How do you find the best divorce mediator?
How do you find the best divorce mediator?
Unfortunately, making the difficult decision to proceed with your divorce is only the first in a whole line of difficult decisions. The second decision is a pivotal one; how are you going to find the best person to help you navigate the whole process? After all, the professional you choose to work with will determine the whole course of your divorce process from financial matters and what happens to your children to whether you manage to avoid the drama of the courtroom.
If you've decided you want to try to find a peaceful, amicable solution to your split, a mediator may be the most appropriate professional to help you achieve it. The problem is that, for many people, knowledge of the mediation process is patchy at best.
When it comes to finding a great litigation attorney, you probably already have a good idea of the type of person you're looking for — perhaps someone ruthless, tenacious, who'll put up a fight to make sure you get what you want. Someone with the right qualifications from the right school. When it comes to finding a great divorce mediator, you may be less confident.
It doesn't help that, in many states, mediation isn't actually a regulated profession, which means you're even more in the dark when it comes to finding a qualified mediator.
So what should you look for when you're searching for a mediator to handle your upcoming divorce?
Are they qualified?
You wouldn't dream of hiring an under-qualified divorce attorney — litigation is far too complex a process and too important to entrust to an amateur. Mediation may be a more peaceful path to divorce, but it's no less complicated, so you need to be just as choosy when selecting a mediator. Your mediator should have a minimum of 40 hours of family law mediation training, and that's just the bare bones level of training. So, if your potential divorce mediator has only those 40 hours of training under their belt, know that this person is a newbie at mediation, so probe a bit deeper to make sure you are making the right choice for your family.
Equally, non-legally trained mediators may be great at offering counsel on emotional matters, providing unbiased advice and diffusing resentment between you and your spouse but they may not be equipped to properly deal with financial matters or the legalities of custody and other complex issues.
How much experience do they have?
Your divorce is as unique as your relationship and mediation for a couple with few financial assets and no children will be a very different process than for a couple who have children, a house, and perhaps a business or two to take into account.
It's important to ensure not only that your mediator has lots of experience, but that they have plenty of experience in dealing with situations similar to yours.
Do they specialize in mediation?
Many divorce attorneys offer their services as a divorce mediator, but mediation isn't a full-time activity for them. Not only does this mean that they don't have as much experience as a full-time mediator would but they may be too quick to view a court battle as a backup option when mediation becomes tricky.
Consider if your preferred mediator is truly committed to a peaceful settlement; will they put their heart and soul into working towards a fair conflict resolution between you and your spouse or do they view mediation as a step on the path to the courtroom?
Are they committed to their profession?
If you come across a mediator who has done their basic training and no more, alarm bells should start to chime. As with any profession, the field of mediation is constantly changing as new research emerges and laws change. Any good mediator will be well aware of this and will be dedicated to further learning — they won't mind one bit if you ask them what they're doing in terms of continuing professional development.
Do they take the time to get to know you?
Mediation is a wonderful way to handle divorce proceedings but it isn't for everyone. If your mediator decides to take your case without seeking in-depth knowledge of you and your situation, you may be in for a shock further down the line when it turns out that litigation is the only viable solution.
A good mediator will take the time to figure out whether you and your spouse are good candidates for the mediation process so that you aren't wasting your time and money on an inappropriate solution.
What's their success rate?
Assuming that the mediator isn't taking on unsuitable clients, they should have a high success rate of couples who manage to settle their divorce without resorting to the courtroom. It's definitely worth asking them about this before you sign anything, as well as querying what the process is for those couples for whom mediation doesn't work.
What's their approach?
All mediators bring something of their own philosophy and individual mediation approach to the table. It's worth meeting with a few different mediators to find out more about the methods they use and their mediation style before deciding which one will be the most appropriate choice for your particular situation. A good mediator should be able to tell you about the different approaches to mediation, and help you assess which approach is best for you, even if it is not their own approach.
It's certainly worth researching your mediator's qualifications, experience, and success rate but in the end, it's equally important to find someone who you feel is committed to helping you shape the kind of divorce that you're looking for: one that is peaceful, fair, and as gentle as possible. Ultimately the real question isn't "how do we find the best divorce mediator?", it's "how do we find the best divorce mediator for us?".
If you think I might be the right divorce mediator for you and your spouse, please do get in touch — I'd love to help you.