When Should you Start the Mediation Process?

Separating couples who are getting along often wonder if they should just leave things status quo and not “rock the boat” by starting the process of putting things down on paper. Of course everyone’s situation is different, but in  general it’s usually better to start the process sooner than later. Why? In short: Time makes things more complicated. The more time that passes the more decisions, life events, and changes happen, and the more opportunity there is for conflict. No one has a crystal ball and even though things are going well with your ex now, you don’t know if that will continue. It might be best to start putting formal plans in place while things are amicable.

“Time makes things more complicated.”

Here are some reasons why starting mediation sooner than later might be best for you:

  • It may be easier to sort out finances. If you’ve recently separated it may make things easier to determine what your legal “separation date” is and then organize the finances accordingly. If you wait it can become complicated to sort out who pays for what, and retroactively sort out debts and assets. Also, as time passes and things get moved around it can become difficult to locate important paperwork and find the amounts that were in bank accounts and investments on certain dates.
  • As time passes decisions will come up that can’t be avoided. They can be a source of potential conflict and a time for things to go sideways with your ex. Should you replace the vehicle or pay for the major repair? Who pays? It’s summer time but how do we decide who takes the kids to the cottage this year? How are we filing the taxes this year? Entering mediation sooner than later gives you a place to address these decisions before they’re upon you.
  • Raw emotions can be better than built up resentment. Yes, entering mediation soon after a separation often means that there may be lots of anger and sadness right at the surface. It’s ok to express all of this emotion in mediation and you may find you get some relief from getting it out. Taking too much time without addressing things often leads to layers of resentments and the bad behaviour that comes with it. It can actually work well to start mediation right away so that you can deal with those fresh emotions before they fester and create bad patterns.
  • You can have a stable schedule for your kids from the outset. Deciding on a parenting plan on an ad hoc basis might work for you, but it’s likely that it will be rather disorganized and ever-changing. This could be unsettling for kids who thrive on routine and schedule and need stability more than ever when their parents are separating. It may work well to work out a solid plan from the start that considers everyone’s best interest and includes all scenarios like vacations and holidays.
  • New partners can often complicate mediation. The longer you wait to work out an agreement, the higher the likelihood that one or both of you will enter into a new relationship. It’s common for new partners to get involved in decision making and influence meditation. This can often make things much more complicated than if you were able to just deal directly with your ex.
  • Establish good patterns for moving forward rather than getting entrenched in bad ones. Starting mediation early allows everyone to start on the right foot. The future won’t always be easy but if you start healthy, constructive patterns of communication early you can avoid many of the pitfalls that can cause conflict.
  • Starting the process can be a very positive step forward and ease tension you didn’t know was there. Many couples report that once they took that first step to start the mediation process they felt some relief that they were moving on with their lives. You may be getting along with your ex, but having so many unresolved issues can continually weigh on you. Being able to talk about them openly and make decisions about your future can be a necessary part of letting go and moving on.

It can be tough to decide when to start mediation with your ex. It’s a step towards finalizing your separation and possible divorce. No one ever feels totally ready to start the process, but putting it off may not be the best choice. Consider what you think will work best for you and your family. As always, contact me with any questions and we can talk about some of the pros and cons of starting the process for you.


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