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.