mediation conflict resolution skillsNot every divorce mediator is the same.

In fact, some are much better than others.  What’s more, a bad family mediator can cost you a lot of stress and money in the long run.   Good conflict resolution requires a very specific set of skills.  In other words, it’s best to get a mediator as your neutral third party who knows what she is doing.

In California, there are no licensure requirements for mediators.  So, it’s buyer beware to some extent.

Here are some questions to ask a divorce mediator:

#1: How much mediation training has the mediator had?

Training is really important.  Good mediators have a specific skill set in working with parties to resolve their differences.  These listening and communication skills are crucial to a case going well or poorly.

Make sure your mediator has sufficient training and has received continuing training too.  For example, if they just took a course 15 years ago without getting updates, they will probably lack crucial skills.

Looking for divorce mediation training?
Check out Family Resolution Institute here
for more information.

#2:  What other professional credentials does the mediator have?

Make sure your mediator has professional know-how beyond just a one-time mediation training course.  Typical mediators are either lawyers, mental health professionals or financial professionals.  They should have a working knowledge of the family law issues you are going to face.

When drafting a settlement agreement, it is often helpful to have a lawyer serve as your mediator.  Mental health professionals are excellent for custody cases or cases where emotions are high.  Financial professionals help a ton with money issues.  If there is no other underlying credential, you might want to look elsewhere.

Also, be careful of unlicensed professionals.  For instance, just because someone has a J.D., they may not necessarily be a licensed attorney.  You certainly don’t want a disbarred attorney as your mediator.  If they don’t have an active license, ask why.

#3:  Is the mediator a full-time mediator, or a dabbler?

It’s best to get a mediator who mediates on a full-time basis.  Be careful of dabblers.  A person who mediates full-time takes the profession seriously.

People often get into trouble if they hire a person whose full-time job is as an adversarial attorney or a therapist, for example, who may only mediate now and then.  Such folks will likely not have the skills you need to get results.

#4:  Beware of one-day or super cheap processes.

Marriage is not an easy thing to unwind.  Be careful of mediators who promise results in one day or some other very short time period.  Chances are, you will feel rushed, and your settlement will not cover what it needs to cover.  A good process typically involves several mediation sessions.

Also, be careful of super-cheap mediators. In many cases, you really do get what you pay for.  There can be lasting consequences if you rush your divorce process and miss something important.  Spend the time and money to get it right!

#5:  Ask the divorce mediator about his/her process and conflict resolution style.

Every mediator is different and may have a different style.  Some mediators are much more facilitative while others are more directive and evaluative.  As a result, the relationship with your mediator is very personal.

A mediator who is excellent for one couple may not be so good for another.  So take the time to get to know the mediator, her process, and style before you agree to mediate.

Very importantly, don’t rely on your mediator for legal advice.  Even if your mediator is an attorney, he can’t be YOUR attorney because of conflict of interest concerns.  So it is always smart during any mediation process to consult with a lawyer to ensure your decisions are informed.

It’s important to know the right questions to ask a divorce mediator.  Hopefully, these tips will help you with the mediator selection process.

At Weber Dispute Resolution, we provide both collaborative law and mediation services.  To get more information, give us a call at 858-410-0144.


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