Factors to Consider When Choosing a Divorce Mediator
By pursuing divorce mediation, you are taking an important step toward resolving issues in the most financially and emotionally economical manner. When you approach the court with property, child support and custody agreements you have worked out yourself, you have maintained control of your future and that of your children. The judge is very likely to approve your agreement and include its terms in the final divorce settlement.
Now, what factors should you consider when choosing a divorce mediator? And where can you look?
When you contact a divorce mediator, be prepare to discuss the following points:
Credentials. You should feel very comfortable asking for a clear explanation of a divorce mediator’s credentials. New Jersey does not require family law and divorce mediators to be licensed or certified. It does have certain training and supervised experience requirements for mediators working in court-approved settings. Training requirements can be met through a relevant advanced degree or by completing a course approved by the court. Experience can fulfill part of training requirements. Professional mediation associations may base membership and referral requirements on the state standard. Has the mediator been appointed to the matrimonial roster maintained by the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts?
Personality and style. You and your spouse have to feel comfortable with the mediator’s style. Will you feel more comfortable with someone who simply facilitates your discussion, or are you looking for someone to give direct instructions? Will you feel safe and comfortable discussing sensitive issues with this person? You and your spouse may each want to meet with the mediator to get a first take on compatibility. The divorce mediator should not be offended if you decide to work with another person.
Experience and reputation. Ask how long the mediator has been in practice and how many divorce he or she has handled in the last two years. Ask about results— what percentage of mediations were successful, and how many couples ended up litigating their cases. (An average rate of successful mediated resolutions would be in the 65-80 percent range.) Is the mediator willing to provide references? Have any complaints been filed with the courts or professional mediation associations? Does the mediator train or mentor newer members of the profession?
Cost. Fees should be clearly stated. The mediator who charges the lowest rate will not necessarily be the most economical choice, but there should be no question about the billing structure.
Does the mediator work with attorneys? Some mediators suggest clients have respective divorce lawyers review their final agreement.
The number of meetings necessary to reach an agreement will depend on the complexity of your issues and the distance you and your spouse have to cover to meet at a common ground. A skillful divorce mediator will guide you as you set aside painful personal issues and focus on the business at hand: preserving the maximum marital estate, developing an agreement the court will approve as fair, and if there are children, providing the best possible outcome from their perspective.