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



We Presume Nothing

When people first come into our mediation room, it is for a free initial consultation. This is an opportunity for Rob and me to share our professional skills and ethical responsibilities within the mediation process and for the people seeking mediation services to have their questions answered.

At the time the initial consultation is scheduled–usually over the phone with Rob or me and with one of the parties to the matter–we do not ask any questions. All we need to have to set up at day and time is an affirmative statement that there is an interest in learning about and (possibly) pursuing mediation.

Why not get details?

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Because we’re better off with a blank page to begin on. TOGETHER.

Let’s say I get a call from a husband who tells me that he and his wife are looking to get divorced and they are considering mediation. That’s where I ask, “When can the two of you come in for a free initial consultation?”

Here’s where the husband provides me with a date and time or where the husband wants to “share a few important things.”

In order for the fair and unbiased process of mediation to be successful, I have to politely decline hearing about those “few important things.”

You might be thinking: “But why? Why not get a jump on the gathering of information?”

Well, if you were the wife, how would you feel knowing/suspecting that your soon-to-be ex-spouse had gone into detail with one of the mediators? Also, as Holistic Mediation employs the co-mediation model, Rob and I are equal participants. If I take information from the husband absent Rob, then Rob is at a “disadvantage” in being able to fully apply his skill set to the matter at hand.

When people come to us, we have no preconceived notions because we didn’t allow ourselves to know any “important things” before the initial consultation. As such, we presume nothing.



Putting Words to the Often Indescribable

Rob and I have found that for many couples, they put off coming into mediation because they are reluctant to admit publicly that their marriage is not longer good. We have heard “good” to to be further detailed with these descriptors: viable, worthwhile, rewarding, healthy, etc.

Coming to a point of being able to delineate what “exactly” brings a couple to mediation is unnecessary. In the same way that no one puts demands on you to specify why you wanted to get married, your mediators have no expectation that you describe that which has led to your choice to divorce.

Of course, there are times when the couple wants to discuss those details. As each mediation is “of the couple,” those who want to open a discussion around the why behind their choice to separate are free to do so. But rest assured, your mediators do not need to be convinced of the merits of the choice you have made to enter into mediation. As self-actualized people making a significant life change, we trust that by the time you arrive to us, you have (by and large) come to terms with the choice and now are seeking out professional assistance on formalizing your decision . . . unless you change your minds and thereby your choice, because that can happen, too.

We trust you.


They Look Nice Enough . . .

When parties opt to litigate their divorce, that is, when parties use the adversarial court system, they will invariably be asking a judge to make certain decisions for them. Generally, those judicial decisions are borne of a failure of the parties to make their own decisions themselves. Litigation exhaustion and the incentive a party might have to get his/her “way” factor into why some would rather leave the choice up to a stranger in a long, black robe rather than trying to collaborate and compromise.

Judicial Robes

But no matter how nice a judge may look, that person is a total stranger to the parties. That judge does not have the luxury of time–and I would argue, the interest–in getting to know a case so intimately that he/she come to the “best” decision. This is not to say that the result isn’t “fair;” it likely is. However, when parties hand over their autonomy in the process, they expose themselves to the greatest inherent flaw in the judicial system: not having all the information.

The people who do have all the information are the parties. And when those two people enter into mediation, they are the ones to decide, they are the ones with the autonomy, they are the ones with the ultimate authority to govern the result.

Mediation is the place where empowerment is not only found but encouraged and at Holistic Mediation we honor this attribute.


Why Eat Cookies?

Some people have concluded that the cookies available during the mediation sessions at Holistic Mediation are put out as incentive for the parties to keep coming back. While I know that I bake very good cookies–my personal favorite is molasses/clove–the offering of them is not a marketing ploy.

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We provide our clients cookies (something sweet) to offset the work being done in the room (sometimes bitter, sometimes sour). Most people can readily find comfort in something as simple as a homemade baked good. The way we see it, why not make our client as comfortable as possible as they undertake the difficult, though always rewarding, task of seeing their situation from many angles, compromising, collaborating, and finding a client-created solution.

So in addition to the two sets of skills our clients get to draw on (Jenna’s legal training and Rob’s relational expertise), when people come to Holistic Mediation, they also get cookies.

What if I’d rather Chew Glass?

We get it: coming to agreements 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) can be a lot to ask. This is especially so if you find yourself feeling responsible for the house and the kids and the grocery shopping and the paycheck.

We’ve seen it: people who just want it to be over–yesterday, people who carry resent and contempt rooted in betrayal and anger, people who are so fragile they feel like the slightest change could crush them, and people who are simply 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.”

We know.

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

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

And because we know, we offer kindness and compassion.

And coffee

And tea

And cookies–usually molasses, never glass.


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Why Choose Mediation? Part III


Mediation saves time. Lots of it.

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When parties opt to mediate instead of litigate, the parties decide how the process will move forward and at what rate. Litigation of an average divorce can take eighteen months to two years because when you ask for the court to be the arbiter of your decisions that court also gets to put you on its schedule. And in case you’ve never been to court, it’s a slow moving behemoth of red tape and paperwork and “hurry up and wait.”

Mediation goes at your pace. You want to be done in a short time? We’ll work with you. You need to pace yourself? Great, we’ll be sure to accommodate that.

If you’re looking to have control of your calendar, then mediation is a much more attractive choice to litigation.


What if We’re not Sure?

Rob and I have had several sets of divorce mediation clients who have come in where one party has decided that divorce is the end goal and the other is not of the same opinion. Invariably, they turn to us and ask: “What if we’re not sure?” To which we give the answer: “This is your process, but we have some suggestions.”

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Many folks who know about mediation have come to believe that in order to be “ready” to sit down and engage in the mediation process that they two parties need to agree to what the end goal will be and that mediation is to work of the fine details. Not so.

For instance, we had clients years ago–who I’ll call Sally and Jim–where Sally was ready to get divorced and Jim wanted to work out their issues and stay married. They came to mediation and agreed to institute a short-term agreement to make one last attempt at reconciliation. That first round of mediation involved Sally and Jim agreeing to some terms and conditions to implement over the course of three months. In essence, they decided in mediation what each of them was obligated to do for that short time period. Thereafter, the plan was for them to come back to mediation to assess the value of the experiment. When they returned, they decided to “renew” the contract for another six months instead of moving forward with the divorce mediation process. This “renewal” process continued with Sally and Jim adding new terms and conditions for a year and half. The last time we saw Sally and Jim they had decided to stay together.

With Sally and Jim in mind, remember that parties need not share a “goal” to get to some place of collaboration and resolution to find mediation beneficial.