You’ve done your homework and decided that pursuing private divorce mediation is in your best interest for settling your divorce matter as quickly and painlessly as possible. But will your spouse see mediation in the same light? Here are some tips for how to introduce your spouse to the concept and benefits of mediation, and why it may be worth the two of you giving it a try.
Be Prepared: Depending on the current level of communication between the two of you, your spouse may not simply “take your word for it” when you explain that mediation could be a better route to reaching a fair divorce settlement.
Instead, gather together helpful information for learning more about mediation, including website links, books, pamphlets or brochures explaining the mediation process, and the names and phone numbers of available mediators in your area. After your initial communication, you can follow up with an offer to make these resources available to your spouse.
Stay Neutral: Since the success of mediation hinges of both parties coming to the process as willing participants, stay away from a “hard sell” and simply let the facts speak for themselves. For example, find out some hourly costs for mediators, and get an idea from them of average times most couples take to reach a settlement through mediation. Present this information to your spouse, and then back off as you wait for your spouse’s answer.
Don’t Threaten or Pressure: It can take time for a spouse to come around to the idea of mediation, especially if your divorce is already far down the road to litigation. Be patient, and whatever you do, try not to fall into the trap of threatening to take your spouse to the cleaners if he or she turns down the offer to mediate. Pressuring or threatening someone to mediate almost guarantees that this process will not work.
Give Your Spouse Choices: Approaching your spouse with the name of only one mediator could raise suspicion that somehow this person is under your influence. Instead, present your spouse with a list of a few names and references you can both check out, or ask your spouse to come up with some suggestions.
Try Again: If your spouse doesn’t respond to your proposal to mediate, or initially declines, you may not want to give up on the idea just yet. The beauty of mediation is that it can be embraced at any point in the divorce process. Mediation can also be used to settle singular issues.
For example, maybe you can’t get your spouse to agree to abandon litigation in favor of mediation, but perhaps you can get your spouse to agree to work with a mediator on one issue — say, to mediate child custody. If this process works out well, you may be able to convince him or her to mediate other issues, or drop litigation altogether in favor of mediating to resolve all other unsettled matters.
Getting the ball rolling on mediation usually comes down to communication. How do you share all this with your spouse? Depending on the current state of communication between the two of you, you may simply pick up the phone, or write a letter or email. In some cases, it may be best for your attorney to initiate communication with your spouse’s attorney to gauge interest in mediation. In other words, your spouse may be more willing to listen to his or her lawyer’s opinion at this time.
Because the mediation process encourages peaceful solutions and cooperation, however, you may find that reaching your divorce settlement in this way helps the two of you to once again engage in civil dialogue.