FAQs – Choosing a Mediator
What are the most important qualities to look for?
While the qualities required vary somewhat depending on the nature of each divorce, overall I would suggest that the following qualities are most important in approximately the following order when choosing a mediator:
- excellent deep listening skills;
- skillful handling of conflict-laden communication processes;
- excellent organizational and problem-solving skills;
- a clear understanding of the basics of divorce law;
- a thorough understanding of the many financial aspects of divorce;
- a thorough understanding of how to help parents create durable co-parenting plans;
- a clear focus on providing excellent service, as evidenced by attitude, qualifications, training, professionalism and active membership in professional mediation organizations.
Since people skills are most important, I advise both of you to meet candidates in person when choosing a mediator.
Should the mediator also be a lawyer?
Some lawyers are good mediators; many others are not. Few have received extensive mediation training. Very few are full-time mediators. Nowadays a growing number of family lawyers offer mediation alongside their main, litigation-based practice. This reflects the growing understanding that the collaborative nature of mediation provides a better service to couples than the traditional adversarial approach that lawyers are trained in.
In practice, only about 1% of a divorce mediation involves talking about the law because the law gives you lots of latitude to come up with your own solutions. However, to facilitate well-informed decision making, you should have access to what the law says about divorce. A good divorce mediator will know basic divorce law and procedure and be able to communicate it to you. A good divorce mediator will also support each of you having a lawyer if this is your choice – whether as a consultant or as someone who represents you.