There are a lot of different ways to be an effective divorce mediator and mediators vary considerably in their styles. What are some of the main areas of difference in divorce mediator approaches? Understanding this can help you select a mediator whose style matches your preferences. You can discuss the areas that are of interest to you when you have your initial consultation with a divorce mediator.
Divorce Mediator Approaches and Styles
1. Joint sessions, separate sessions or both?
Most divorce mediators prefer to have joint sessions when helping you work out your agreement. Some like to start off with an individual session with each spouse before beginning the joint sessions. A smaller number of mediators are fairly quick to have separate sessions when emotions flare or when discussions are difficult.
2. Does the mediator control the discussion?
Some keep a tight rein on what happens during the mediation session. They may impose certain ground rules, control who speaks when and have an agenda to follow. Others purposely don’t take charge. They give the spouses wide latitude to take the discussions where the spouses want them to go. Many divorce mediator approaches are between these two extremes, providing some structure but also being willing to allow the conversation to go where it seems to need to go.
3. What’s their approach to negotiations?
Spouses vary widely in their negotiation skills. Some divorce mediator approaches are very hands-off in this regard, leaving each spouse to negotiate however they choose. Others educate the spouses on negotiating techniques and try to ensure that each spouse employs more or less the same negotiating style, with the idea that this is likely to produce a more balanced and fair result.
4. Will the mediator suggest solutions?
Some mediators not only suggest solutions but indicate what they think are appropriate solutions. Others are more reluctant to suggest possible solutions. They will do so in a tentative way and only when the spouses want this input. A few mediators will decline to provide any suggestions at all. They may believe that doing so risks asserting undue influence on the outcome.
5. How important is the law?
Some mediators believe that it is important for the spouses not only to understand the law relevant to their discussions but also to use the law as a guide to their decision making. Others want the spouses to understand the relevant law but do not expect it to unnecessarily constrain their decision making. Still other divorce mediator approaches do not make it a point to convey the relevant law to the spouses.
6. Input from outside attorneys?
Some mediators strongly encourage each spouse to have a consulting attorney outside the mediation. They may even require that the spouses have such an attorney review their mediated agreement before the spouses sign it. Others leave the use of outside attorneys completely up to the preference of the spouses.
7. Input from other specialists?
Mediators vary in their likelihood to recommend including the advice of outside specialists. Some with a more limited knowledge base may be quick to recommend outside input. Others with more knowledge (or a reluctance to acknowledge when their knowledge is not complete) may be less inclined to recommend consulting outside specialists.