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When To Start Mediation

by Nancy Hudgins, Debra Synovec
November 2008

From the Real Divorce Mediation Blog of Nancy Hudgins and Debra Synovec

“When is the best time to start mediation?”

Ask yourself how you want your divorce to turn out…how do you want to feel in a year…two years….ten years?

Nothing about divorce is easy. Divorcing couples feel confused, stressed, angry and fearful. Their emotions are ignited and may seem out of control. But how the divorce evolves is in your hands and will affect you for years to come. Divorcing couples who start by litigating usually become more entrenched in their positions, more distrustful and more acrimonious because litigation fuels the fire by pitting one family member against the other! Starting mediation after you have already started litigating your divorce is like trying to put a fire out after you have drenched it with gasoline! You choose.

It is in your hands… can contain the flames by choosing mediation. You can start mediation anytime, but the best time to start is in the beginning of the divorce process. Early stage mediation moves divorcing couples toward cooperation by providing a structure that is designed to alleviate the confusion and get people talking in a less acrimonious manner …..putting out of the blaze, step by step by step.

Most mediators will encourage or even require you to have lawyers, but you can get a lawyer anytime in the process. You can hire a lawyer who will support you in mediation instead of litigating……many lawyers promote a cooperative, mediation process. When to get a lawyer and how often to consult with a lawyer will depend on your particular needs. Your mediator can help you determine those needs. And remember….your lawyer works for you… make sure your lawyer support you in the mediation process! After all, it is your life, not your lawyer’s.

"The hand that kindles cannot quench the flame. " - Byron


Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class actions. She has settled and mediated thousands of cases. In addition to civil litigation mediation, she also co-mediates divorces with John Duda, a marriage and family therapist.

Debra Synovec, a Seattle-based mediator and lawyer, has mediated divorces for 20 years. She believes in empowering the parties to reach their own resolution.