As a family court mediator in Charleston, I get calls from both men and women who want to settle their divorce without the heartache and expense of battling in family court. The problem these callers say is that their spouse doesn’t want to mediate.
Suggestions for Getting Your Spouse to Agree to Mediation
During a divorce, its typical for one spouse to distrust everything the other spouse says and does. Oftentimes, spouses are bitter, angry, emotionally wounded, and blame the other spouse for the problems in the marriage. In many cases, one side doesn’t want the divorce at all. With all of these issues in mind, it can be very challenging to encourage divorcing couples to attend mediation to resolve their differences. So, how does one go about getting their husband or wife to agree to mediation without “lawyering up?” Here are some practical suggestions:
1) Provide information on mediation – The first place to start is by sharing information about the mediation process with the other party. For example, you can share with them articles on the internet about family court mediation. For a complete explanation on mediation in family court and it’s benefits, please view our article: Mediating in Family Court.
2) Don’t be a know-it-all – If you “preach” to your spouse about mediation, then your spouse may feel intimidated because you have all the knowledge and the “upper hand” in the process. If you feel that your spouse is likely to ignore your attempt to share information about mediation, then call upon a third person such as a close family friend or pastor to see if they are willing to encourage your spouse to consider family court mediation.
3) Let your spouse research – If your spouse believes mediation is a good option, then they will do their own research on the subject. Be patient and give them time to explore and understand their options.
4) Don’t force mediation – Mediation doesn’t work unless both spouse are invested in the process. You can’t control your spouse in the divorce any more so than you could when the two of you were together. If you ram-rod the idea of mediation down your spouse’s throat, then don’t be surprised when they refuse to mediate.
5) Be flexible – Choosing the right family court mediator isn’t a one-sided process. Acknowledge that he or she also has a right to choose. Ask your spouse for his or her opinion, and then patiently wait for their answer. Don’t push it. If your spouse is unsure, then suggest that each of you write down the names of one or two mediators and compare your choices. If you both have the same name on each list, then you have your mediator. If not, then suggest that each of you meet, separately, with the other’s choice of mediators, and then try to decide which one to choose. Remember, mediators are NEUTRAL, so trying to decide which mediator might give you an “edge” is pointless. In other words, be flexible about your choice in mediators. At the end of the day, it is better to mediate than to argue over who to mediate with!
6) Be patient – Even if your spouse ignores your suggestion to mediate or wrangles over who to use as a mediator, have patience. Although it would be best to mediate earlier to save time, money, and aggravation, mediation is better late than never. So, if your spouse doesn’t engage in mediation early on in your divorce, keep at them, but be polite and non-threatening about your suggestion to mediate.
7) Be transparent – If your spouse indicates that he or she is willing to mediate, then share ALL of your family’s financial information with them including income, assets, debts, retirement accounts, etc. You can’t expect your spouse to mediate “in-the-blind” or to agree to terms and figures when they have no knowledge of your family’s financial affairs. If you don’t share this information, then you won’t get far in mediation. Besides, sooner or later, the family court will order to you to hand it over anyway.