Divorcing couples often ask – when is the right time for us to proceed with mediation? There is no one set answer to this question. First of all, it is rarely the situation that both husband and wife are at the exact same stage of accepting that their marriage has ended or is about to end. Typically, one of the parties has thought more about ending the marriage and is thus the “initiator.” Although the signs might have been there for some time, the other party may not be prepared and may even be surprised by this turn of events.
That is why it is important for me to ask each of them, ideally prior to our first meeting in session, if one of them initiated the idea of the separation or divorce or whether it was mutual, and what they anticipate will happen with their marriage going forward. The best time for me to pose this question is either during my telephone intake or on the client information form which I ask each of them to bring to the first session. This way, I already have an indication if this might be an issue that needs to be addressed before we proceed, or whether it might crop up at certain points during the mediation.
If the situation is very new and raw for one of the parties, sometimes I’ll suggest that they may want to allow some time before they start mediation, so that the more-reluctant party can begin to come to terms with the situation. Ultimately, in order to move forward with the mediation, both parties need to accept the fact that their marriage has ended.
Divorce mediation has many advantages over a litigated divorce. One of the benefits in this specific situation is that it allows the couple the “space” to come to terms with the end of their marriage without being pressured, as they would in a litigated case, by their lawyers or a judge. Thus, the couple can proceed, at their own pace, to reach an agreement that works best for both of them.