Choosing A Divorce Mediator


by Julie Denny

July 2000

Julie Denny Finding and selecting a mediator can be easier if you follow some simple steps. In the best of circumstances, divorce is an uncomfortable process. Take the time to assure you have a mediator whom you like, respect and believe to be qualified to help both of you negotiate that equitable settlement. Start by generating a list of four or five mediators in your area. Comparison shopping is just as important here as anywhere else. By talking to a number of mediators you will not only become clear on which one feels right for you, but you will also familiarize yourself with the process, the topics you'll need to discuss, the costs associated with mediated divorces and the issues involved in selecting a mediator. Names of mediators are available through several channels including Mediate.com , the Yellow Pages, state mediation associations, and local attorneys, therapists and clergy. In compiling your list don't rule out mediators a little distance away from your home. The right mediator may be worth a drive. Now call each of the mediators and check him or her out. Factors to consider in choosing your mediator are:

1. What is the mediator's training? Anyone can hang up a shingle and call herself a mediator. The basic Divorce Mediation training is 40 hours.

2. How long has the mediator been practicing? [A note here: I remember with gratitude the couple who took a chance on me when I was just beginning. When I told the prospect I was just starting out, she responded, "Well you have to start somewhere," and set up an appointment. I don't want to deny my colleagues the opportunity I had, but if you decide to go with a beginner, do so in full knowledge that they are less experienced.]

3. How many divorce cases has he mediated? Mediators often handle community and business disputes as well as divorce. The issues involved in divorce are very specific and a certain level of knowledge about those issues is critical. Make sure the mediator has adequate experience with divorce mediation.

4. Does the mediator have any references? Can the mediator provide you with names of other mediators, therapists, or attorneys who will vouch for his or her qualification? Because mediation is confidential, the mediator may not be able to give you names of former clients.

5. Is she viewed as an authority on the process of mediation? Has the mediator written any articles or served on any association boards, trained others or made any speeches on the subject of mediation?

6. What is his mediator's style? Mediator's processes vary significantly. It is useful to understand that some mediators are highly directive, offering evaluation of likelihood a judge will sign off on one or another option in court and giving you concrete proposals for resolution of conflicts; other mediators opt for a more facilitative approach empowering the couple over and over again to make their own choices through deft questioning and discussion. Neither is right or wrong. They are just different. Ask yourself how much in control of the negotiation you and your spouse want to be. Get the mediators to discuss their approach to mediation. It will help you become more knowledgeable about the process.

7. What are the mediator's fees? These vary significantly from region to region, but a comparison of various mediator's fees in your area will be useful. Most mediators require payment at each session. Some will take a retainer up front. There may be a flat fee for preparation of the Memorandum of Understanding, the final document of the mediation. Clarify and compare.

8. Does the mediator offer a free consultation? This is a great way to get to know the mediator and become familiar with the process. Not everyone offers it, but you should ask. Sometimes mediators offer the consultation free if the couple continues with the process and charge a minimal fee if they don't.

9. Does the mediator have materials to help you make your decision? They might include a website, a brochure, specific information on the mediator, overview of divorce in your state, child support guidelines, issues to be covered in divorce mediation, relevant articles. Materials are a reflection of mediators. If you have the sense the materials are slap-dash, so might the process be. If on the other hand, the materials are instructive, relevant and well put together, it's more likely the mediator's process also will be.

10, What is the mediator's point of view about your having an attorney? Good mediators recommend that attorneys for both parties review the agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding, before it is signed. This assures you protection from any legal oversights during the mediation. Mediators frequently can supply clients with a list of mediation-friendly attorneys who will protect you from those legal oversights without undermining your choice to collaboratively negotiate.

11. How do you feel about the mediator? Chemistry counts. Divorce is never fun. If you are uncomfortable with a mediator, for any reason, you should seek another one.



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Biography




Julie Denny spent fifteen years in marketing and business development for Dow Jones, McGraw-Hill and the Associated Press and four years with the Alliance for Mediation & Conflict Resolution before founding Resolutions in 1998. She works with individuals and organizations, using mediation, facilitation, training and coaching to foster constructive communication. Organizational clients include Draft Worldwide, American Express, Johnson & Johnson, Roundabout Theatre, Girl Scouts of the USA, DeVry University and a number of small family owned businesses.

An Advanced Practitioner member of the Workplace and Family Sections of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), Julie is also a mediation panelist for the EEOC, US Postal Service, the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) and the Key Bridge Foundation ADA program. She is a certified mediator and former Associate of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. A former reviewer of books on conflict resolution and mediation for Library Journal, Julie has also been featured in Court-TV, Bloomberg Network and NY1 segments on mediation. She currently serves on ACR Board as Chapters Director and is former President of the New York Chapter and a former Tri-Chair of the Workplace Section of ACR.



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Website: www.resolutionsforyou.com

Additional articles by Julie Denny



Comments



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 Julie Denny,   38.000000 NJ    11/29/09 
 Choosing a Divorce Mediator  
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Maureen: Any good mediator has references, credentials, etc. and should be more than willing to provide them. While I understand your reasons for being leery of the mediator recommended by your ex-attorney and attorney of soon to be ex-husband, why not meet with him/her or contact by phone and find out what those credentials are. Furthermore, check out those on mediate.com, as Jim Melamud suggests, and, in addition, go to ACRNET.org for another comprehensive list of mediators. If you select one or two others whose credentials appeal to you, contact your husband and tell him you're willing to proceed with mediation, but you want to suggest two acceptable mediators and then let your husband pick one of them. Good luck! Julie Denny, author of Choosing a Divorce Mediator
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 Jim  ,   Grants Pass    11/28/09 
 Finding a Mediator 
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Greetings, Let me encourage you to search for mediators at www.mediate.com/Search Over 1,000 Mediate.com Premium Members comprehensively describe their qualifications, including direct links to references. Jim Melamed, CEO for Mediate.com
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 Maureen ,   Albuquerque NM    11/28/09 
 Divorce Mediator 
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My former attorney - I had to replace her because she hadn't done anything I asked - recommended a mediator, but because I no longer trust this attorney or my husband's attorney, who also recommended the mediator, I instinctively don't trust the mediator. I haven't met him, but he's not affiliated with any associations having to do with mediation, nor does he have any mediation credentials. My husband is quite rich, as is his family, and my husband was abusive. How can I determine the appropriate mediator, if mediation is even possible, which I don't think it is? Do mediators listed at this site have references I could check? Thanks.
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 Esther ,   Wallingford ct    08/03/09 
 Mediator from Hell 
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I tried a mediator for our divorce who happened to be an attorney. I expected a neutral person who was there to give us the details of what we had to do and the best way. After a very long term marriage, this was painful and I suspected my husband had a girlfriend. Immediately she started praising my husband for all his accomplishments and told him how much she liked him. Didn't this dummy know that I was there because I do not like my husband very much at this time? She ignited my temper and I told her she was not being neutral and she got mad and told us to leave. She literally gave me nightmares, and I advise people to check around before doing business with one. After the fact, I looked her up on the internet and found out she had a bad reputation.
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 clare ,   miami FL    05/29/07 
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please email a reputable mediator to contact in Miami/Ft.Lauderdale area.
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