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Talking About Divorce Mediation With Your Spouse

Posted by Stephen McDonough | May 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Woman at table with another woman
If you think divorce mediation is an option, bring it up with your spouse in the early stages of your uncoupling.

How to Talk About Divorce With Your Spouse

Congratulations!  Divorce mediation is usually a smart alternative to a high-conflict court-based divorce. 

You did your homework and read about Massachusetts divorce and related issues. You even learned about the different ways to navigate the divorce process, and decided that divorce mediation is the best option. In the following article learn how to talk about divorce with your spouse.

But what if your spouse won't discuss mediation with you or just flat out-rejects the idea?  How you present this issue can make a big difference, so give it some thought.  Depending on where you are in the divorce process is another consideration.  Bringing up mediation early is generally the best idea.

Even before raising the subject of divorce mediation, consider making some notes or printing a blog post about the benefits. This is very important when learning how to talk about divorce with your spouse. Conveniently, it just so happens you can find a fantastic article about divorce mediation right here!

WAIT! What If My Lawyer Says Mediation is a Bad Idea?

If you or your spouse have already hired attorneys, tell your lawyer you are interested in trying mediation, unless you are not interested, then don't say that.  This may prove to be an interesting conversation.

Remember this somewhat silly saying:

“There are two types of people in the world.  Those that put people into categories and those that don't.”

It is sort of the same with lawyers.  Lawyers tend to either be supportive of mediation (that's good) or against mediation (not so good). Your lawyer could understand and support the benefits of mediation but still have some sincere reasons why he or she does not think mediation is a good idea for you.

You should definitely consider what your lawyer has to say.  Even though I mediate about half of my divorce cases, I have told people the same thing because sometimes there are clear reasons why a lawyer with good intentions has concerns about mediation being the right fit for a client.

But then we get to an entirely different situation where a lawyer is anti-mediation because she (our fictional villainous attorney) knows it will cost her money. In this instance, the lawyer is not considering what is best for you or your family, but only worried about making less money on your divorce case.

This is unfortunate, but it definitely happens, so now you know one more thing to look out for.  (I know, I know, your head is already close to exploding.)

Ok, but back to your spouse.  Here are some common objections to divorce mediation your spouse may bring up.  You will be better prepared to discuss objections and have a better conversation with your spouse, or at least improve your chances of having a better conversation, after you finish this post.

6 Spousal Objections to Divorce Mediation

1.  “I already made my mind up”; or “We went to counseling and it didn't work!”

This spouse is confusing marriage counseling with mediation.  The goal of divorce mediation is to have the couple reach an agreement on all issues related to the divorce – not try to save the marriage. Although uncommon, mediation is also used to help a couple stay married if that is their goal.

2. “I already hired a lawyer.”

The fact someone hired a lawyer doesn't preclude a couple from going to mediation.  Usually a lawyer obtains a retainer from a client, and a client can ask for the return of retainer funds and discontinue the lawyer's services.  Of course, the same person may want to have a lawyer review a final agreement at the end of the mediation process.

3.  “I don't want a woman /man / tall / short / redhead / whatever  mediator.”

Mediators are trained neutrals.  If your spouse should make a comment like this, it likely more illustrative of some bias your spouse has and there likely is not much you can do about it.

There are talented mediators with all different backgrounds, and making assumptions about  a mediator's potential bias based upon factors such as gender is pretty silly in my book.  To remove this objection, suggest to your spouse that he or she get a couple of names of mediators and then see if you can agree on meeting with one or two.

4.  “…but you already talked to the mediator so I am at a disadvantage.”

I have run into this before.  The fact is, someone needs to initiate contact with the mediator.   I prefer to have my initial meeting with both sides at the same time, but sometimes one spouse may want to come in first.  In that instance, I will offer to meet separately with the other spouse so both people feel as though they are on the same footing.  Just because a mediator meets with one side first does not mean the mediator cannot be neutral.

5.  Concerns by one spouse that he or she will be over-powered by the other spouse.

Mediators are trained to watch out for power imbalances in relationships.  This situation is not that uncommon, but a skilled mediator will make sure that both people find their voice and are not overpowered by a spouse with a larger personality.

6. “I think it will be too sad or stressful to sit in the same room to work out an agreement.”

If you think mediation is too emotional or stressful, wait until you try court and the litigation process!

Consider divorce mediation

Divorce mediation is not for everyone.  After being involved both as a lawyer and a mediator in more cases than I can remember, my opinion is that almost every couple should consider mediation as the preferred method to get divorced.  There are just too many benefits not to make a good faith effort at resolving your divorce case or other family law matter, such as a custody or child support conflict, through mediation.

Remember to select a good time and a place to have this conversation.  If a conversation might be difficult then consider writing a letter or an email.  Including some good resources for your spouse to check out, such as this website, is a good idea.

Stephen McDonough is a divorce mediator and divorce lawyer at Next Phase Legal LLC in Medfield, MA.  If you are looking for a personable, experienced divorce mediator in the Walpole, Westwood, Millis, Canton, Sharon, Norwood, Dedham, Medway, Dover or Sherborn areas, please call (508) 359-4043 or fill out our contact form to speak to a real, live, mediator.

About the Author

Stephen McDonough

Stephen works closely with clients facing divorce or other family conflict. He is a certified mediator through the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation, a designation that only about 11% of mediators have obtained. In addition to providing mediation services, Stephen regularly appears in...

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