It’s possible to mediate your divorce any time – from before a case is even started until you are on the verge of a trial. However mediation is completely voluntary for all concerned. What factors affect when your spouse is likely to be receptive and therefore when to propose divorce mediation?
There are many facets to most divorces. There’s an emotional divorce, a financial divorce, a legal divorce and often a social divorce and a parenting divorce. Each of these facets can have their own timing. How your spouse is experiencing them will affect their receptivity to beginning divorce mediation with you.
There’s also the matter of trust. Agreeing to mediate nearly always presumes a level of trust.
Factors Affecting When to Propose Divorce Mediation
Emotionally, there are different stages of grieving that apply to divorce. The spouse who is not initiating the divorce usually first goes through a phase of denial. Later, when the reality has sunk in, the spouse may go through periods of strong emotions such as anger and sadness. These are generally not the best times to suggest mediation, unless your spouse remains reasonably clear-headed despite these emotions. The last emotional phase is often one of acceptance. If you can wait this long, this is an excellent time to propose mediation.
Financially, when there is a pressing need to make challenging financial decisions, such as interim support or how to pay the bills during separation, this is often a good time to suggest mediation. If your spouse is not comfortable with finances generally, it may help to acquaint them with the details of your finances, both to show your intent to collaborate and to help them become more comfortable. Then suggesting mediation can be a good way to show your spouse that you want the financial decision making to be balanced and fair.
As regards the legal divorce, the best time to suggest mediation is before a divorce petition has been filed. You can help your spouse understand that mediation can preempt any adversarial and costly legal maneuvering by either of you. The timing of filing for divorce can then become a joint decision, including who will be the petitioner. If your case has already been filed, whenever the costs and stresses of litigation become apparent to your spouse can be when to propose divorce mediation.
Socially, if there are meddling friends or relatives, it’s good to suggest mediation before your spouse’s views become hardened by any outside influences.
If you have minor children and it becomes clear that some help will be needed to develop an acceptable, workable co-parenting plan, this is an excellent time to propose mediation.
If a serious lack of trust is a factor in the break-up of the relationship, often this will need to be repaired or at least addressed before both spouses will be ready and willing to mediate. If one spouse is primarily responsible for the breakdown in trust, it’s best if this spouse takes the lead in this regard.
The most important thing to realize is that your spouse is experiencing the upheaval of divorce differently and with different timing than you are – and usually very differently. If you try to put yourself in their shoes, you will often see more clearly when they might be ready to try mediation to work out all the decisions necessary for your divorce.