Find a Qualified Mediator
Mediation is an unlicensed and unregulated profession in Pennsylvania. Consumers must be careful hiring a mediator because they cannot rely on state licensing or oversight of mediators. ANYONE can call him or herself a mediator, regardless of education, training, or qualifications. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has issued rules for the minimum requirements for court-appointed family mediators. This is a start. Court-appointed mediators must have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree (in Allegheny County a graduate degree is also required); experience in law, psychiatry, psychology, counseling, family therapy or comparable behavior or social science field; malpractice insurance; and a basic training in family mediation approved by the Academy of Family Mediators (of the Association for Conflict Resolution) or the American Bar Association, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers or the court; as well as advanced training and continuing education. See Pa.R.C.P. 1940.4. Licensure and Accreditation of Mediators will eventually be the law. For now, consumers should take precautions to avoid unqualified mediators.
- Find out how long the mediator has been in practice and if he or she is a Practitioner or Advanced Practitioner with the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR). ACR is the non-profit, international professional organization for mediators.
- Find out if the mediator has mediation professional liability insurance by a state-approved insurer covering the practice of mediation.
- What is the mediator's educational background? Does the mediator have formal mediation training? Has the mediator taken a 40-hour basic mediation course approved by ACR?
- Does the mediator belong to ACR and/or other professional organizations? Locally, there is the Mediation Council of Western Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators.
- Avoid financial planners who advise parties on an equitable distribution that considers future interest rates. No one knows what the interest rates will be in the future. Avoid financial planners who are trying to obtain new accounts from which they will draw commissions or fees. Avoid any "professional" who tries to benefit from mediation clients by providing services other than mediation. Be cautious of divorce financial planners. There is no such licensed profession or certification in Pennsylvania. Stick with professionals who are licensed and answer to a legitimate licensing authority.
- Stick with state-licensed professionals who must answer to a legitimate authority, such as licensed attorneys, counselors, or social workers. These are genuine licenses, not a course taken out of state given the name "certified" by some unknown board.
- You get what you pay for. Inexperienced or unskilled mediators may advertise bargain prices, but they are in business like everyone else and will find some other way to profit from you-- such as extending your mediation sessions out over a lengthy time period, or wasting your time mediating needless details. Make sure your mediator is committed to giving efficient service and is willing to state how many sessions you may need (an estimate at least).
Divorce mediation is an important undertaking and involves decisions that may affect you and your children for the rest of your life. Choosing a qualified professional takes time and research.