Finding a good divorce mediator is an inexact science. Most mediators’ listings in the Yellow Pages will be either under Divorce Counseling or Mediation.
Generally, if you ask a lawyer to recommend a mediator, he or she will tend to recommend another lawyer. Experienced divorce lawyers will tend to recommend other experienced divorce lawyers. That’s just the way we humans are. If you have friends who are marriage counselors, you may want to ask them for a recommendation.
Another good place to look is the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), which includes the former Academy of Family Mediators (AFM). A mediator who is a Practitioner Member of AFM:
- Has completed at least 60 hours of family mediation training, including either a 30 hour or a 40 hour family mediation training course.
- Has completed 20 hours of continuing training every two years.
- Has completed two hours of domestic violence awareness training.
- Has completed at least 100 hours of face-to-face family mediation in at least 10 different cases.
This isn’t a guarantee that the mediator is competent and caring. And there are plenty of competent and caring mediators who are not Practitioner Members of AFM. AFM is a good place to start, though.
Here are some questions you might ask of a mediator to get a feel for how they’re likely to approach the issues you and your spouse are facing:
- How much do you charge (this will usually be an hourly rate)? Are there any charges other than for your time, like preparing a memorandum or that sort of thing?
- Do you require a retainer? (Lawyers who mediate often do; most other professionals do not.)
- How many cases like ours have you mediated in the past? (There’s no reason you should insist on experience with hundreds of cases, but if a mediator is inexperienced, it might be appropriate for you to pay a lower hourly rate.)
- What style of mediation do you use?
- Will you be able to help us resolve all the issues of our divorce, or are there issues you would suggest we talk to others about? (Some mediators will refuse to deal with tax issues, and some will refuse to deal with financial issues at all.)
- What would be a typical time that we would spend in mediation? (Obviously, the mediator can’t control how long it takes you and your spouse, but you’re entitled to some idea of what to expect, assuming your case is typical.)
- Assuming we are able to reach agreement, what will happen then? (With some mediators, you will sign a binding document in their office. With others, you will have a lawyer prepare the documents for filing.)