For many divorcing spouses, mediation can be an affordable and time-saving alternative to costly and protracted litigation. There is a common misconception, however, about when to start divorce mediation. Many believe that they must have everything worked out first before beginning the process.
Recently, I received a call from someone looking to come in with their spouse to begin mediation. He said, “We are almost in agreement on the last issue, so we are almost ready to come in”. Actually, spouses do not have to be in agreement on any issues to come to mediation. And in fact, oftentimes when couples are trying to decide on things on their own, they are shooting in the dark.
As the old saying goes “you don’t know what you don’t know.” When you try to settle everything ahead of time, you may not understand all of the issues that need to be covered, and the various ways things can be worked out. This can lead to making uninformed decisions that may not fully serve the interests of you, your spouse and your children (if you have any).
The Role of the Divorce Mediator
A major part of my role as a mediator is to educate my clients on what options are available, so they can make the best decision for their circumstances. For example, what if you have a house that you are not ready to sell (because you would take a loss), and neither party is in a financial position to buy the other out? In such cases, co-owning the house for a certain period of time might be your best option, and mediation can help you put together this type of arrangement.
Another common scenario is the parenting plan for the children. What if both spouses work crazy schedules and one (or both) travels out of town frequently for their job? Your situation may not fit into a standard parenting arrangement. Through mediation, you can effectively address this issue and come up with a creative solution that works for all parties involved.
Settling Ahead of Time May Cost You More
If you try to settle all your issues before you start divorce mediation, it may save you some money in the short-term. However, it can also seriously limit your resolution options, which can cost you more in the long-run. The better approach is to wait until mediation to work out the more complex issues. If you can agree to some of the simple things ahead of time, that might be helpful. But to start divorce mediation, the only thing you and your spouse really need to agree on is to bring an open mind.