Managing a Difficult Spouse During Divorce Mediation

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation attorneys in Orange CountyDivorce is a challenging time even for otherwise calm individuals, but when you throw a challenging partner into the mix, it can be a nightmare. If you’re going through a divorce with a difficult spouse, there are some time-tested techniques that should see you through the mediation process.

Lay ground rules

Use your first few sessions to work out the details of how you will manage things durign the divorce process itself. Decide on who will take care of various expenses on running the home and servicing any shared marital debt during this time. Make this official by drawing up an agreement that holds for the duration of the mediation or until the divorce is final. That way you hold them to their word with the law on your side. If you have children, then decide on a temporary parenting plan and visitation schedule as well.

Meet only during mediation

Avoid any kind of contact with your spouse other than during mediation. In the neutral environment of the mediation, you will have the safety of another adult present to prevent things from getting out of hand. It will also ensure you are protected by confidentiality law that applies to the mediation process. In case you have children together and need to interact, keep that to the bare minimum. Do not engage in discussions outside of the divorce mediation meetings. Ensure any communication with a difficult spouse is only done in writing to avoid any misrepresentation of facts later. Consult your divorce attorney before putting anything down on paper or on an email.

Take a deep breath and avoid direct confrontation

A difficult spouse knows exactly what pushes your buttons and then goes ahead and does just that. Avoiding falling into their trap, even if it means holding back a bit. Losing your cool will be detrimental to the divorce process and could cause the mediation to fall through or might see you making some rash decisions in the heat of the moment to get them off your back. It may be exactly what your estranged spouse wants and you will be walking right into their carefully laid trap.  As hard as it may be, you will need to be the calm one in all of this. Remember, they may be acting up because they feel threatened and insecure. So stay confident and use the help of your divorce lawyer and work with the mediation expert to get through to a solution that’s acceptable.

Ask your mediator for a caucus 

If things get especially heated or you are failing to make any progress on a particular issue, the mediator can have separate private discussions with each of you to move things along. This can help if your spouse is refusing the budge on an issue, and you are firm on your stance too.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”