How Co-Mediation Differs from Solo-Mediation

In co-mediation sessions, our 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.

Connection. Hands trying to fit two puzzle pieces together.

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.

If you are interested in the richer model that co-mediation can offer, contact Rob at 978.479.2923 or Jenna at 978.760.0482.

Bringing the Children Along


My co-mediator and I just wrapped up a mediation with a couple who is divorcing. They were committed to the process, thoughtful about their choices, measured in their tone, and, above all, concerned about their children’s futures.

When we met to compile their “filing packet,” which would be mailed to the Probate and Family Court to be scheduled for a Zoom hearing, we did so taking all Covid19 precautions. While we’d met with this couple in person for the bulk of their sessions, we, too, have shifted to online mediation sessions. But to sign papers and have them notarized, we really needed to be face-to-face, or mask-to-mask as the current “normal” requires.

Outside on a lovely New England afternoon, Rob and I waited their arrival. And, to our surprise, four people stepped out of their car. Our clients had brought their two children.


children(These are not their children.)

In mediating divorces, children are not present. The goal of a divorce mediation is to come to terms on a contract, i.e., the contract for the dissolution of a marriage. The law presumes that anyone under 18 years old lacks the capacity to enter into a contract.

(Note: Chore contracts, homework contracts, and practice-piano contracts are established all the time between parents and their children. Don’t let on that you know that these contracts are invalid based on the legal presumption of incapacity of minors. That could sabotage the harmony that can come from “contracts” like these.)

So, while children aren’t legally necessary to participate in a divorce, it is irrefutable that they are right “there” in each and every mediation session. They are the bond that gets couples to compromise; they are the vehicle to keep the couple focused on the most important piece of the divorce puzzle.

Seeing our clients’ children, from a socially-distanced vantage, warmed our hearts and reminded us that when done well, parents can be honest with their children and even let them have a glimpse of what Mommy and Daddy were doing all those times they said, “We’re going to mediation.”

If you think mediation is right for you and your children, please call Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 or Rob Brownson, LMHC at 978.479.2923 to schedule a half-hour complimentary consutation.

What You Can do to Get Ready to Mediate

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Oftentimes, my co-mediator and I are asked, “What do we need to do for the first meeting?” While there is nothing you must do in order to fully participate in that first meeting, you may want to do a few things to prepare.

While the following questions presume that you have children, you can consider them even if you are divorcing without minor children.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. In a perfect world, how will the children’s time be allotted between myself and my soon-to-be ex-spouse? Are these notions reasonable when taking into consideration work schedules, school schedules, activities, etc.?
  2. Do I want to stay in the marital house? If so, why? What are the benefits? What are the potential challenges? Is this “best” for the children?
  3. If I don’t stay in the house, where will I go? What are the advantages and disadvantages to a new residence? Are the children relocating with me?

Bear in mind that your initial answers to these will like change and/or take a more defined shape as the mediation progresses. Nevertheless, the themes and realities will be consistent throughout the process. The sooner you begin to grapple with these questions, the more streamlined, i.e., the less costly and time consuming, your mediation can be.

If you think you might be interested in a mediated divorce, please call Jenna Brownson, Esq. at  978.760.0482 or Rob Brownson, LMHC at 978.479.2923 to schedule your 1/2-hour complimentary consultation.


Less Out of Piggy

Even though many consider meditation a more relaxed and informal way of resolving a conflict that could otherwise be litigated, that notion is a little fuzzy. People who use mediation as a tool for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) find many advantages to those who “lawyer up” and battle their matters out in court.

One way that mediation is nearly always better than litigation is the lower cost. In almost every case, it is simply less costly to pay for a mediated settlement than it is to pay for a litigated result. In fact, I cannot think of even one instance where mediation out-priced litigation.

Let’s take for example one set of “facts” and cost compare:

A couple who have been married for eighteen years, two minor children, the marital home, two vehicles, retirement accounts for husband and wife, a significant inheritance coming from the wife’s side, one boat, and a small plot of lakefront property out of state.

Presume that the parties are amenable to a fair and reasonable settlement in a timely fashion.

If the parties choose to litigate the matter, they are likely to spend between $15,000.00 and $20,000.00.  That figures two lawyers each working for between 30 and 40 hours on the matter. The lawyers’ billable time included the hours sitting in the hallway of the courthouse waiting for the case to be called.

If instead the parties choose to mediate the matter, they are likely to spend between $3,500.00 and $5,500.00. That total includes two co-mediators working between six and ten sessions and all costs to draft the requisite paperwork for court.

piggy bank

When it comes to cost, a mediated agreement is better than a litigated result (nearly) 100% of the time. And we believe at Holistic Mediation that you should keep as much of your own money as possible 100% of the time.

Please contact us for a free 1/2-hour consultation.

Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 or Rob Brownson, LMHC at 978.479.2923

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No Cookie Cutters

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” by knowing that there exists something of a “cookie cutter” that a judge might use to make the decisions for the couple. In fact, when couples litigate their divorces, that happens a lot: the judge makes the decisions for the couple.

cookie cutter

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 cookie cutters. There is open dialogue and collaboration.

Holistic Mediation honors the decision-making when it is done by those best positioned to make those choices.

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.


The Mercurial Properties of “Truth”

When people come to mediation, especially in the cases of divorce, we always keep in mind that both of them are telling “the truth.”

So why the quotation marks?

Well, my co-mediator and I approach working with our clients with the baseline belief that we are listening to “the truth,” insofar as attaining “the truth” is possible in the arena of personal and intimate relationships. So while we believe what we hear, we know that “the truths” of our clients come through the filters of their individual perceptions and biases. This is important in many ways.

First, everyone wants to be heard.

Second, everyone wants to be believed.

And third, everyone deserves respect.

Now this doesn’t mandate that the other person agree with those “truths,” nor does it require that we as mediators facilitate a conversation based on a particular “set of facts.” In fact, we regularly find ourselves validating both “truths” and reminding our clients that perceptions differ.

Image result for hag young woman drawing

In this famous drawing, two images are visible.

Which do you see?

A young woman wearing a choker and looking over her right shoulder or an older woman, with a large nose, in profile with her hair covered with a scarf?

We have shown this drawing to our clients as a reminder that our perceptions are our own, and it’s possible to see the same thing in two totally different ways.

That sort of broad permission to be oneself is just one of the aspects that Holistic Mediation brings to the mediation setting. We always endeavor to approach each client as a whole person. If you are considering mediation as a vehicle to resolve a controversy or to start a new path in life, call us to schedule a free half hour consultation.

Jenna can be reached at 978.760.0482 and Rob at 978.479.2923


So Many Hoops

When a couple comes to the end of their domestic partnership and are looking for ways to part amicably, it is sensible for them to do so with some guidance from professionals who know “how the system works” and “what hoops need to be jumped through.” The courts require that particular matters be resolved before a judge can come to a finding and grant a divorce or sign off on a parenting plan.

While there are intricacies and tedium in the process, doing it right the first time is advisable. One of the best ways to ensure that what you bring to court will be well-received by the judge is to hire professionals. Mediators are trained to know what you need to have so the judge can deem your agreement fair and equitable.

At Holistic Mediation, we understand what you need to get through those hoops.

Image result for jumping through hoops

Call 978.760.0482 (Jenna) or 978.479.2923 (Rob) to schedule a complimentary initial consultation to see if Holistic Mediation’s co-mediators can work for you.

No Need for Definite Definitions

Rob and I have found that for many couples, they put off coming into mediation because they are reluctant to admit publicly that their marriage is not longer good. We have heard “good” to be further detailed with these descriptors: viable, worthwhile, rewarding, healthy, etc.

Coming to a point of being able to delineate what “exactly” brings a couple to mediation is unnecessary. In the same way that no one puts demands on you to specify why you wanted to get married, your mediators have no expectation that you describe that which has led to your choice to divorce.

Of course, there are times when the couple wants to discuss those details. As each mediation is “of the couple,” those who want to open a discussion around the why behind their choice to separate are free to do so. But rest assured, your mediators do not need to be convinced of the merits of the choice behind your entry into mediation. As self-actualized people making a significant life change, we trust that by the time you arrive to us, you have (by and large) come to terms with the choice and now are seeking out professional assistance on formalizing your decision . . . unless you change your minds and thereby your choice, because that can happen, too.

We trust you.


When the Rug Gets Pulled Out

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, and we have to say “Goodbye” to the rug we’d been standing on.rug

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 barely audible 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 leading people to turn 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 are very broad terms 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.


Please contact Jenna Brownson at 978.760.0482 or Rob Brownson at 978.479.2923 to learn more or to schedule a 30-minute complimentary consultation.