Beginning the mediation process is usually determined on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it is best to start mediation before the actual physical separation rather than waiting, because a mediator can help separating individuals make good decisions. For example, it is usually best to have a good idea of how each person will be spending time with the children and how their cash flow will be shared before they set up separate households. Sometimes it is best to continue in couples therapy or to work with a co-parenting counselor while separating and to avoid the legal process until the couple is truly ready for it.

Some couples are already separated before they choose to begin the divorce process, may choose to work out their separation arrangements on their own and may prefer to delay the start of the mediation until they are ready to begin.