How to Get a Skeptical Spouse to the Mediation Table

There's a very good chance that when you and your spouse decide it's time to call your marriage quits, it's because you don't see eye to eye on a few things. That means you might not agree on the best path forward.

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You may feel that mediation makes the most sense for your family's situation, while your spouse is leaning toward litigation. If they are on the fence about joining you in mediation, you may be able to convince them to give it a shot.

5 experts explain the benefits of choosing mediation

Convincing a person to try something they are apprehensive about isn't easy, especially when they are skeptical of your intentions. Instead of using your words, you can show them what the experts say.

Work toward the same goal

If you aren't in a high-conflict situation and neither of you are contesting the divorce, then you are already on the same page somewhat. You agree that it's time to move on from your marriage.

One of the major selling points of mediation is that you start off working together instead of splitting off into two opposing sides.

Divorce lawyer Rachel Gruetzner explains, "Mediation allows parents to avoid some of the traditional contentiousness that exists when there is active litigation. Resolving these matters in mediation garners good will between the parties, and helps them establish that they can co-parent successfully once they are one family split into two households."

You've decided together that it's time to end your marriage, so use that momentum and continue working together to get to where you both want to go.

Get a more fine tuned parenting plan

No two families are the same. Unfortunately, when you leave your divorce and custody scheduling up to a court, you often get treated like you are just another one of the many families that have been in and out of that courtroom before.

Mediation lets you take the decisions about your family into your own hands, including the fine details about what goes in your parenting plan and how you will arrange your custody schedule.

Meghan Freed of Freed Marcroft Family Law says, "A mediated divorce provides an opportunity for both parties to work together to create a divorce settlement that works best for them, rather than have one designed and imposed on them by a court. This means it is possible that a creative family plan can be created that is tailored to the specific needs of the family — a huge benefit to families whose needs do not 'fit' into the system."

You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse know what your children need much better than a judge does. This is another reason why working together might be better than taking an adversarial approach.

Get expert advice

A major point of contention from many spouses who are skeptical of mediation is that they don't feel like they have enough information or that they are underrepresented. That's basically just a misunderstanding of how the mediation process works.

Professional divorce mediator and lawyer Eileen Coen recommends, "You may (and should!) exercise your right to consult with attorneys, CPAs and other professionals during the mediation process so that you're able to make informed decisions. You and your spouse will be able to weigh professional advice along with all of your other interests and priorities — and often, parties craft better agreements that more effectively meet their family's needs than a court is able to order by law."

Mediation does not mean you forfeit your rights to legal representation and third-party expertise.

You don't need to accept the results

A very big and important aspect for your spouse to know about mediation is that, compared to litigation, it's much more private and much less strict regarding how the final agreement can be put into official use.

Matrimonial lawyer Regina DeMeo explains, "The best way to convince a skeptical spouse to try mediation is to emphasize that this a nonbinding and confidential process. The mediator helps guide the parties in focused discussions about the legal issues without making any decisions, and any offers made are not admissible in court."

DeMeo continues, "Each party still has a right to seek counsel before signing the agreement, and many courts require the parties to try mediation before a final hearing anyway."

Aside from the fact that you can choose to litigate if you don't like the result of mediation, none of what is discussed in mediation is public. It's truly a win-win, so there's not much of a reason not to give it a try.

It won't break the bank

If none of the above is enough to convince your husband or wife to give mediation a chance, then maybe this last benefit will do the trick. It's one of mediation's biggest pros: Mediation is unquestionably much less costly than litigation.

How much cheaper is it? Author and lawyer Alexis Moore clarifies, "Mediation is much less costly than typical family law proceedings, and when going through a family law situation costs can easily reach $100,000 within the first year depending on the personality types of the couple, the assets and the issues involved."

The cost of mediation varies, but litigation can be upward of ten times as expensive.

Heading into mediation prepared

Once your spouse agrees to join you in divorce mediation, make it worthwhile by heading into the first session prepared.

Bring a parenting plan that clearly illustrates the custody arrangement you feel would be best for your child. Arriving with a thought-out plan can guide discussions, save you time and make you much likelier to reach an agreement.

Creating a parenting plan on your own can feel overwhelming, so use technology to take the guesswork out of the equation. The Custody X Change app walks you through each step of creating a plan.

The result will be a professional document you can present at mediation.

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Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

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