I Need A Mediator: How to Choose A Good Mediator

You and your spouse are get­ting divorced.  You both agree that you want it to be as ami­ca­ble as pos­si­ble or you go to a lawyer who says that you should try to work things out in medi­a­tion.   So now what?  Then you ask your­self:  “How do I find a good mediator?”

Mediators Are Not Generally Licensed

You should know that, unlike attor­neys, medi­a­tors are not gen­er­ally licensed and reg­u­lated.   Some states have reg­u­la­tions for medi­a­tors who are asso­ci­ated with state or court pro­grams, but gen­er­ally any­one can hang out a shin­gle, start a web­site and call them­selves a medi­a­tor.   No degree is required.   When you see some­one call­ing him or her­self a “medi­a­tor,” that per­son may have a law degree, coun­sel­ing or social work degree, a degree in con­flict res­o­lu­tion, or she may have taken a 32 hour train­ing course from a medi­a­tor who trains mediators–or he may have no spe­cial train­ing or edu­ca­tion at all.

How to Choose a Good Mediator

A good medi­a­tor should have a blend of skills and expe­ri­ence.  Not all attor­neys make good medi­a­tors.  Not all coun­selors or ther­a­pists make good medi­a­tors or have the knowl­edge base nec­es­sary to do divorce or other spe­cial­ized forms of medi­a­tion.   A skilled medi­a­tor knows the law that applies to your sit­u­a­tion thor­oughly, but she also needs to have the kind of skills that assures that effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion takes place and both par­ties feel heard.

Things to know about a medi­a­tor before you hire him or her:

  • What is their back­ground and training?
  • Are they on any state or court medi­a­tion refer­ral lists?
  • What pro­fes­sional orga­ni­za­tions are they a mem­ber of?
  • How long have they been medi­at­ing and how many cases have they handled?
  • What kinds of cases do they spe­cial­ize in (a labor medi­a­tor isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a good divorce medi­a­tor and vice versa)?

But the best rec­om­men­da­tion for any medi­a­tor, as for any other pro­fes­sional, is what their prior clients say about them.   Ask around from your friends and col­leagues about rec­om­men­da­tions.   And don’t be afraid to ask for this infor­ma­tion before you hire a mediator.

Find a Comfortable Fit

Finally, per­son­al­ity and demeanor are major fac­tors in find­ing an effec­tive medi­a­tor that you can work with.  A medi­a­tor may have all the legal and com­mu­ni­ca­tion knowl­edge in the world and have writ­ten a plethora of arti­cles.  But you need to feel that you can per­son­ally trust your medi­a­tor and that she is being impar­tial and fair to both sides at the table, even when she tells you things you may not want to hear.  If you don’t feel com­fort­able with a medi­a­tor the process will not work and you should find some­one else.

Posted in Divorce & Child Custody, Family Conflict, Mediation, Uncontested Divorce Tagged with: , ,
4 comments on “I Need A Mediator: How to Choose A Good Mediator
  1. Chris Ashburn says:

    Wow, I didn’t know that medi­a­tors needed no train­ing at all. Thanks for this bit of advice.

    • Pat Vallerand says:

      Yes, it is impor­tant for peo­ple to know that just because some­one calls them­selves a “medi­a­tor” doesn’t mean much. You really have to check cre­den­tials and ask questions!

  2. Ashley Turns says:

    Thanks for the advice that we make sure to ask the medi­a­tor what they know about the divorce law to make sure they under­stand that part of their job as well. My sis­ter and her hus­band are get­ting divorced and they’ve decided they want some­one there to help them work through their assets together. So I’ll be sure to tell her that she’ll want to make sure that they not only pick a medi­a­tor that has some coun­sel­ing back­ground but also has a good under­stand­ing of the laws that may apply to their case.

  3. I appre­ci­ate how you said that you should hire a medi­a­tor that is knowl­edge­able in the field. My hus­band and I are look­ing into hir­ing a medi­a­tor for our friend who needs one because he’s going through a divorce. Thanks for men­tion­ing how they should be a part of other organizations.

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