If you do any amount of research for your divorce, you are likely to stumble across the idea of mediation. And everyone who wants you to pursue mediation will praise its advantages.

It offers you more creativity! More control! It can save money! Given what you know of your marriage, you may wonder: Is this all too good to be true? In many cases, the answer is, “Yes.”

Divorce mediation is not for everyone

There are certainly cases in which mediation may be a good idea. It’s often good for couples who can negotiate tough issues and who face simpler divorces. But when you add child custody, complex property questions, business ownership and real communication struggles? It’s more likely that you could mediate issues only to find yourselves back in court. That doesn’t save you time or money.

Before you pursue mediation, you need to be honest with yourself. Both sides will need to make compromises. Can you do that? Can you expect your spouse to negotiate in good faith?

Here are five signs you should avoid wasting your time in mediation:

  • Your spouse has treated you with violence or abuse. You cannot expect an abuser to accept you as an equal in negotiations.
  • Your spouse has a problem with drugs or alcohol. Addicts suffer a warped view of reality. You cannot expect an addict to make good decisions and to sacrifice his or her own desires in favor of your interests or those of your children.
  • You suspect your spouse is hiding assets. You cannot negotiate in good faith when you believe someone is coming to the table with a pack of lies. If your spouse is trying to hide assets, you’ll need to dig for the truth before you can get a fair deal.
  • Either side is unwilling to compromise. If you know there are certain lines that you or your spouse will be unwilling to cross, you may need to bring those disputes to court.
  • Your voice has been silenced in your marriage. If your concerns have been repeatedly shot down and your voice silenced throughout your marriage, it’s unlikely your spouse is going to start treating you fairly during mediation. An attorney can assert your positions with more force.

These are all signs that mediation is more likely to waste your time or result in a bad deal than to set you up for future success. If any of these apply to your marriage, you want an advocate, not a mediator.

A good outcome matters

Divorce can be hard and stressful, but that’s no reason to accept a bad deal. It’s your future. You deserve a good start.