As a divorce mediator, I get a lot of calls from people who are interested in pursuing mediation, but don’t know how to talk to their spouse about it. Often, one person has already made the decision to divorce or separate, but the other person is not ready or willing to accept this or believes that they must litigate in order to get what is “fair.”
It is important for both people to understand that mediation is simply a process that allows them each to evaluate options, gather information and make decisions that are best for each of them and their family. I suggest that if you are interested in pursuing mediation, you talk to your spouse about the following:
- There is no commitment in coming to a mediation session. Nothing is decided or finalized until you both have reached a mutually workable agreement.
- You do not start the divorce process simply by attending a mediation session. The divorce or separation process does not start until one person has filed a Petition for Dissolution or Legal Separation with the court.
- There should be no pressure in a mediation session. This is your process where you gather information to make the best decisions for you, but no decisions need to be made at that time.
- You can be empowered by coming to a mediation session because you make all the decisions.
- You can use a mediation session simply to ask questions.
- You can discuss together how to make decisions in the best interests of your children with the least amount of negative impact.
- Reconciliations happen in mediation. Although both of you would need to make the decision to reconcile (or not divorce), the mediation process provides a supportive, informal environment to discuss options.
- You can pursue options other than divorce that may work better for your family (e.g., therapeutic separation, post-nuptial agreement, informal good-faith arrangements).
- You give up no rights in mediation. If you don’t feel comfortable with how things are going in mediation, you always have the right to have a Judge make the decisions for you.
- You get to decide what is “fair” for you and your family.
- You can stop mediation at any time – it is completely voluntary.
In my opinion, there is really no downside to trying the mediation process before making any binding decisions and a huge upside. Many couples find that once they start the mediation process and get a feel for what it is all about, they prefer to complete their agreements through mediation and just avoid litigation altogether. So, if you can reassure your spouse with the above explanation about mediation, you may find he or she is actually willing to try it out.