Skip to main content

What to do if your spouse refuses mediation

If you understand the benefits of a mediated divorce as opposed to one that involves acrimonious litigation, it can be extremely frustrating if your spouse will not agree to participate in mediation. Since mediation typically is a less expensive and more amicable approach to divorce, there are compelling reasons to choose the mediation process rather than a contested divorce. However, the mediation process is based on cooperation by both spouses so there is little benefit to "coercing" your spouse to participate in mediation. The goal must be to facilitate your spouse’s ability to obtain information about mediation so that your spouse can appreciate it advantages.

Encourage Your Spouse to Consult an Objective Source

It is important to recognize that your spouse may not consider you the best source of information about what is in your spouse’s best interest. While you may explain to your spouse the benefits that have attracted you to the option of mediation, such as low cost, efficiency, less animosity, mutual cooperation and other benefits, you should encourage your spouse to schedule a free consultation with a divorce mediator to obtain an overview of the advantages of mediation that do not flow through you as the source.

Urge Your Spouse to Research the Cost of Mediation as Opposed to Divorce

If your spouse meets with an experienced divorce attorney about a contested divorce as compared to the cost of mediation, your spouse will learn that mediation typically results in substantial savings. When couples do not devote enormous amounts of resources to the divorce process, both spouses are left with more of what they have built during the marriage to start over and care for their children.

Suggest Your Spouse Talk to a Pastor or Professional Counselor

While you may have a pastor that your spouse trusts, there are many family or child counselors that can explain the value of mediation to both the parties and their children. Many parents worry about the impact of divorce on their children, but a child or family therapist or even your pastor will generally be able to explain the way mediation can mitigate the negative feelings and conflict that can be difficult for children during the divorce process.

Do Not Force a Mediator on Your Spouse

For mediation to work effectively, both parties must have confidence that the mediator does not come to the case with pre-conceived loyalties to one of the spouses. The selection of a mediator may come from a list provided by the court or recommendation from an objective third party. The key is not to attempt to force your spouse to work with one specific mediator because this may create distrust and suspicion. Sometimes couples will create a list of acceptable names together and secretly rank them in order of preference. Another approach is to meet with a couple of mediators to see if there is one that you both feel would be appropriate.

The key point is that choosing a mediator, like the mediation process, must be a cooperative joint venture. If you can alleviate your spouse’s concerns about being taken advantage of during the process or falling victim to a mediator with pre-determined loyalties, it is more likely your spouse will agree to participate. If you spouse is bitter and simply wants to exact his or her pound of flesh, mediation is not a viable option.

Rate this guide


Avvo divorce email series

Sign up to receive a 10-part series of useful information and legal advice about the divorce process.

Recommended articles about Divorce

Can’t find what you’re looking for?


Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer