The Balancing Act

As a divorce mediator, my role is to facilitate discussions between the two people seeking a divorce in order to come up with the terms and conditions that will be reduced to writing in the couple’s Separation Agreement. Although I am an attorney, when I am facilitating mediation sessions, I am prohibited from giving legal advice. I can, and I do, provide my clients with a great deal of legal information. The most salient bit of legal information I share is this: The judge needs to find, as a matter of law, that your Separation Agreement, is fair and equitable. That’s it: fair and equitable.

So what does “fair and equitable” mean?

Now, I’m going to answer as a lawyer does: It depends.

“Fair and equitable” depend on the specifics unique to the two people divorcing and the specifics of the marriage itself. “Fair and equitable” serve as a standard for the very personal choices about assets and children that the divorcing couple will make AND the standard by which the judge will assess the merits of the Separation Agreements that end up in the pile of cases on the judge’s docket.

The guiding principle on which a family and probate judge uses to decide whether to grant a divorce is “fair and equitable,” and this is the guiding principle my clients are reminded of.

If you are considering divorce, please reach out to Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482

Apples vs. Oranges

Most of the people I work with have never gone through a divorce. Every single person I work with knows at least one “horror story” of a divorce. Whether this knowledge comes from a movie or TV portrayal of divorce or from someone personally known, each and every one of my clients comes to the mediation room with some idea about divorce.

In most aspects of life, having some idea about something new can be helpful. When it comes to divorce, it has been my experience that familiarity with the process is beneficial, familiarity with “what happened when my best friend got divorced” is not.

Take a moment to consider what marriage means. It is the legal union of two people that is recognized by the state and one’s community. But now consider what a marriage looks like. As we are each unique, each partnership will also be unique. One can safely state, “Yes, you are married, and I am married, but my marriage looks different from your marriage.” And each person can easily account for those differences by resting on the knowledge that marriages are as different as the people in them.

Take a moment to consider what divorce means. It is the legal severing of a union of two people that is recognized by the state and one’s community. When it comes to divorce, a result that statistically will occur in half of those who choose to marry, we seem to be less willing to embrace the uniqueness of the divorce itself and wrongfully conclude that it’ll look like someone else’s divorce.

Let me assure you that YOUR divorce will NOT look like anyone else’s if you choose mediation.

Why? Because your choice to mediate your divorce opens up the opportunity to be thoughtful and creative in the necessary decision-making that will attend your process. And this is the great gift of mediation: mediation honors the uniqueness of the two people moving from unhappily married to civilly divorced in a manner that they create together that respects both the unique aspects of the marriage and the special process of coming to terms with each other in the construction of their Separation Agreement.

If you are considering divorcing, please reach out to Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482

Looking to an Unknown Future

One of the most difficult aspects of divorcing is trying to get a sense for what the future might look like. During divorce mediation sessions, the couple works through their shared and/or individual finances. They have to: one of the required documents, which both people need to complete and submit to the Court, is a Financial Statement. Although the completion of this form is tedious and time-consuming, it can also serve as a perfect opportunity to look critically at the money coming in and the money going out. And having this information is critical when the divorcing couple begins to make decisions about the division of their marital assets and division of their marital debt.

I have always been a proponent of the notion that the more information you have, the better the decisions you can make. The Financial Statements ask for a lot of information, and therefore, there is the unique chance to make better decisions when all that financial information is gathered, recorded, and at the fingertips of the people who will be directly affected by the choices they make.

It is true that a crystal ball might be helpful, but reasonable people know that there’s no real magic in that orb. Getting divorced well doesn’t rely upon wishes and guesses and fingers-crossed. Getting divorced well relies on compiling all relevant information so that fact-based choices can be made in order to create a fair and equitable agreement.

If you are considering divorcing, please contact Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482.

Choose Your Pace

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

When the subject matter gets 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 client, 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

Children of Divorce Fare Better When Their Parents Mediate

Sure, that’s a broad generalization and a bold statement, but that’s what I’ve seen in my many years mediating divorce.

And here’s why:

Because the two adults divorcing have at least one thing in common. They both love their children. The divorcing couple, no matter how ugly their marriage has gotten, is united under the mantle of love for their children.

Here are some questions that can help you understand what lies ahead:

  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.

Holding on by a Thread

 

Most of us are accustomed to our lives 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 unravels.

For people who find themselves questioning their role in an unhappy, perhaps even painful marriage, the sensation that their world is out of control can go from a low-lying thrum to a deafening scream. 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. An unhappy 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, I 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.

My role as your mediator is to facilitate your client-led negotiations. I know that peace of mind can prevail. Civility can be found even in the most emotional and challenging arenas.

If you are considering divorce or marital scaffolding, please reach out to Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 or jenna@holisticmediation.org

What Happens When I Take Off My Spouse Hat?

I think it’s safe to assert that people who are engaged to be married and wearing a fiancé/fiancée “hat” happily take it off to don the husband/wife “hat.” Through the simple legal act of marrying, people are allowed to wear their new “hats” and reap the benefits of a social institution that our commonwealth legally upholds.

But the act of divorcing, i.e., legally redefining oneself by changing “hats” by shedding the husband/wife “hat” and being handed the ex-husband/ex-wife “hat” is a big deal. This “hat” change abandons one identity and assumes a new one, requiring the hat-wearer to see him/herself differently. And once the world sees the new hat, the person wearing it will be regarded in a new way by others.

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

For people brave enough to divorce, it’s essential to respect and recognize the “hat change” 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 divorcing process.

At Holistic Mediation, I encourage my clients to stand in front of the mirror and see how their new hat looks on them. And while most knew that this change was coming, it can be unsettling to see how different their reflections are with the new “hat.” Still, my clients have the space to consider their new “look,” 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

Rebuild or Tear Down?

While the majority of my time with my clients is spent in sessions where the couple is negotiating terms for their divorce, I have worked with couples who are not yet sure if divorce is the path they wish to take.

Most have tried couple’s therapy, and that didn’t work. Most have considered “just sticking it out,” and that hasn’t been satisfactory. Many are looking for a viable solution that stops short of tearing down their marriage.

And this is where marital scaffolding comes in.

The idea for marital scaffolding came to me years ago. Since then, I have worked with couples who are willing to make an extra effort to see if their marriage can survive. When they first begin work with me, I meet them where they are.

What do I mean by this?

My role as a mediator with these particular clients is to discover what’s working, what’s not, and what can be agreed to by both parties to shake up the mundane and challenge the unsuccessful strategies that have been wearing a rut in the relationship.

Once everything is on the table, we work together to formulate a written agreement that the couple commits to implementing for a period of time, say 4-6 weeks. Then, we get together to review what went well, what went poorly, and whether to re-up an edited version of the plan.

For some, two or three sessions are enough for them to know that rebuilding their house is a better choice than tearing it down; for others, the attempt at scaffolding allowed them to see that their house was no longer livable and can now make the confident choice to move forward with a mediated divorce.

If you’re not quite ready to get divorced but no longer interested in your status quo, please reach out to Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 to see if marital scaffolding might be worth exploring.

This Might Ring True for You

When a couple comes to the end of their marriage, they often wish to part amicably. The best way I’ve found to preserve that amicable spirit is through a mediated divorce, where the couple has the benefit of a professional who knows “how the system works” and “what hoops need to be jumped through.” The courts require particular matters to be resolved and reduced to writing before a judge will grant a divorce.

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 a professional. Mediators are trained to know what you need to have so the judge can deem your agreement fair and equitable.

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

Call Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 to see if Holistic Mediation’s mediation style can work for you.