Exploring Agreement – Readiness for Divorce Mediation

This article describes a private reflective exercise that may be helpful in assessing your current state of readiness to mediate your divorce.


Agreement readiness is a key concept in mediation.  Agreement readiness is the attitude of both parties as they approach mediation.  One partner may be ready to make major decisions, while for the other partner, the news of an unexpected break-up feels so raw and painful that he or she cannot spit out the word “divorce” without bursting into tears.  Mediation may be premature if it begins before each party shows at least some amount of intention to make (and keep) agreements for a post-divorce future.  

Agreement readiness can also shift during mediation, so that a party who thought he or she was totally ready realizes that “oops. … maybe not.”  Flexibility can also be a dimension of agreement readiness.  Your mediator may consider all these factors when deciding how or when to convene a mediation.  

Your mediator will probably begin with easy decisions and work up to those that are more challenging.  Exercising compassion in setting the initial pace is likely to be more productive in the long run.  If one spouse is simply not yet ready, remember that “Time heals.”  In almost all cases, eventually both spouses will be ready to make and confirm agreements.  

If you are uncertain about your own state of agreement readiness, completing the following self-assessment may help you to decide that “Now is the time!” – or not.  This is intended to be a private exercise, to be shared with your therapist and/or your potential mediator, but not with your spouse – unless you choose to share it.

Start by printing out these pages.  Then, use a pencil with an eraser to answer the following questions by placing a mark along the line to show how you feel today.

  1. Have you and your spouse discussed your marriage with a therapist?

_______________________________________

         Never                                                             Many times

  1. Have you discussed your marriage with a therapist when your spouse wasn’t present?

      _______________________________________

         Never                                                             Many times

3.  Are you afraid that your spouse might physically harm you or emotionally abuse you during a divorce?

    _______________________________________

         Never                                                             Many times

* Please know that if you experience ongoing abuse in your marriage, this is an indicator mediation may not be appropriate. This might be a good topic to explore in a joint session with your proposed mediator and your therapist – or with therapists for both parties.  

4.   Have you discussed divorce with your spouse?

    _______________________________________

         Never                                                             Many times

5.. Have you discussed a separation or divorce with an attorney?

___Never       ___ times

6. Have you discussed a separation or divorce with a mediator?

___Never       ___ times

7.  If given a choice, when would you initiate a divorce? 

_______________________________________

         Never                                                             In a heartbeat

8.  If you have minor children, do you feel ready to be a single parent?

_______________________________________

         Never                                                             Absolutely

     9.  Are you comfortable taking emotional risks?

    _______________________________________

         Never                                                             All the time

   10.  Are you comfortable taking financial risks?  

    _______________________________________

         Never                                                             Many times

 11. You might consider journaling in response to these questions: 

              A) What are your burning questions about divorce mediation?  

             B) What are your concerns about mediating your divorce online?

After considering these questions, you will probably sense whether you are (or are not yet) ready to mediate.  If you are still uncertain, wait a month and try this again, using the same paper and a different color of pencil.  Do you see any change?

                        author

Georgia Daniels

Georgia Daniels is a family mediator in Pasadena, CA, a teacher, and an inactive member of the Oregon and Washington State Bars.  She also writes, dances, and reads mysteries. MORE >

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