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How do you choose the right mediator?
Choosing the right mediator for helping to resolve a family law matter is an extremely important choice and the skills required to be a good mediator go well beyond simply helping people reach an agreement. It is recommended that clients research, interview, and compare in order to make sure the professional they choose is the right person for the job. Here are some important questions to ask:
- What is the professional’s experience as a professional mediator? Using a professional whose practice includes doing "some" mediation would be like going to a doctor who also does "some" surgery. Would you not want someone with the highest level of skill and experience for something so important and consequential to you?
- How much mediation training has the professional had? The standard of practice established by the Academy of Professional Family Mediators requires a minimum of 40 hours of mediation training in order to begin practicing mediation.
- How many mediation cases has he or she handled professionally?
- What is the specific process the mediator uses and how does it help the clients achieve their goals?
- What percent of the professional’s practice is dedicated to mediation?
- How are the clients interests protected in the process?
- How does the mediator deal with potential impasse issues the clients have?
- How does the mediator address the different needs of each client in the process?
- How does the mediator deal with power imbalances in the process?
- How does the mediator deal with conflicts over important issues like parenting and support?
- How does the process address the need for the parties to feel safe while they are in it?
As clients have turned away from the traditional adversarial system, many family law attorneys now offer mediation services without having had any significant training or experience. To ensure the highest probability of success in choosing to mediate, it is important to research and interview your potential choices.
How can two people mediate when they can’t agree on much of anything?
If the parties did not agree or were not conflicted about the marriage issues, they wouldn’t need mediation at all. Most of my clients share important and similar goals:
- To create an agreement that gives each of the parties the greatest value that an agreement can deliver. Every marriage has a limited set of financial circumstances. The goal of maximizing the value of the agreement to each of the parties is not only a concrete goal, it is quite attainable with a mediation process that is specifically designed to do just that.
- Clients universally want to protect their children from the conflict that they as adults are going through. This is easy to claim as a goal but one that is very hard to deliver. A good mediation process will give the clients the support and guidance to help them manage their emotions so that they do not derail their most important goals.
- In order for either of the preceding goals to be achieved, it is absolutely necessary that the clients feel safe and that their interests are protected during the mediation process. It is critical to the design of a mediation process that defines how a safe process is maintained and what the clients need to do to contribute to the establishment and maintenance of safety.