Taking the First Step Toward Divorce

Taking the First Step Toward Divorce by Susan Ingram

{2:54 minutes to read}

Rarely, when I see a couple for our first mediation session, do I find they’re in the same “place” emotionally regarding the end of their marriage. That’s not surprising, when you think about it. The principal reason marriages fail is due to inadequate or faulty communication. This lack of communication only worsens as the chasm between the couple grows ever greater.

Often, one spouse is ahead of the other in contemplating the prospect of separation or divorce. In fact, that spouse might have thought about it for months or even years — perhaps sharing, or not sharing, their thoughts with the other. The other, non-initiating spouse, has not contemplated or accepted the prospect of divorce to the same extent.

So how does this play out in divorce mediation? Typically, I receive an initial inquiry from one of the partners. I schedule a phone call with that person, during which I share a description of the mediation process and also get some general intake information.

An additional key question I ask is: Are both of you in agreement as to why you’re coming to mediation and what should happen going forward?

Often, the partner who initiated contact with me shares that his or her spouse is taking longer to come to terms with the prospect of divorce — or uses other similar language to indicate the other spouse is “less-ready.” Sometimes, the “less-ready” spouse may make the initial contact with me, expressing a sense of surprise or upset, and not sure what to do next.

Clearly, there’s a delicate emotional balance that comes into play between the initiating and non-initiating spouse regarding this subject.

  • The initiator may want to move ahead with the process, but needs to understand that the other spouse is still coming to terms with the ending of the marriage.
  • The non-initiator may require some time to catch up, but also needs to accept the fact that the marriage has ended and separation or divorce is the next step.

And I, as their mediator, need to bring a sensitivity about their “readiness disparity,” as well as a practical approach to moving the mediation process forward. By doing so, I can support each of them as they make the decisions necessary for establishing their future lives.

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