Don Sinkov of discusses why mediation should be your first choice, not your last.“The lawyers want more money. We’re broke. Let’s try mediation!” News Flash!! Mediation should be your first choice, not your last!

After being in litigation for 1, 2, 3 or more years, the couple is firmly rooted in their bargaining positions, encouraged by the litigation attorneys. And the attorneys have pounded into their heads how important it is to get exactly what they want with no compromise whatsoever, and if they don’t get what they want, they should walk away from the table and go back to court.

When I get these cases, I have to be honest with them.

“This is going to be very difficult. Mediation works beautifully when you first come to a mediator before all the involvement in litigation takes place. The mediator will go over everything with you, discuss the options, and how you both might compromise – – not in everything, but in certain areas, so you can create an agreement you both can live with.”

This doesn’t mean that you have to give up everything. It doesn’t mean you have to give up what’s most important to you. What it does mean is you have to be realistic. Even in a litigation, you’re not going to get everything.

The best alternative to a litigated divorce is using mediation. Nevertheless, I get cases where people come in after years of litigation, continue to dictate the terms to the other spouse and follow it up with, “My lawyer said this is what I have to get.” That’s when I tell them that the sign outside my office says, “Don Sinkov, Mediator, not Merlin the Magician.”

I can’t make things happen that would require magic. At this point, you’ve gone past any logical or reasonable solution into the realm of “my way or the highway.” This just isn’t going to work in any form, but unfortunately, that’s where some couples are.

“High Conflict Couples” is the term that psychologists use for the 10% of cases you get where it’s either impossible to come to a solution, or after hours of arguing and name-calling you finally get them to move a little bit from their bargaining position. But don’t be surprised if two weeks later or less, you get a phone call saying, “I changed my mind. Let’s go back and do this all over again.”

Come to mediation first before you involve yourself in years of litigation. We can create an agreement that is reasonable and real, and does not involve magic wands, top hats, or incantations around a fire.

Comments from Social Media

Brilliant Don. 

Gary Direnfeld, Social Worker, Guest Expert – Radio/TV (family life, marriage, divorce)


While many separates parents may not have been “high conflict” before the litigation it turns them against each other like no other process. The side effect of litigation I’m the hands of zealous lawyers or even just one, is des aster for the separated couple. 

Gary Direnfeld, Social Worker, Guest Expert – Radio/TV (family life, marriage, divorce)


All you need to do is give two lawyers the keys to your house…

Rick Hagglund, Conflict specialist


Been there, done that!! I always say that I have to spend the first few meetings undoing what has been done!! Such a shame.

Cat Zavis, Mediator, Attorney


Amen squared. Thanks, Don, for stating what all we mediators may want to start hanging outside our office doors – in big, bright print.

Linda Liljedahl

About Don Sinkov

Don Sinkov Your Divorce Mediator Westchester County, NY Putnam County, NY Phone: (914) 588-6258 eMail: