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.

Burning Through Your 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 nearly always better than litigation is the lower cost. In almost every case, it is simply less costly to pay for a mediated settlement than it is to pay for a litigated result. In fact, I cannot think of even one instance where mediation was more expensive than litigation.

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 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 (nearly) 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.

For Many, It’s the Most Difficult Time of the Year

Estrangement is on the rise. It is estimated that one in five American families experience a breakdown in relations that end in a drastic solution: cutting off all ties.

While it is true that most people don’t enter into total familial isolation over little, trifling matters; it is equally true that most people who have opted to “break up” with members of their family have made this choice because they have tried all other avenues. Estrangement is the offspring of desperation.

Although Holistic Mediation has been focused on divorce mediation for many, many years and very much still welcomes couples who have decided to go down separate paths and need some guidance along the way, Holistic Mediation is excited to add Family Reunification after Estrangement to its areas of practice.

Here’s how to determine if mediation in this area is something for you and your family:

Ask yourselves:

Are we all willing to attempt reunification?

Mediation can only work when everyone present at the mediation table is there in good faith. No one who feels forced to talk and reunify will be invested in the solution.

Why do I (we) wish to reunify?

With a specific purpose in mind, your conversations can be targeted toward a specific and/or special goal. Some find that attempting reunification works best when the pressure of the holidays are lifted. Others find the holiday season a perfect motivation to start mediation.

Where should we try to discuss reunification?

Really anywhere, but it’s essential that your conversations happen in a neutral place, and the quiet space offered by Holistic Mediation is here for you.

If you and your family want the guidance of a mediator who will facilitate your conversations and then draft for you (if you wish) a memorandum of understanding–a sort of agreement that defines how your relationship will move forward in the best interests of all family members–please reach out.

Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482 or jenna@holisticmediation.org

When the Walls Come Tumbling Down

Pile of concrete in front of partially demolished house. Focus on foreground.

We 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 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.