Perhaps you have decided that divorce mediation is the best way to go in your case, only to discover that your spouse is not open to the idea. What should your next move be? Before giving up on mediation, consider the reasons behind the hesitation. It’s possible that after receiving additional information and reassurances, your spouse will reconsider. The following are some common reasons a spouse might initially object to mediation in divorce, along with tips for how to address the objections:
- Misunderstanding the purpose of mediation: Many people are unclear about the purpose of divorce mediation. It’s commonly confused with marriage counseling, for example. Fortunately, you can address this problem fairly easily by providing your spouse with some clear written information. Let your spouse know that divorce mediation is intended for couples who have decided to divorce, but would prefer to resolve issues in the divorce out of court.
- Misunderstanding the mediation process: The process of mediation can be a little harder to grasp than the purpose. Make sure that your spouse understands exactly how mediation differs from litigation. Provide written materials that highlight some of the potential benefits of mediation. Emphasize that it is a less contentious and more flexible process than litigation, that it is often speedier, and that it can result in significant financial savings. If you have children, point out the possible benefits to them of the confidential and collaborative aspects of mediation.
- Not accepting that the marriage is over: This is a more fundamental reason one spouse may object to divorce mediation. If your spouse is having difficulty accepting the finality of your decision to divorce, you will need to assess whether or not the timing is right for mediation. If you also hold out some hope that the marriage might be salvageable, then consider scheduling a few sessions with a marriage counselor or family therapist before proceeding any further. On the other hand, if you are resolute about going ahead with the divorce but your spouse is not, emphasize the importance of making an immediate plan for separating finances and, if applicable, setting up a workable parenting schedule. Let your spouse know that your preference is to work with a mediator before filing a complaint in court. Couples rarely arrive at the decision to terminate a marriage at exactly the same time. Giving your spouse a little more time may be the answer, but be sure that you are not compromising your own legal interests by doing so. A consultation with an attorney can help you sort out the right way to proceed in this kind of situation.
These are just a few of the most common reasons that one spouse may initially reject mediation as an alternative in divorce. For more on the mediation process, and how to determine whether it’s a good fit for your divorce, please see our FAQ, Who Can Use Mediation Services?