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 the Yellow
Pages, state mediation associations, the Academy of Family Mediators in
Lexington, Massachusetts (the national family mediation association), 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:
What is the mediator's training? Anyone can hang up a shingle and call
herself a mediator. Make sure your mediator has been trained by an Academy of
Family Mediators-approved training program. The basic Divorce Mediation
training is 40 hours. Practitioner Members of the Academy are then required to
take an additional 60 hours of advanced training, work with an approved
Consultant for a minimum of 4 hours and obtain continuing education credits
every two years of at least 20 hours.
How long has the mediator been practicing? Practitioner members of AFM (as
opposed to General members) have put in a minimum of 250 hours and mediated at
least 25 cases. To assure a level of competence, it is a good idea to restrict
yourself to Practitioner members. [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 General rather than
Practitioner member, do so in full knowledge that they are less experienced.]
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Does the mediator have materials to help you make your decision? They
might include 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.
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
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
New York is an equitable distribution state which means that in a New York divorce the court divides marital property equitably between the parties, unless a written settlement agreement is achieved. All property in the divorce case is either separate property owned by the individual, or marital property owned by the married couple.
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