My Spouse Won't Mediate!
Can I force my Spouse to Mediation? No, but you may be able to PERSUADE your Spouse to Mediate your disputes by employing some or all of the suggested steps* in your attempt to mediate your disputes.
1. Guide the reluctant spouse to information about mediation. Send articles by email or simply leavie printed copies of such information where he or she (but not the children) will see it. Leave information about Nancy Caplan's free seminar on separation/divorce mediation. Send links to information, including this website by email. Send email inquiries about mediation to mediators in your area and forward the emails to your spouse or include your reluctant spouse on the email to the mediator. An sample email might read: "Dear Mediator: I want to mediate but my spouse refuses/ignores me (whichever situation applies). What can I say to convince my reluctant spouse to try mediation instead of litigation through the court system?" A letter sent or forwarded in this fashion permits the message to be made by someone other than you. The mediator will respond to both of you or indirectly to your reluctant spouse, and this may be more persuasive than your own efforts, and/or will demonstrate your definite intention to take steps to move forward.
2. Ask friends or family to assist you to talk to or give information about Mediation to the reluctant spouse. Is there a member of your family or your spouse's family who you feel is connected or influential in the eyes of your spouse? A clergyman? A marriage counselor? If so, you may be able to persuade that person having influence that mediation is the appropriate process for resolving the disputes so that the reluctant spouse hears the message from a person he/she trusts. ANYONE can attend the Free Monthly Q & A Seminar offered by Nancy Caplan Mediation.
3. Custody/Visitation: Mediation Orders of the Circuit Court. If there is a dispute over child custody or visitation, the Court will order the parties to mediation. Since the key concept of mediation is "self-determination" and voluntary participation, the effect of a Court ordering a couple to mediation is contrary to those principles. However, if the dispute is about child custody or visitation, informing your spouse that he or she will end up in mediation one way or the other may motivate him or her to participate. A private mediator will address all issues relating to the settlement, including custody or visitation. Court mediators are limited to children's issues.
4. The "hard-way" vs. the "easy way." Very often, the reluctant spouse simply wants to keep things the way they are despite the marital difficulties. Therefore the reluctant spouse has a "do-nothing" attitude. What does this mean to you? It means that unless you "do something" to get the attention of the reluctant spouse the status quo will continue indefinitely. If the previous steps do not change the reluctant spouse's attitude, you may have to take concrete steps to demonstrate your intention to move forward with a separation or divorce.* Write him/her a letter or an email, calmly and firmly telling him/her that the event will happen one way or the other, and that the process will begin with or without him/her.
5. Open Display of Separation/Divorce Activities. Whether you take open measures to begin the separation or divorce depends on the situation*. A person who feels that his or her spouse may react explosively or irrationally will have no choice to FIRST enlist the help of a litigation attorney (see below "Choosing Your Attorney.") Otherwise you might begin to pack or divide personal or household items. Openly exploring apartments or seeking legal services is another tactic. Openly consult your children's pediatrician for guidance relating to communication or possible counseling for the children. Secure funds for an attorney retainer. Make copies of all important documents, however, you may want to only make this known to the reluctant spouse when this process is complete in case the reluctant spouse reacts by attempting to restrict your access to such documents. Tell both families and friends that you are separating. Obviously, if mediation is your ultimate goal, undertaking these tasks should be done in a matter-of-fact, non-hostile way, repeatedly emphasizing to the reluctant spouse that you want to go about this in the least least expensive way- both emotionally and financially. Continue to provide your spouse with possible mediation availability dates during the process, as well as mediation information.
6. Choosing Your Attorney. Even if you mediate your separation and property settlement agreement, you will still require an attorney to review the formal Agreement before you sign it, and to help you to file and finalize your actual divorce. Who you choose as your attorney makes all the difference in how this process is handled. Many, many family law attorneys have been trained in mediation and/or collaborative law (even if they do not personally practice mediation or collaborative law), and if so, this tells you something about their family law philosophy. Looking at their websites or making a telephone call should give you the answer to whether a prospective attorney is educated about mediation and peaceful separation/divorce processes. An attorney should be willing to send your spouse a non-antagonistic letter requesting mediation. If you don't have funds for a retainer, hire an attorney for the sole purpose of sending this letter, utilizing a hour or two of their time. If the reluctant spouse still ignores the mediation request, you may have no choice but to begin the process in the court system. However, remember to ask the attorney if he or she would continue to make a request for mediation each step of the way, meaning, in every letter send to your mediation-reluctant spouse. Usually this reluctance is dislodged when legal bills start rolling in. Most folks have no idea the magnitude of this potential expense. Email your local mediators, including Nancy Caplan, to request referrals for "mediation-friendly/litigation experienced" attorneys in your area.
* This information is not a substitute for legal advice. Your attorney may have specific recommendations based your situation. Only you can judge whether some of all of the information is advisable in your circumstances.