal and transformative process of divorce. For a free 1/2 hour consultation to see if this approach would work for you, please call Jenna at 978.760.0482 or Rob at 978.479.2923.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse of Being the Messenger

Are your secrets safe on your messenger apps?

For as much as Rob and I enjoy facilitating the discussions that happen in the mediation setting, there is the occupational hazard of being “the messenger.” While we all have had the opportunity to see divorces play out in literature and on the silver screen, these are fictionalized versions of what amounts to be the “contract for the dissolution of marriage.” Rob and I are oftentimes the very first people to broach the very real matters of the division of marital assets, child support, and alimony. These topics are tough: no wonder why authors skip over these or Hollywood prefers something sexier.

Regardless of the inclination to avoid wading into these conversations, as your mediators, we are there to guide you through exactly those tough discussions. Along the way, you’ll get legal information to help you decide what a judge will most likely deem as “fair and equitable under the circumstances.” Additionally, you’ll be given support in having fruitful communication so that your discourse can be both structured and beneficial.

While we are regularly the bearers of not-so-glad tidings when it comes to the intricacies of divorcing, Holistic Mediation takes this role of with both seriousness and solemnity. We believe that in order for our clients to feel positively about the process of mediation that they need to be fully informed so that they can fully participate.

To schedule a free 1/2-hour consultation to see if mediation is right for you, please call Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 or Rob Brownson, LMHC at 978.479.2923.

 

The High Price of Distrust

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One of the many benefits of opting to pursue divorce through mediation rather than litigation is the cost savings. It is simply less expensive to pay for a series of mediation sessions and the drafting of the separation agreement than it is to hire two attorneys to go in and out of court, hold court-mandated meetings, negotiate the terms of the eventual separation agreement, and then work through multiple drafts to come to final terms. Oh, and then go back to court again to have the judge approve of the work. This description is of a couple that manage to find agreement. Sometimes, the divorce goes to trial. The costs go up exponentially from there.

Ask around. If you know someone who retained a divorce lawyer, what was the initial retainer? How many replenishing retainers were required? What was the final cost? If you can find someone who ended up going through a full-blown trial, see if you can get that person to admit how much money was forked over. Keep in mind that person’s number should probably be multiplied by two as there were two parties using two law firms.

I cannot confidently say that mediation is always less expensive, but I’m willing to bet that it is 99% of the time.

So why, if there’s a cheaper and equally legitimate option for divorcing couples, would people go the “litigation route?”

Because of trust.

Mediation requires full disclosure of all financial interests. Plain and simple. While some mediators are lawyers, they are not permitted when acting as mediators to use the “power of subpoena” to get to the parties’ bank accounts, retirement assets, stock portfolios, etc. When people come to mediation, they agree to put that all out on the table.

Rob and I have seen, time and time again, suspicion and sideways glances that lead us to wonder whether full disclosure is happening. Moreover, when one of the two people come out and say that “it’s impossible to trust” that everything is on the up and up, the mediation has the real potential to fall apart.

For many people–short of choosing whom to marry–divorce is the most consequential financial move they’ll ever make. In order to use mediation, trust is essential. A promise to work in good faith cannot be forced upon a soon-to-be-divorced person.

At Holistic Mediation, we are honored to help people get from “unhappily married” to “civilly divorced.” We employ our professional skills to have this happen thoroughly and concisely. If either party cannot trust the other, the mediators cannot produce the required trusting environment. As much as we endorse the non-adversarial process of mediation, it is not for everyone. Sadly, there is nothing we can do to make people believe in the forthrightness of their future ex-spouse.

No need to despair though, there are lots of lawyers happy to help you through a litigated divorce, but it’ll cost you.

How Hard is Coming Up with a Parenting Plan?

Over the years, my co-mediator and I have noticed that for most parents who are divorcing the task of coming up with a parenting plan is not the most difficult piece of a typical divorce mediation.

When Rob and I discussed why this was the case, we reflected on our mediations and came up with a general conclusion:

When two parents are asked what is in their children’s best interests, the parents–as experts of their own children–are in the unique (aka the best) position to assess what “best” should like with respect to their children.

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One of the benefits of mediation is the couples’ ability to dig deep and take the time to make thoughtful and evidence-based decisions. Unlike the hallways of family court where there is the pressure to “hurry up and compromise before the judge gets back on the bench,” a couple who uses mediation has the leeway to come to terms on their own terms.

If you’re thinking about mediation, consider coming into Holistic Mediation to meet Rob and myself to see if our approach would suit your goals.

Making Conversations Easier

One of the great benefits of engaging in mediation is the “ignorance” of the mediators. When a couple comes in to begin the process of divorcing, neither myself nor my co-mediator know anything at all about the couple–apart from their names. This means that the two of them get to tell the two of us exactly what we need to know. That need is driven by the present time and place of the couple. Unlike a family member or a friend, we don’t have biases or loyalties. We know nothing before you walk in. We only learn what you’re willing to share based on your need.

 

It’s a clean slate ready for you to begin writing your new story, starting with a new chapter.

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If you’re thinking of beginning, call or email us:

Jenna: 978.760.0482

jenna@holisticmediation.com

or

Rob: 978.479.2923

rob@insightoptions.org