How to Choose a Divorce Mediator

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Image emphasizes multiple ways to go by asking "Which Is Best"?Choosing the right divorce mediator who will work well with both of you is important.

Take the time to consider the qualities you hope to find in the mediator you choose.

Here are seven areas to research when choosing your divorce mediator.

1. Does the mediator have financial experience?

Divorce has a lot of economic issues.

Experience with financial and business issues can be a big plus. Inquire about your mediator’s background and comfort with the economics of divorce.

2. Does the mediator have training and credentials?

Divorce mediation is an unregulated field. While there are excellent training programs and accrediting organizations, there is no specific training requirement. Some mediators may have limited experience and have mediated only a few cases.

A mediator with a proven level of experience is important. Look for one who has made the effort to become trained and has earned advanced professional accreditation. For example, the New York State Council for Divorce Mediation and the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) require many hours of training, face-to-face practice, and experience before a mediator can earn accreditation. Ask your prospective mediator about his or her credentials.

3. Is the mediator a part-time consultant or a full-time practitioner?

Has he or she had hundreds or thousands of cases, or just a few? Most couples would prefer to work with someone who has a lot of experience so their issues are not unusual to the mediator. I have been in practice for more than 18 years and have helped more than 2,500 clients.

While I am always learning, there are not many issues that I have not encountered over the years. If you own multiple businesses, have real estate in many states, have tricky issues with your children, or have unusual assets or mountains of debt, I have dealt with other couples like you. I attend conferences and take continuing education courses, and I also keep abreast of changing rules and laws to be sure I give you the most current information.

4. Does the mediator have a network of resources?

Chances are that while you’re working toward your Memorandum of Understanding (MOU, the document that drives your written separation agreement), you may need referrals to resources that can make your path easier.

An experienced mediator will have a network of counselors, including financial planners, banks, attorneys, tax accountants, child care and eldercare organizations, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, apartment rental agencies, and many others. These are people who can help you start your new life and smooth out the bumps along the way.

5. What is the mediator’s style?

Every mediator chooses a style that fits the way they view their practice.

  • Directive: Telling you exactly what you should do.
  • Facilitative: Moves you toward your goal with your full participation to complete the process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Appreciative Inquiry: Asks questions in a way that can help you see a positive outcome in your future.
  • Nonviolent Communication: Works to make every conversation constructive and minimizing conflict.
  • Transformative Method: Works with the couple to change the way they communicate with one another.

Like many mediators, I use a combination of methods as needed. If your mediator promotes only one style, it may not be a match for you.

As you can probably imagine, some people work very well with a mediator who has a certain style, while others may simply drive you nuts. This is why the initial consultation with a mediator is important, so you can decide for yourself if the mediator’s style is right for you.

6. Does the mediator offer you legal advice?

Most mediators are not attorneys. Even an attorney working as a mediator is precluded from giving you legal advice and needs to remain neutral within the mediation process.

7. Has the mediator been divorced?

Someone who shares your personal experience with the emotional, practical, and financial side of divorce can help guide you through the havoc these factors can cause. This is not to say that a person who is happily married cannot be a good mediator—many certainly are.

You may benefit, however, from working with a mediator who has been where you are, who can empathize with you in a difficult and emotional time, and who can demonstrate that there is life after divorce. Do not hesitate to inquire about this; this is a valid question to ask a mediator.


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