My co-mediation partner and I get weekly calls from prospective clients asking about mediation. “How do I tell my spouse I want to divorce?” “We are friendly and do not want attorneys involved…” “We both love our children,” “This has been coming for a long time,” and other similar questions and statements. Oftentimes, my first response is, “Tell your spouse divorce with mediation saves a significant amount of money and will keep you out of court.”
But these are only two reasons that could convince your spouse that divorcing with mediation is the best solution. There are many more!
Here are 6 things you can tell your spouse to convince him or her that divorce with mediation makes sense:
1. Mediation is the least expensive way to get divorced.
This typically appeals to people contemplating a divorce. Why not try to save money if you are thinking about asking your spouse for a divorce? Nobody wants a long drawn-out court battle that will be emotional, cost lots of money and take months or years to resolve, right? This is always the first reason I tell people who want to approach their spouse about divorce with mediation.
2. Mediation is the most efficient and expedient way to go through the process.
Working primarily by zoom the last two years, we meet with our clients every week or two, give them homework to do in between meetings and can complete the mediation process in 2-3 months. Sounds perfect to most people.
Then it takes another month or two for the attorneys to draft the Petition, convert our Memorandum of Understanding (memorializing agreements made in mediation) into the Parenting Allocation Judgment, outlining the parenting plan, holidays and decision making for the children, and Marital Settlement Agreement confirming the financial components and the Petition to begin the legal process. There is only one court appearance called a prove-up, where the couple presents their settlement to the Judge.
3. With or without attorneys, the couple can mediate and come to their own agreements specific to what is best for their children and how they want to resolve their finances.
Who wants to keep the house? Can that person afford to do so and can they refinance it into his or her own name? Does the house need to be sold and what agreements need to be made to get that done? How should the retirement accounts be split? Are they close enough that each person can keep his or her own?
Most importantly, what should the parenting schedule look like? Taking into account work schedules, activities for the children and the way parents are already dividing responsibilities to create stability and consistency for the kids, what is the best schedule once the couple is living separately? Attorneys can be in the background giving legal advice, participating in the mediation process or, most likely for our clients, being hired once the couple is finishing mediation and ready to complete the legal piece.
4. Mediation is best for the children and most people will say they want what is best for their children.
They want stability, routines, most want to keep them in the house or at least the school district near their friends and activities so that divorce is least disruptive for their emotional and physical well-being. All important reasons which appeal to most. Divorce with mediation encourages the couple to advocate for themselves and discuss their priorities going forward. Only in mediation are they communicating directly with each other, facilitated by mediators who guide the conversation and reframe statements to help the couple make good decisions.
5. Mediation is a creative process.
Provided the agreements the couple makes are equitable, and a judge would sign off on them to approve the divorce, there are many ways to look at issues that need to be resolved when you get divorced. For example, does one spouse get credit for the down payment from a prior condominium or house they sold to purchase the marital residence? In court, probably not. But in mediation, everything is negotiable, as long as the overall settlement is fair, which is the Illinois standard.
6. Critically important, and in my professional opinion the best reason to divorce through mediation is the effective co-parenting relationship which mediation encourages for the children going forward.
Many of our couples start the mediation process angry, resentful, bitter and non-communicative. In mediation, they have no choice but to communicate. They need to advocate for themselves and become more open-minded and focused on their children.
Typically, there are no attorneys in the room to do that for them. They need to decide what information should be communicated by email, what deserves the interaction of a telephone call and what is urgent and requires a text to their spouse. Once they have a plan for how to communicate with each other, they have expectations surrounding decision-making with their co-parent going forward. This facilitates a united front for their children, a cohesive family unit, though different, to give their children stability. We want our couples to be able to sit next to each other at a soccer game, walk their child down the aisle at their wedding and enjoy grandchildren together in the future.
In closing, my last piece of advice on how to convince your spouse to divorce with mediation is to present the idea in a calm, objective way with bullet points to back up why you think it is best for both of you and for your kids. Feel free to use this article!
Ellen Feldman has been working as a mediator since 2007. A graduate of Smith College and Indiana University School of Law, Feldman previously worked as an attorney for 15 years practicing commercial litigation. Since 2006, Ellen has been a volunteer for The Lilac Tree, an Evanston based nonprofit organization assisting women through the process of divorce. Additionally, Feldman completed Family and Divorce Mediation Training through DePaul University Center for Conflict Resolution and Advanced Family Mediation. She is a court-approved mediator for the 19th Judicial Circuit Family Court of Lake County. Learn more by visiting the C.E.L. & Associates website.