A Bargain without Compromising Quality

One of the many benefits of opting to pursue divorce through mediation rather than litigation is the cost savings. It’s 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 all presumes the couple managed to find an agreement. If the divorce goes to trial, the costs go up exponentially.

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 on the table.

I have seen, time and time again, suspicion and sideways glances that lead me to wonder whether full disclosure is happening. Moreover, when one of the two people states something like “it’s impossible to trust” that everything is being disclosed, mediation can 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, I’m honored to help people get from “unhappily married” to “civilly divorced.” I employ my professional skills to have this happen thoroughly and concisely. If either party cannot trust the other, the mediator cannot produce the required trusting environment.

As much as I endorse the non-adversarial process of mediation, it is not for everyone. No need to despair though, there are lots of lawyers happy to help you through a litigated divorce, but it’ll cost you.

Call Attorney Jenna Brownson at 978.760.0482 to begin your divorce mediation process AND save money.


Fading Away

Going from husband or wife to ex-husband or ex-wife is a big deal. It is both the shedding of an identity and the adoption of a new one. It’s a new way of regarding oneself and a new way that one will be regarded by others.

In the process of divorcing, with all the forms and figures and negotiations acting as distractions, the shift in this relational identity can get lost. I believe that this is an oversight, a mistake, or even a tragic consequence of not looking holistically at the transformative process of divorce.

For people brave enough to divorce, it’s essential to recognize this transformation from spouse to ex-spouse and to consider what it means (to the individual who is divorcing and to the communities where the individual lives and works) to say “I’m married” and now to say “I’m divorced.” These are critically important reflections that often don’t happen during the frenzied divorce process.

At Holistic Mediation, my clients don’t skip over this step. It’s too important. My clients have the space to consider the role of spouse and the unknown future mantra of “I’m divorced.” And I’m right there to consider it with them.

If you are interested in this holistic approach, please call Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482

Holistic Collaboration

For the last ten years, I’ve been practicing divorce mediation with the occasional complex family matter or business mediation sprinkled in. With a decade of practical experience in mediation, I’ve gone ahead and expanded my alternative dispute resolution practice to now include collaborative law.

Collaborative law is structured so that both parties have the benefit of specially trained, legal counsel by their sides as the parties work through their divorce. Using carefully planned meetings that center on interest-based negotiations, collaborative law takes an open-minded approach where the clients, their attorneys, and a neutral coach/facilitator all contribute to finding client-led solutions. Additionally, often a neutral financial professional contributes to the discussions by providing a clear-eyed analysis of “the numbers” related to income, expenses, valuations, and the like.

And I think it’s going to be great. Working cooperatively with a team of professionals who are committed to both peacemaking and staying out of court is, in my opinion, the best way to holistically serve those in the emotionally daunting process of divorcing.

Collaborative law emphasizes cooperation, problem-solving, and decision-making, all of which are based on the clients’ needs, both present and future. With collaborative law, the clients formulate their own practical and liveable way of moving forward, an opportunity not readily available to those who opt to litigate.

Soon I’ll be launching my new website http://www.HolisticCollaboration.org.

In the meanwhile, if collaborative law sounds like something that might serve your needs, please reach out to me at 978.760.0482 or jenna@holisticcollaboration.org

Working Together for the Good of the Children

Over the years, 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 I’ve wondered why this was the case, I reflected on my mediations and came up with a general conclusion:

When two parents are asked what is in their children’s best interests, the parents, AKA “the experts of their own children,” are in the unique and best position to assess what “best” should like with respect to their children. Regardless of their differences about the marriage, they oftentimes “unite under the mantle of the love they share for their children.”

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 freedom to come to terms on their own terms and in the best interests of their children.

If you’re thinking about mediation, consider Holistic Mediation by contacting Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 to see if this cooperative approach would suit your goals.

Sometimes Teamwork is Called For

My experience as a mediator has led me to conclude that, for the most part, couples who seek out mediation are ready to cooperate to get the work done. The bulk of this work involves ensuring that the separation agreement (AKA, the contract for the dissolution of the marriage) has all the contractual language that will permit a judge to find that the separation agreement itself is “fair and equitable.” Contracts like this are what lawyers are trained to draft.

Well, sometimes before a mediation has even begun or mid-process, it becomes clear that the couple’s complexities would benefit from the expertise found in the therapist-mediator and not just from the training and experience of a lawyer-mediator such as myself.

Rob Brownson, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, is a highly skilled mediator when it comes to those more complex situations. So, if and when it seems to me that my clients will benefit from his inclusion, I will share this add-on with my clients. And with their permission, get Rob on board.

Please reach out if you are interested in mediation: Jenna Brownson, Esq. 978.760.0482 or jenna@holisticmediation.org

Feasibility Matters

The standard by which all Separation Agreements are judged is “fair and equitable.” In order for a couple to get divorced in Massachusetts, their agreement must spell out lots of different terms and conditions that pertain to assets, debt, child support, spousal support, a parenting schedule. The list goes on and on.

My clients are also tasked with considering the feasibility of their agreement. While it’s not required that their agreements, to pass muster with the judge, be feasible, it seems like a recipe for failure for their agreements to have terms and conditions that are not going to happen without a great deal of struggle.

For example, a couple might want to have 50/50 physical custody, but if one of them travels three out of four weeks overseas for business, that’s simply not feasible.

If you or someone you know is considering divorce and want to ensure that the agreement, in the end, is fair and equitable and feasible, please reach out to Jenna Brownson, Esq. for a free 30-minute consultation at 978.760.0482.

Progressing at Your Own Pace

One of the great perks of working through a conflict through mediation is the ability to take a break.

When the issues that need to be discussed get tough and the emotions run high, mediation allows for an intermission. Quite literally, I will in the middle (“inter”) of the process (“mission” = resolving the conflict) take a step away. Sometimes it is a five-minute break during a session; other times, the couple takes a few weeks away from the mediation room.

Unlike litigating a conflict, where court calendars define the timeline (like it or not; ready or not) mediation works on the schedules of the clients.

It is just one more way that mediation fits the clients’ pace, and not the mediator’s calendar.

If you have the goal of resolving your conflict, but don’t want to rush to a remedy, call or email Holistic Mediation. I’m in no rush either.

Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 or jenna@holisticmediation.org

Who Can Afford to Burn through Money?

Even though many consider mediation a more relaxed and informal way of resolving a conflict, one 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 divorce out in court.

One way that mediation is always better than litigation is the lower cost. In every case, it is simply less costly to pay for a mediated settlement than it is to pay for a litigated result. Never have I seen a case where litigation was less expensive than mediation.

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 $25,000.00 and $30,000.00. That figures two lawyers each working for between 30 and 40 hours on the matter and coming to a negotiated settlement well before a trial. Keep in mind that the lawyers’ billable time included the hours sitting in the hallway of the courthouse waiting for the case to be called. In the event that the parties cannot come to a settlement, that $25,000.00 to $30,000.00, pre-trial estimate increases. Exponentially.

If instead, the parties were to choose to mediate the matter, they are likely to spend between $3,500.00 and $5,500.00. If you decide to work with Holistic Mediation, you’ll get the benefit of working through your objectives and goals in six and ten sessions, and all of the costs to draft the requisite paperwork for the court will cost far less than litigating.

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

Please contact me to see if mediation is worthwhile for you: Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482.

Do Not Trust Someone Who Makes Unconditional Promises

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

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

While Holistic Mediation will honor either of these objectives (or a blend of the two), I can’t assure you–with 100% confidence–that your agreement will be accepted by the judge. So long as it meets the standard of “fair and reasonable given the circumstances,” your agreement ought to be accepted.

Let me caution anyone who is being told, “I promise your agreement will be accepted. Guaranteed.”

That sort of statement implies knowledge of events that have not yet occurred. I 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, I suggest trying mediation for all of its challenges and empowerment. The process is tried and true, even without any dubious promises.

Contact Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 to learn more.