Negotiations & Love Songs

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Paul Simon wrote these lyrics back in 1983:

Two disappointed believers
Two people playing the game
Negotiations and love songs
Are often mistaken for one and the same

Sometimes when I’m sitting in a mediation session, those words go through my mind, along with the melody. When a couple is going through a mediated divorce, they will need to negotiate the terms of their future Separation Agreement, which really ought to be titled “Contract for Dissolution of Marriage.”

Entangled in the process of going from legally (and oftentimes unhappily) married, the parties must come up with a contract that defines their future division of their marital assets and future obligations to their children and each other, i.e., a lot of negotiations.

The backdrop of a divorce mediation is what had been the intention to “have and hold, until death do us part,” i.e., a lot of love songs.

While I am charged with managing the legal, logistical, and analytical aspects of the process, Rob is uniquely qualified to manage the trauma, transition, and communication matters that are always present in a mediated divorce. Negotiations are for the lawyer to address; love songs are for the licensed mental health counselor.

At Holistic Mediation, we take to heart all aspects of the legal and transformative process of divorce. For a free 1/2 hour consultation to see if this approach would work for you, please call Jenna at 978.760.0482 or Rob at 978.479.2923.








The Curse of Being the Messenger

Are your secrets safe on your messenger apps?

For as much as Rob and 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.” Rob and I are oftentimes the very first people to broach the very real matters of the division of marital assets, child support, and alimony. These topics are tough: no wonder why authors skip over these or Hollywood prefers something sexier.

Regardless of the inclination to avoid wading into these conversations, as your mediators, we are there 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 under the circumstances.” Additionally, you’ll be given support in having fruitful communication so that your discourse can be both structured and beneficial.

While we are regularly the bearers of not-so-glad tidings when it comes to the intricacies of divorcing, Holistic Mediation takes this role of with both seriousness and solemnity. We believe that in order for our clients to feel positively about the process of mediation that they need to be fully informed so that they can fully participate.

To schedule a free 1/2-hour consultation to see if mediation is right for you, please call Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 or Rob Brownson, LMHC at 978.479.2923.


The High Price of Distrust

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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. This description is of a couple that manage to find agreement. Sometimes, the divorce goes to trial. The costs go up exponentially from there.

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.

Rob and I have seen, time and time again, suspicion and sideways glances that lead us to wonder whether full disclosure is happening. Moreover, when one of the two people come out and say that “it’s impossible to trust” that everything is on the up and up, the mediation has the real potential to 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, we are honored to help people get from “unhappily married” to “civilly divorced.” We employ our professional skills to have this happen thoroughly and concisely. If either party cannot trust the other, the mediators cannot produce the required trusting environment. As much as we endorse the non-adversarial process of mediation, it is not for everyone. Sadly, there is nothing we can do to make people believe in the forthrightness of their future ex-spouse.

No need to despair though, there are lots of lawyers happy to help you through a litigated divorce, but it’ll cost you.

How Hard is Coming Up with a Parenting Plan?

Over the years, my co-mediator and 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 Rob and I discussed why this was the case, we reflected on our mediations and came up with a general conclusion:

When two parents are asked what is in their children’s best interests, the parents–as experts of their own children–are in the unique (aka the best) position to assess what “best” should like with respect to their children.

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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 leeway to come to terms on their own terms.

If you’re thinking about mediation, consider coming into Holistic Mediation to meet Rob and myself to see if our approach would suit your goals.

Making Conversations Easier

One of the great benefits of engaging in mediation is the “ignorance” of the mediators. When a couple comes in to begin the process of divorcing, neither myself nor my co-mediator know anything at all about the couple–apart from their names. This means that the two of them get to tell the two of us exactly what we need to know. That need is driven by the present time and place of the couple. Unlike a family member or a friend, we don’t have biases or loyalties. We know nothing before you walk in. We only learn what you’re willing to share based on your need.


It’s a clean slate ready for you to begin writing your new story, starting with a new chapter.

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If you’re thinking of beginning, call or email us:

Jenna: 978.760.0482


Rob: 978.479.2923




Why Hiring Professionals is Wise

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 is adequate is to hire professionals who know what you need to have so that the judge can make the finding that the details outlined in you agreement are “fair and reasonable under the circumstances.”

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

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Call 978.760.0482 (Jenna) or 978.479.2923 (Rob) to schedule a complementary initial consultation to see if working with Holistic Mediation works for you.

A Journey of 360,000 Miles begins with a Single Step

Many people who find themselves facing a choice between staying in a failed marriage and moving toward divorce feel paralyzed by taking that first step. That “first step” often takes the form of admitting the failure to their spouse after having lived with the internal feeling for some amount of time. Having that first discussion–or debate–over the conclusions drawn about the decline of the marriage can take years. The pressure people feel to stay together “for better or for worse” can lead otherwise rational and thoughtful people to remain in a relationship that no longer serves either participant.

It has been said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” The quote is attributed to Lao Tzu who actually said something about a “1,000 li journey.” A li is an ancient Chinese measurement equivalent to 360 miles. Through sloppy translation, we got “a journey of 1,000 miles,” even though a fair translation would be “a journey of 360,000 miles begins with a single step.” Not quite as catchy, and quite a bit longer a trip.

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While this quote was originally meant to convey the notion that great things start from humble beginnings, we at Holistic Mediation know that this axiom can also be applied to taking that first step toward a new chapter in one’s life. Although there is humility in the admission of failure, there is also the start of an unknown, albeit potentially great thing.

Ways to Prepare to Mediate Your Divorce

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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 less time consuming, your mediation can be.

New Year’s Resolutions

If you’re like most people, January 1st brings with it an obligation to both reflect on the last year and to make plans for the next.

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Sometimes the reflecting feels like a reward after a year’s worth of hard work; sometimes the reflecting results in an assessment of failure from having taken no action or the wrong action.  In looking forward to the new year, some outline a series of small, but attainable goals, while others make grand and sweeping statements about how their lives will be fundamentally and forever transformed.

If your reflections and planning have brought you to the point of believing that you could benefit from the professional help of trained mediators (one who is by education and experience a lawyer and the other a mental health counselor), please consider reaching out to Holistic Mediation.

We will gladly meet you for an initial, complimentary consultation to explore potential avenues for collaboration and perhaps the most meaningful resolution you haven’t yet made for 2017.


Jenna Brownson, Esq. can be reached at 978.760.0482

Rob Brownson, LMHC can be reached at 978.479.2923