My grandmother was a wonderful woman who as she got older tended to repeat herself a lot. That was alright with me because she was adorable and mostly repeated things that made her laugh. Often this involved sayings that included her favorite, “It takes two to tango!”

I think of her and this saying every time someone calls me and wants a divorce lawyer referral to someone that knows about the mediation process or simply wants to do a collaborative divorce where they figure things out with the help of a mediator.

I’m a big fan of the mediation process and in fact I used to be a licensed mediator. Whenever my kids are acting up I try to use mediation tactics to diffuse the situation.

But my grandma was right, it does take two to tango. If you want to mediate and your spouse does not or is not giving it a good faith effort, then mediation is a waste of time.  It only works well when two people want to use mediation to come to a resolution or at least try to.  I did a ton of mediations back in the day where it was obvious that one party didn’t want to be there (often a Judge made them) and like a child throwing a tantrum, nothing I could say would turn around their behavior.

On the flip side, if you both can mediate in good faith it can save you a lot of money on lawyer fees.  That said, you’d be crazy not to have a lawyer in your corner either at the mediation or at least before and after to make sure of two things: 1. That you are talking about every issue that needs to be talked about.  You don’t want to settle a case and then end up back in court because you didn’t agree on what religion a child would be raised for example or because you didn’t divide up a pension. 2. That you aren’t screwing yourself over by agreeing to things that would never happen if you went to court such as not getting any child support if you are the primary custodian of the kids or having your parental rights terminated.

Those things can happen if you really want them to, but most attorneys would never advise it.  Getting a lawyer involved is about educating yourself and covering your backside. If you make a mistake it will cost way more in the long run if you have to go to court to try and fix it.

In general though while divorce sucks and nobody likes the process, if it can be amicable, that’s the best way to do it.  But there’s a big difference between “we both want to get divorced” and “we can work together to solve EVERY issue that needs to be solved.”  It’s great if you can use a mediator, but there’s no shame if you can’t.