Rob and I have had several sets of divorce mediation clients who have come in where one party has decided that divorce is the end goal and the other is not of the same opinion. Invariably, they turn to us and ask: “What if we’re not sure?” To which we give the answer: “This is your process, but we have some suggestions.”
Many folks who know about mediation have come to believe that in order to be “ready” to sit down and engage in the mediation process that they two parties need to agree to what the end goal will be and that mediation is to work of the fine details. Not so.
For instance, we had clients years ago–who I’ll call Sally and Jim–where Sally was ready to get divorced and Jim wanted to work out their issues and stay married. They came to mediation and agreed to institute a short-term agreement to make one last attempt at reconciliation. That first round of mediation involved Sally and Jim agreeing to some terms and conditions to implement over the course of three months. In essence, they decided in mediation what each of them was obligated to do for that short time period. Thereafter, the plan was for them to come back to mediation to assess the value of the experiment. When they returned, they decided to “renew” the contract for another six months instead of moving forward with the divorce mediation process. This “renewal” process continued with Sally and Jim adding new terms and conditions for a year and half. The last time we saw Sally and Jim they had decided to stay together.
With Sally and Jim in mind, remember that parties need not share a “goal” to get to some place of collaboration and resolution to find mediation beneficial.