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Asking The Questions

From the Real Divorce Mediation Blog of Nancy Hudgins and Debra Synovec

Choosing your divorce mediator is personal. Think about it. You’ll be discussing and making decisions about the things you care about most…..your children, your home, your money, your future, your security, your life. Interview the mediator, ask questions, and make sure they are knowledgeable, dedicated and compassionate. If they will not talk with you before you start, don’t hire them. I have never met a dedicated, compassionate, knowledgeable mediator that is unwilling to talk with a potential client.
Ask about the traditional “need to know” things such as:
  • Process…What process does the mediator use? A facilitative process with the parties in the same room, even if it sounds hard, is the most productive and produces the most sustainable agreements and client satisfaction. Shuttle mediation with clients separated is often done for the benefit of the attorneys because they cannot handle client emotions themselves, so the clients lose the benefit of face-to-face dialogue.
  • Experience…Have they mediated a substantial number of divorce and family cases? Have they had experience with the types of emotional situations you anticipate? Mediation is not therapy, but emotions will come up so the mediator needs to be able to guide you through these. Does the mediator have experience with the types of substantive issues (parenting, property, debt, spousal and child support, tax, legal)? If they do not have sufficient knowledge in these areas the mediator will either miss or sub the issue out, costing you more time and money.
  • Education and Credentials….Is the mediator an attorney, a therapist? Don’t stop here. Where did they receive their training and have they kept on learning and perfecting their skills? No matter what the education is, make sure the mediator also possesses sufficient experience to mediate effectively. Many therapists have knowledge about financial issues and legal issues gained from legal peers, trainings and prior mediation experiences and may be better mediators than inexperienced attorney/mediators; many attorneys have knowledge about parenting and communication gained from trainings, child specialist peers, readings and prior mediation experiences and be better mediators than inexperienced therapist/mediators.
  • Passion….is the mediator dedicated to mediation? The most effective mediators are the ones who believe in the mediation; they know it serves clients best.

    Ask the right questions….you will find the best mediator for you and your spouse.


Debra Synovec

Debra Synovec, a Seattle-based mediator and lawyer, has mediated divorces for 20 years. She believes in empowering the parties to reach their own resolution. MORE >

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