As a divorce mediator, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “when is the best time to come and see you?” There is no right answer to this question, because each circumstance is unique. Mediation can benefit couples at any stage of a separation or divorce, and it is never too early or too late to take advantage of this option.
Here are some examples of how divorce mediation can help couples at various stages of the process:
Couples Still Thinking About Divorce
On occasion, a couple comes to visit me, and they are just thinking about getting a divorce, but they are not yet sure. At this stage, it is good to know what your options are, and I can usually speak with them and help determine what their next steps may look like.
Typically, it ends up that they either decide to separate, and I can help them through that, or they realize that they may not have done everything possible to save their marriage. In the latter cases, I wish them the best and refer them to any available resources they may need to work everything out.
Couples Ready to Separate
Sometimes I have couples come to me right before they are going to separate. They have already made up their minds that they will live apart from each other, but they have not yet worked out all the details of the new arrangement. This is a good time for a couple to go to divorce mediation, because a mediator can help them separate thoughtfully and make sure all their bases are covered.
When a couple separates, they need to make some important decisions around issues such as who will live in the marital home, who will have primary residential custody of the kids, parenting time and visitation schedules, division of finances and debts, and many others. If these issues are worked out before the spouses start living apart, it makes the process much smoother and easier on everyone involved.
Couples that are Separated and Want to Proceed with a Divorce
Some couples come to me for mediation after they have been living separately for several months or even a couple of years. The spouses may have already gone their separate ways and they just want to make the divorce official. Oftentimes, the issues are not as emotionally-charged at this stage, and it is easier to work out the final decree in a cooperative and collaborative setting.
Couples Already in the Divorce Process
There are times when I see a couple after one or both of them have hired attorneys and filed for a divorce. Divorce mediation can work at this stage as well. In this situation, the process with the attorneys and the courts gets put on hold and the couple has the opportunity to get through the entire process by mediating, which in the end saves them a lot of time and money.
Couples Who Have Been Through a Prior Divorce
Many times, I get couples at various stages of the process in which one or both of them were previously divorced. Having experienced first-hand the financial and emotional cost of litigation, they are much more educated the second time around. This makes them open to divorce mediation as an amicable and less costly alternative to litigation.
For couples considering divorce, there is no wrong time to come in for mediation. Whatever stage you are at in the process, mediation can help move you toward where you and your spouse ultimately want to be with an eye toward minimizing the financial pain and preserving important family relationships.