Once you’ve decided to separate or divorce, you might start looking for a family mediator to help you come to a shared agreement with your ex.
Family mediators can provide a cost-effective and amicable process for separation – certainly much quicker, less stressful and cheaper than going through the Family Court – but how do you choose the right family mediator for you when there are dozens to choose from?
Ian Shann, of Move On Mediation, shares some tips, as a family lawyer and mediator of over 30 years, on how to choose the right family mediator for your separation.
Understand Your Mediation Goals
Understanding your goals at family mediation and knowing what you want to achieve at your mediation session is the first question to ask when deciding on how to choose the right mediator.
Preparing a “wish list” of the things you would ideally like to achieve will also enable the mediator understand your situation. Your list should include financial and parenting arrangements you might be proposing (or have already agreed) with your ex.
A good family mediator will always work to achieve an outcome that is fair and just to both parties and one that is practical and workable for the whole family. Don’t expect bias towards either you or your ex.
Get A Personal Recommendation
A good way to find the right mediator is through obtaining a personal recommendation from someone you know and trust and who has had a successful experience with a particular family mediator.
You could also check the Family Dispute Resolution Register for someone local in your area.
However this may depend on how closely your circumstances match those of the person making the recommendation.
Read Online Reviews to find a good family mediator
Fortunately, today’s technology can make life easier with reviews on websites and on various social media and rating platforms. Check them out.
Some online reviews can be misleading when people are aggrieved by issues that may be completely beyond a mediator’s capacities – for instance, where the mediation did not even take place. Some businesses also only post the positive reviews, leaving some doubt as to the realities.
But nevertheless, online third party reviews on rating website like Trust Pilot and social channels are extremely helpful.
Do They Have Expertise In This Niche?
Without doubt, chatting or meeting face to face with the mediator will provide you with the best indicator as to whether they may be appropriate for your separation. The best way of finding out if they have the expertise to deal with your specific case is simply to ask upfront. Call them and ask your questions.
A good family mediator will have an excellent understanding of handling complex property and financial matters and be compassionate and understanding when dealing with highly emotive children’s and parenting matters. Ask them for their credentials, as well as how long they have been practising, their training and their rate of success.
Good mediators will not hesitate to provide you with answers to your questions. You’ll get a sense of whether the mediator has the ability to handle your particular matter.
If the mediator a Member Of Professional Bodies?
Mediators should be accredited by the National Mediators Accreditation Scheme (NMAS).
There are rigorous requirements for accreditation and a mediator’s qualifications are not in doubt when accreditation is achieved. Mediation accreditation must also be regularly updated so you know that their abilities are current and not something they had decades ago.
Accredited mediators are bound by a strict code of conduct and are required to be of good character and undertake regular training and skill updates.
Discuss Your Circumstances With Them
Good mediators will be happy to chat to you and discuss your particular circumstances. It’s important for them to know what the sticky points of your dispute may be, so they can focus on them and prepare possible alternatives and choices for you to consider.
A good family mediator will always ensure that you have both agreed to end your relationship. If you are still unsure, they may refer you to a divorce coach or other specialists to help you. They will always encourage parties to be aware of their rights and responsibilities, such as your right to receive and duty to disclose all relevant financial information and the imperative that any proposals regarding kids be in their best interests.
After meeting with the mediator and discussing your circumstances, you’ll develop a “gut feel” which may be the best indicator whether they are the right one for you. Trust it.
Check Their mediation Fee Structure
A mediator’s fee structure may also a good indicator to help you choose the right mediator.
You might be encouraged by the fact that a proposed mediator offers a fixed fee for the whole process right at the start (rather than charge by the hour or in stages); this indicates that your mediator is more interested in achieving results than spending time on your matter.
Knowing what the total cost is upfront – which both partners may choose to share – ensures that you don’t receive any nasty surprises if the process is allowed to drag on.