How To Choose a Mediator for Your Divorce or Prenup Process
While mediation can be a great alternative to an adversarial process with attorneys, not all mediators are created equally. Unlike attorneys or therapists who are regulated by a state board, mediation is an unregulated field. This means it is all the more important to interview your potential mediators and understand if they will be the right fit for you. Let’s cover the most important details to know about your mediator and their process.
Background / Education -
As mediation is not regulated, it is common for mediators to come from all different backgrounds including therapy / mental health, social work, attorneys, and more. For this reason, it is important to understand what your mediator's background and education is to know if they will be able to provide you the best support during your process. While someone with a legal or therapeutic background can likely provide you with great support, someone who has no background in family law or disputes between partners would be less likely to provide a thorough process.
Financial Knowledge / Support -
Another important part of a prenuptial or divorce agreement is your financial agreements. These agreements will have an impact on your financial future and are incredibly important to be thoughtful about when making agreements. Does your mediator have the knowledge they need to help you discuss these finances? Or potentially a resource they provide so you can be as knowledgeable about your financial agreements as possible?
Practice Area -
In addition to the background and education of your mediator, what is their area of expertise? You want someone who is very knowledgeable in family law, rather than someone who dabbles in that area of mediation.
Your mediator is someone who is going to guide you through some of the most challenging conversations and conflicts you may have endured. So you want to make sure that they have the right temperament and personality for you and your partner. Much like a doctor, you want your mediator to be thoughtful, caring, and have a good bedside manner.
Each mediator will handle the fees of their process differently - hourly, flat fee, or a mix of both. Make sure to understand all the fees included in their process so you aren’t blindsided by “surprise” fees later on when you aren’t expecting them.
Length of Meetings -
When you meet with your mediator, it could be for an hour, 2 hours, a half day, or even a full day. Mediation can be a draining process and psychologically it is very hard to reach logical decisions after a period of time. Often, shorter meetings can be more efficient and productive.
Document Drafting -
An important part of the divorce or prenuptial process is the drafting of the physical documents. Check with your mediator to see if they have the expertise to draft your documents and file them with the court, or if this will be an additional service you will have to pay for i.e. hiring an attorney.
Joint or Separate -
Sessions with your mediator and partner may occur jointly or separately. While some partners don’t want to be in the same room together, a joint approach often leads to more efficient and productive mediation. As all the parties are in the same room, your mediator is able to help you delve into conflict, find creative solutions, and resolve miscommunications, rather than communicating for you by “shuttling” back and forth between separate rooms. That being said, some separate sessions can allow for you to share information you may otherwise not feel comfortable sharing in front of your partner. Does your mediator stay in separate sessions, joint, or a little of both?
Conflict Resolution -
How does your mediator resolve conflict? This is important because conflict is bound to happen. Do they shy away from conflict or dive in to help you resolve the core of the disagreement? Do they have techniques to help you both navigate the conflict and find mutual solutions? If so, what are these techniques?
While you might want to jump right in and begin your divorce or prenuptial process, the first step is verifying you have the right professional to help you. Meet with your mediator to ask them the important questions that will help you know if they are the right fit for you.