Proposing Mediation to Your Spouse
By Scott R. Hardy, NC DRC
Typically, when couples decide to divorce, at least one of the two
involved decides to get "educated". In many cases, learning about
mediation comes by accident from endless searching for other divorce
information on the internet. Many people quickly endorse the concept as
they realize they will save a lot of money, have control over what is
decided, and minimize negative feelings, all in favor of moving forward.
When people understand that mediation is an exciting alternative to
going to court, they want to "sell" the process to their spouse.
Unfortunately, it is not always met with open arms.
It is also not uncommon for one spouse to immediately head to the
lawyer's office when the decision is made
to separate or divorce.
Protecting assets and "wanting the children" are
some of the more typical motivators.
There, the attorney advises his new
client to not discuss
anything with the other spouse and that he will do all the talking. He
potential favorable outcomes of a court hearing that essentially sell
the new client on the need for continued legal services. It is also
important to add here that attorneys are needed in the divorce
process; they just might not be needed to help you work out your
parenting plan or how you plan to financially manage your future. Any
good mediator will encourage you to have an attorney available on an
advisory basis to answer any legal questions or help you understand the
legal implications of any decisions you may be considering.
Now you have one spouse who wants to mediate and one spouse who may or
may not have retained an attorney. One of the biggest obstacles in
convincing your spouse to mediate is the feeling of superiority. If your
spouse believes you are very knowledgeable about mediation, then a
feeling that you have the "upper hand" may be perceived. On the other
hand, if your spouse has an attorney who has made assertions of success,
then your spouse may already have feelings of superiority over you. Your
opportunity to propose mediation should be during a time when immediate
conflict is at a minimum. In other words, it probably will be met with a
brick wall right after a fight. If you have children, ask them to go do
something outside of hearing distance. The most important thing is to
speak calmly, allowing your spouse to speak and ask questions. When
answering questions, reply that "The mediator's website said that...."
as opposed to sounding like it is you who has all the answers.
appear to have too much information or sound like an expert. If you have
mediation by internet research, bookmark a few sites that your spouse
personal research may be done without the perception of pressure from
If you have printed information, share a copy of each brochure. Be sure
to know how
it works and what it costs. Suggest that mediation has helped many
divorcing couples work out their differences without spending thousands
of dollars and that neither one of you can have a decision forced upon
you or be bound to agree to anything that you do not wish. And if your
spouse has an attorney, that attorney may also be present at any
mediation. Lastly, state that you never, ever forfeit your right to
resort to going to court. In other words, there's nothing to lose.
Point out that mediation will, most likely, provide a better chance of
getting the kids what they need and the each of you what you want. Not
wanting to "drag the kids through the process" and the potential of
increasing animosity and bitterness between the two of you is an
excellent argument for mediating. Wanting to get along and be effective
co-parents after the divorce is final is also another very good
motivator to mediate.
Some important points to remember:
appear like you know everything there is to know about mediation. If
you do, your spouse will feel disadvantaged and possibly hire an
attorney or "turn up the heat" with the one that is already
as an option and let your spouse do his or her own
research (possibly using your Internet browser bookmarks
or looking at brochures). If your spouse sees it as an
will be done.
Understand that a lot of trust is gone at
this point in a marriage, so don't expect that your information will
be taken for granted and an immediate "yes" be delivered!
timing of presenting a mediation proposal can be very important.
For example, if your attorneys are getting nowhere, getting
somewhere as a couple through mediation is an option.
that your spouse is in control of what he or she does. Any attempt
at forcing an issue will be met with resistance and cause you
ever, threaten to do something if your proposal is not accepted. It
simply will not work and could easily undo any progress made toward
any potential mediation proposal. Wait some time and bring
it up again as a gentle reminder and offer the information that you
provided the first time.
mediators have an abundance of experience in problem
solving. If you and your spouse just canít seem to work out an
issue, your mediator has most likely had multiple clients with the
same issue. He can be a great resource and suggest alternatives
that may meet the needs of the both of you
willing to be fair. If you sit down in the mediatorís office and
expect to get your way in every subject area, you will most likely
be disappointed. Prioritize your needs and desires and be ready for
some give and take. RememberÖ.itís a negotiation.
Acknowledge your spouse's feeling and concerns. State that you are
willing to accept his or her input on when or with whom you mediate
and that it does not have to be a mediator with whom you have
spouse do his or her own mediator research.