Spouse Refuses Divorce Mediation: What To Do

Spouse Refuses Divorce Mediation: What to Do, How to Get Them to Table

“My husband refuses to come to divorce mediation.  How do I get him to agree to mediation?”

The reason divorces are unreasonably expensive and long (many a divorce client have complained that their divorces lasted longer than their marriages), is because it takes TWO to tangle.  It doesn’t matter if you are the reasonable one.  It only takes ONE to drag it out.  So what to do? HOW do you get them to come to the table?

  1. Figure out WHY they are refusing.  If your wife refuses divorce mediation because she doesn’t want the divorce, then perhaps YOU are the unreasonable one.  That’s right – I just said that out loud!  Inviting someone to a divorce mediation is like asking someone who doesn’t want to die: how should I kill you right now – by gun, fire, or ice?   THEY DON’T WANT THE DIVORCE!  Why would they agree to mediation – to divide up bank accounts, and share kids?

If this is the case, you need to explore marriage counseling, and working on the marriage first.   Perhaps you have not worked HARD enough on the marriage.  You said a vow years ago, and you have an obligation to him/her.  Before you unilaterally end your marriage, you need to give your spouse the benefit of working it out.

Angry spouses do abuse the system to drag out the divorce.  Hurt people hurt people.  They know they won’t win, but they don’t want you to leave them so “easily”.  If you have hurt your spouse in any way (intentionally or unintentionally), you cannot expect them to respond to you in the way that you would like. I am not even talking about domestic violence.  In my opinion, any case with DV CANNOT be mediated.   Going to counseling can help you communicate in a way such that no further damage is done.  It is hardcore prep work for this upcoming endeavor.

2.  Be patient.  Especially if you have children.  Especially if you have been married a long time.  Ok. So you’ve worked on your marriage,  and your couples counselor advises divorce is the answer.  (Do they ever really do this??)  (Also, make sure your couples counselor is PRO-marriage).  Still your spouse refuses divorce mediation.  Wait it out.  Rome wasn’t built in a day; and chances are, if you give them a little time, they will come to the table.  Trust me, your litigated divorce won’t be any shorter.  (The longest divorce case I have ever litigated lasted 12 years from the filing of the Petition to the Entry of Judgment).

3.  Educate them.  Most people don’t know what divorce mediation is.  Most people refuse what they don’t know.  They equate it with counseling.  Some equate it with feel-good goofiness.  Well, they’re wrong.  Divorce mediation is neither.  Every mediator is different.  Sure, sometimes venting is appropriate in mediation.  But mediation is not meant for you to decide whether or not you will stay or go.  Mediation is designed to help you achieve the details of your separation, to finalize your divorce.

Gently educate them.  By gently, I mean emailing them articles like this one. Or ones which detail the process. Explain that especially in family law, the traditional adversary system doesn’t work, because you two are not enemies. There is no such thing as WINNING in your divorce. 

Your marriage may not have survived, but you have children and you will still be in each others’ lives.

4.  Enlist the help of friends and family. Do you know anyone who has mediated their divorce?  Seek their help and counsel.  Maybe they can speak with your spouse as to their experience.  Better yet: Know anyone who has had a long, nasty drawn-out divorce?  THEY are the ones your spouse can talk to.  The horror stories are all true.  Many have attempted REVENGE on their spouse in divorce court, only to fail, fail, fail because the courts simply cannot dole out your revenge.  Read this article together: The Divorce From Hell; Battle for Alimony, and Emptied Pockets. Even if one of your friends was happy with their divorce lawyer, ask them about mediation.  Did they know that was an option? Would they have gone that route?  Didn’t their case settle anyway?

5.  Offer to pay for the first session. Offer to pay for the first session.  (Paying for one mediation session is cheaper than retaining the cheapest lawyer in town).  Depending on which mediator you hire, the session will likely  will pay huge dividends.  Even if you don’t resolve every issue, chances are, you may reach agreement on some.

6.  Explain that they can still hire a lawyer if the mediation doesn’t work. Maybe they’re scared they lack “protection” in the mediation.  Explain that he/she can still hire a lawyer. And in fact, the mediator CANNOT be the lawyer for either of you if it doesn’t work out.  That way, they don’t feel that mediation is “biased”.

7. Explain that if you have children, the court ORDERS you to mediate. Before the court will even hear your custody case in Los Angeles, you MUST have mediated your case.  You cannot AVOID mediation if you have children.  It will happen one way or the other, why not try it with all issues?

8.  Finally, demonstrate gently that you are letting go. Even though both of you may be in agreement that you do not want to stay married to each other, some people need a gentle nudge of reality.  If your spouse won’t budge, and you have been patient, explored counseling, done all steps necessary to ensure a peaceful departure, and they still won’t go see a mediator with you, maybe it’s time for you to seek steps necessary like consulting an attorney.  If you decide to hire an attorney, remember that pitbull is not the way to go. If finality and moving on is your end goal, you have to make sure mediation is always an option.  Hiring a pitbull who does bad things to your spouse will kiss the possibility of mediation goodbye.

It is not easy dealing with someone who won’t move on.  This is life.  Someone is always faster or slower than you.  And in this age of technology, the speed is killing relationships.  At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself: have I done everything possible in this marriage to treat my spouse with the love/respect he/she needs to move on in peace?   The answer to this predetermines the course and cost of your divorce.

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