Mediation helps many people navigate the maze that is divorce. It's a method of negotiating the terms of a divorce without going to court. Because mediation is usually faster, more informal, and less expensive than battling it out in court, it's often an excellent way to minimize divorce-related stress and expense.
Of course, a good mediation experience requires a good mediator. You can increase your chances of success by using these tips to hire a knowledgeable, skilled professional.
Many mediators provide a free initial session to discuss what's involved in the process, and to give you a chance to determine if working together will be a good fit. As you research and talk to mediators, think about whether each has the following qualities.
The right mediator for your divorce will have experience helping spouses resolve issues similar to the ones you're facing. For example, if the sticking points in your marriage are primarily financial, you might opt for a mediator who is also a CPA (certified public accountant) or a CDFA (certified divorce financial analyst). A mediator who specializes in financial disputes can help with asset valuations and assist you in finding the fairest way to divide your property.
By the same token, if the true point of contention in your divorce relates to child custody, mediators who are psychologists, social workers, or MFTs (marriage and family therapists)—or who otherwise have training and experience in child custody mediation—might be your best bet. It's also important for a mediator to be familiar with your state's divorce laws on the topics at issue in your case.
You could decide to use an attorney as your mediator, particularly when there's a broad range of topics you can't agree on. Attorneys who do divorce mediation are usually seasoned family law practitioners, well-versed on all topics that arise in dissolving a marriage. They can be well worth the cost, but attorney mediators do tend to charge more.
Note that using an attorney as a mediator is different than hiring an attorney to represent or work with you as you go through the mediation process. Some people, including spouses who can afford the extra cost and who have complex cases, go to mediation while also having a lawyer.
It's very important to work with a mediator who has received appropriate mediation training. Relevant training is especially important if you're thinking about using a lawyer as your mediator: Divorce attorneys might know the law, but experience in the divorce court system often generates a combative mentality. That's the last thing you want when trying to amicably resolve your dispute. There's an art to conducting a productive mediation session.
Finally, choose a mediator you feel you can trust. You need someone who will really listen, and who will be calm and fair. A good mediator guides couples to come up with their own solutions and doesn't dominate conversations with opinions.
Now that you have an idea of what to look for in a divorce mediator, here are some questions you can ask to help you decide whom to hire. Some online mediation services will assign you a mediator—if you're using such a service, you can still ask these questions.
All of the above questions are appropriate to ask mediators who hold online or in-person sessions. (Read about the pros and cons of online mediation.) If you're planning to do online mediation, you might also want to ask the mediator to explain the general process, including whether you would need any special technology to participate (usually you won't).
Mediation is such a popular method of settling legal issues that there's no shortage of qualified mediators. Here are some ways to find one.
Unless your spouse will go along with whichever mediator you choose, you won't be picking one on your own. Most couples handle the process of finding a mediator in one of two ways:
If you haven't yet proposed mediation to your spouse, you'll have to decide whether to raise the subject before you start looking for a mediator. Some people find it helpful to gather a list of mediators they've already interviewed and present it to their spouse at the same time that they propose mediation. Others might worry that their spouse will feel cornered or left out of the process when presented with a list of mediators right away, so they talk with their spouse before starting a search. Think about which approach might work best given your past and current relationship with your spouse.