It Doesn’t Have to be So Complicated

When people who are looking to get divorced go online to educate themselves about the process, they are inundated by information. Some of what they find is accurate, most is not. Anecdotes of horror stories and gutted bank accounts are easy to find. Essays complaining of slow-moving court calendars and endless legal fees abound.

In working with my clients, I confidently say to them, “It doesn’t have to be so complicated.” And with mediation, it isn’t so complicated.

In my mediation practice, I provide my clients with a checklist that includes all the topics that need to be discussed and reviewed for the court to be able to approve the couple’s separation agreement. Mediation allows the couple to work through their issues and at their pace. We work together on the checklist. Concessions are made; negotiations are had.

It’s a process, but it need not be one fraught with complication. It’s actually pretty easy if you have a guide familiar with the path.

Please reach out if you are ready to map your future on an easier path.

That Very First Mediation Session if You Have Children

Oftentimes, I’m 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.

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.

In-Person? Or Zoom?

At the beginning of Covid-19, I had a handful of clients who concluded their mediations with me using video conferencing, i.e., Zoom. While the communication shifted to something different, the work went on and unhappily married couples became civilly divorced individuals.

Until the vaccines were rolled out, I helped my clients work through the “we’re getting a divorce” list of topics the court wants to make sure were discussed. Pre-vaccine, those clients were exclusively Zoom-based clients.

But now, vaccines ARE available. Now, the best way that I’ve found to decide between “in-person” or “Zoom” is to ask: “What is your vaccination status?”

The answer to that simple question will determine if we meet remotely, in-person, or even in-person with some conditions, e.g., masked or outdoors.

People still need the service and guidance of mediators, even during this (potentially never-ending) pandemic.

If you’re considering mediation, know that I care about your safety and will endeavor to make sure that our sessions are safe. For all of us.

It is possible to go from where you are now (wondering how long you will have to wait before you can make a positive change for yourself) to where you want to be (moving toward a fair and equitable way to end your marriage).

If you’re there, I’m here.

To reach Jenna Brownson, call 978.760.0482 or email to jenna@holisticmediation.org.

Complexities Yield Special Accommodations

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

When Life Feels Upside Down

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 hum 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. 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, 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, and if needed, draft your collaborated agreement. I know that peacemaking can prevail and that civility can be found even in the most emotional and challenging arena.

Call me to learn more: Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482.

Why is it all so costly?

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. (Side note: The foregoing description is of a couple that manages to find 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 out 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 state 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, a 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.

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.

The Taste of Glass on Your Tongue

Coming to an agreement with someone you have come to _________ (distrust, despise, question, worry over, feel suspicious of, and/or wonder how you ever fell in love with years ago) is a lot to ask. This is especially so if you find yourself having to attend to the house and the kids and the grocery shopping and the paycheck.

People just want it to be over–yesterday. People carry resentment and contempt rooted in betrayal and anger. People are so fragile they feel like the slightest change could crush them. People exhausted from trying.

When given the choice, many would choose a mouthful of glass over trying to come to terms on important matters in a mediation.

Why? Because it’s hard and because no one goes into marriage thinking: “You know, some day when we get divorced, I know we’ll be super kind and compassionate to each other so the process is just as rewarding as registering for this lovely, agreed-upon china pattern.”

I know.

And because I get it, I give you room to speak your peace before rushing to resolution

And because I’ve seen it, I know that everyone’s process unfolds at their rate and particular to them.

And, because I know, I offer kindness and compassion.

Reach out if you want to work in this way to Jenna Brownson at 978.760.0482.

Where Did My Rug Go?

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

And then, something flips, and the foundation (or rug) we’ve been standing on is gone.

For people who find themselves questioning their unhappy, sometimes painful marriages, the feeling that their world is out of control can go from a barely audible hum to a deafening scream. The volume is controlled by 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 arrives that the unhappy person can verbalize a need for a change, that’s when the practical work might begin. 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, 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 and then draft your collaborated agreement. I know that peacemaking can prevail. Civility can be found even in the most emotional and challenging arena.

Please contact Jenna Brownson at 978.760.0482 to begin the process.