There are two situations when the right attorney can assist you and your spouse get to the mediation table. The first can happen when a spouse can't persuade his or her spouse to attend a mediation to address separation and divorce issues. The second is when there are sensitive issues requiring either immediate filing of a law suit in court or preparation for immediate filing if necessary.
Let's take the first situation first. You've asked your spouse to mediate. You've presented him or her with viable options and perhaps internet links or information. You get no response. Or maybe he or she simply says "I'll think about it" and does nothing. Maybe he or she "no shows" one of Nancy Caplan, Esquire's informative free monthly divorce seminars that he or she agreed to attend, and now you're there all alone.
It may be time to call an attorney for a consultation. At the consultation the attorney will ask about your case and normally he or she will set a retainer fee amount. It is at this point that you should ask your attorney whether he or she would be willing perhaps as part of the consultation costs, to simply write the other spouse a letter requesting mediation.
If you take this route you will probably get your spouse's attention pretty quickly. The first thing that will happen is that your spouse will start shopping for a lawyer and get a fast reality check on the costs of litigation. Just the retainer alone should feel like a big bucket of ice water. Suddenly the free monthly divorce mediation seminar may sound like a good idea to your spouse.
In the second situation, it may be smart to seek out legal representation before approaching mediation. Let's say that you and your spouse have separated but your spouse is being unreasonable in permitting your access to the children. Having an attorney prepare to file pleadings in court (with or without actually filing depending on the facts of your case) seeking access to the children while simultaneously having your lawyer request immediate mediation may be the way to get your spouse to the settlement table.
Either way you are showing your spouse that you "mean business" while simultaneously showing your preference for the peaceful approach to the issue. It is essentially a "good cop/bad cop" kind of psychological approach to persuade your spouse to do what is best for all of you- namely to mediate your family law issues. Hopefully even the limited attorney involvement will be enough to get your spouse to understand the financial and emotional consequences of choosing litigation or attorney-led negotiations.
So if your spouse is stubborn or doing some feet-dragging this doesn't mean your mediation options are closed. Find a way to make your mediation happen for the sake of your family's post-divorce health. Going to a lawyer doesn't mean you have to litigate or give up control over the negotiation. Your lawyer can help you get to mediation, and all you really have to do is ask him or her to provide you with this service.