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.

Why Does the Commonwealth Care How Much I Spend on Laundry Detergent?

There’s no getting around the fact that the Financial Statement is by far the most important document required by the Court. Everything flows from the information contained on each parties’ Financial Statement. Asset and debt division, child support, and alimony: all of these amounts turn on the amounts entered on the Financial Statements.

And it is no easy task to complete these forms. Believe me when I say that my clients are routinely frustrated by the details, such as coming up with a weekly amount for laundry costs, that are required to complete these financial forms and always perplexed by why the Court demands such detail.

As we plod through the intricacies of each amount, my clients have the unique opportunity to carefully assess their income and expenses. For some, this exercise results in the very first time that many have looked at their financial position with such detail. This is a sobering moment for many.

As the mediation progresses, the clients’ Financial Statements are refined, clarified, and provide a touchstone for the various negotiations that the Court expects divorcing people to have.

So, yes, while beastly and unwieldy, the Financial Statement, despite how arduous it is, has always been something we get through together.

Please call Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 with your questions about mediating your divorce.

The Starting Gate

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.

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 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.

Taking Hold of the Reins

“You can be in control of your life.”

This is what I tell my clients and what I believe to be true. 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. Your hold on those reins is what will direct and control forward progress.

Mediation honors your autonomy.

Mediation welcomes your insights.

Mediation respects your decisions.

My role as your mediator is to facilitate your client-led negotiations. As a trained attorney, I can give you legal information, though not advice, about the road ahead. If needed, I will draft the terms and conditions that will become your agreement.

I know that peacemaking can prevail. I believe that civility can be found even in the most emotional and challenging arenas.

If you’d like to start down the road with me as your guide, please reach out to Jenna Brownson at 978.760.0482

Making a “Best-Interests” Plan

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 considered 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–as experts of their own children–are in the unique and best position to assess what “best” should look like with respect to 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.

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

Some Messages are Hard to Receive Regardless of 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 why screenwriters skip over these.

Regardless of the inclination to avoid wading into these conversations, as your mediator, I’m here to guide you through 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 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.

There are No Guarantees in Life, or in Divorcing

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. I can tell you that I’ve never heard of any “rejected” agreement. This gives me feedback that what I draft for couples is considered by the judge as “fair and reasonable given the circumstances.”

Let me caution anyone who is being told, “I can write your agreement in a way that 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

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