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Are They Ready to Divorce?

How many times do clients come into your divorce mediation office when they aren’t on the same page? She absolutely knows she wants a divorce; he absolutely knows he wants to continue the marriage. Or they both have ambivalent feelings about whether to divorce? Is this often?  Is it a moderate amount of times or just sometimes? In my long-established divorce mediation practice, sometimes clients are not on the same page. What do you do with them? Proceed with divorce mediation, anyway? Send them to psychotherapists or counselors?

Because they aren’t unified in knowing their future direction, proceeding with divorce mediation isn’t appropriate and neither is sending them to a marriage counselor or to a couples therapist? Most psychotherapists/counselors will tell you that couples therapy or marriage counseling have as their goals helping to strengthen an existing marriage. So, then, what to do?

Sending the couple to decision-making mediation is the key to unlock the door of indecision. My recent book “Seven Visual Steps to Yes — Difficult Decisions, Mediations and Negotiations Made Easier” describes a seven step visual approach for a couple or a decision-making mediator, who is helping a couple, to reach a wise, carefully thought out decision about the future direction of their marriage. The book details vignettes which are engaging, illustrative, educational and sometimes hilarious and beyond the wildest imagination. These case examples are real life examples, modified, of course, to protect the identities of the couples.

There is Adnan and Sherrie who came into the office unable to decide whether to add an addition to the home for her mother, Edith. Adnan came from a culture where two or three generations enjoy living together. Besides, he wants to include in the addition a workshop for himself and a painting studio for Sherrie. With their mortgage just paid off, Sherrie wants no — and that means NO– more mortgage debt. They resolved this dilemma reaching a solution that was way beyond what they could have hoped.

Bill and Sally had a considerable amount of assets to divide from his start-up company. They had begun the divorce mediation process. He’d invented a specific type of robotic arm for surgery and both of them thought they could retire for life with half the assets. Sally, however, wanted to be sure that if she kept the house, the interest and dividends on her mutual funds would last her lifetime so she would not have to work. A certified financial planner was brought in for “collaborative mediation” who demonstrated to Sally through charts and graphs that she had more than enough money and then some to spare. Bill decided to buy a house for himself, as well, that was considerably below the assessed value of the former marital home.

Anne and Sam in the office for divorce mediation had lived together for three long years beyond their breaking point, unable to decide who would leave their marital home. She had the greater income, $125,000/year,  while he was earning $35,000. He had designed the home and wanted to pass it on to the couples’ children. He was to inherit $3.2 million dollars when his mother, who had Alzheimer’s Disease died, but he could not afford to buy out Anne’s interest in the home at that point in time. She was not attached to the home, but could afford to buy it. I, as mediator, suggested that he attempt to get a loan from their bank, showing his equity in the home and that he was to be sole inheritor of his mother’s trust. He was very doubtful, but he obtained the loan! The wife gave the husband enough alimony for the next two years until his Social Security began. He kept the house, the wife kept her full retirement fund and the marriage was finally over!

The reader consolidates the method for decision making after reading the case examples, preparing to begin his or her own negotiation with his or her spouse. The book is perfect to read in the comfort of your home, while waiting for one’s plane, en route to one’s destination and a vignette or two every evening before bedtime. Upon arrival back at one’s airport of departure the reader will have prepared a carefully thought out strategy to begin a decision making process about the future direction of one’s marriage. Decision making mediation is the appropriate method for those indecisive couples or those who are on radically different pages to arrive together at the same place, ready for divorce mediation or, who knows, perhaps in some cases even ready for reconciliation.


Janet Wiseman

Janet Miller Wiseman LICSW, Certified Divorce and Family Mediator, was Co-Founder of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation, in 1982 and of The Negotiation Collaborative, Janet Miller Wiseman, Mediation Services in 1979.  Janet was the author of "Mediation Therapy: Short-Term Decision Making for Couples and Families in Crisis" in 1990… MORE >

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