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

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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.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

For as much as 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.” I’m oftentimes the very first person to broach the important matters of the division of marital assets, child support, and alimony. These topics are tough: no wonder authors and screenwriters skip over these.

Regardless of the inclination to avoid wading into these conversations, as your mediator, I’m here 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.” Additionally, I provide support so that communication can be fruitful and structured.

While I’m regularly the bearer of not-so-glad tidings when it comes to the intricacies of divorcing, Holistic Mediation takes this role with seriousness and solemnity. I believe that in order for my clients to feel positive about the process of mediation that they need to be fully informed so that they can fully participate.

Please reach out to see if mediation is right for you by calling Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482.