Choosing a Family Mediator; 20 Questions to ask

Choosing a Family Mediator; 20 Questions to ask

Choosing a mediator

There are lots of Family Mediators and Mediation Services. Mediators will have different backgrounds and levels of experience.  Remember that the basic mediation training course is only 9 days long. The mediator will of course have skills form their other professional background, but a lot of skill is acquired through actual practice. When choosing a Mediator, their style is important and so is their ability to build a relationship with you. What  is their ability to help you resolve your dispute?

20 Questions to ask

  1. Do you actually have a choice of mediator? Many larger mediation organisations will simply allocate you a mediator from their team. No choosing. Are you happy to be treated like this?
  2. When did they train as a Mediator? Lots have trained as mediators in the last couple of years anticipating changes to Legal Aid. There are a lot of inexperienced mediators. Are you going to be part of their training? 
  3. When were they first authorized to undertake legally aided mediation? To undertake Legally Aided mediation, both the individual mediator and the service need to be quality assessed. For non-legally aided mediation quality standards do not currently apply! (at all!!)
  4. When were they first accredited? There are various accreditation standards. Most of these schemes are under review. The most stringent is the scheme of the Law Society.
  5. Are they a member of an organisation which is part of the Family Mediation Council [FMC]?    There are six member organisations; The Law Society, Family Mediators Association [FMA], Resolution, ADRg, NFM and the UK College of  Family Mediators. Your mediator should be a member of at least one, but a more experienced mediator is likely to be a member of several.
  6. Are they currently accredited? Why not? 
  7. Are they trained to undertake direct consultation with children within mediation? If there are children issues, it is helpful to have this option, to bring in the views of older children. Extra training is required. The Mediators PPC (see below) must also have been trained to consult with children. The Mediator will have been police checked.
  8. Are they child friendly? Mediation is very practical, can a non-parent really understand the complications of family life?
  9. Do they have a PPC? This stands for Professional Practice Consultant. All Mediators should have a PPC. Ask who it is? You should be able to look them up on the website of the PPC’s Governing body.
  10. Are they up to date with their supervision? Mediation works a bit like counselling in that the Mediator is supposed to meet/speak with their supervisor at least 4 times each year (quarterly) to discuss how they deal with cases and any issues they have come across. If a difficult issue arises, the mediator is expected to discuss this with their PPC before the next scheduled meeting. If they are not up to date with supervision, why not?
  11. Do they supervise other mediators? If they are experienced, they may have trained to become a supervisor of others, they will be expected to attend a supervisors course each year.
  12. Are they able to offer legal aid? If you qualify, the cost of the mediation will be met by the Legal Aid Agency. The other point is that to have a contract, the mediation service has to have quality systems in place that meet the “Mediation Quality Mark”. These are audited by the Legal Aid Agency. If the service has no contract, then there is no audit of its service.
  13. Are they able to offer the full range of mediation models? Shuttle mediation, Co-mediation, Caucusing, Hybrid Civil Mediation; The mediator should have lots of  options available, in order to set up your mediation so it has the best prospects of succeeding. 
  14. Is the Mediator an Accredited Civil/Commercial Mediator? Not essential, unless they are suggesting you use the civil model of mediation to your family problem. The Civil model of mediation is different to the family model. Generally the benefit is the mediator has a greater breadth of skill and it shows a wider commitment to mediation.
  15. Are they a practicing Solicitor?  Family Mediation operates in the shadow of the law. Someone who is not of a legal background or is a practicing Solicitor is unlikely to be as aware of legal issues and pitfalls as a Solicitor-Mediator. This is not to say they are not a capable mediator. The author is a Solicitor-Mediator and he is reluctant to refer to non Solicitor-Mediators for this reason. If the mediator is not also a practicing solicitor ask them; what is your professional background? how did you acquire your legal knowledge (if any)? and how do you keep up to date?
  16. Do they have experience and expertise in financial issues?  There are a lot of complex legal issues where finances are concerned. A Solicitor-Mediator is perhaps better able to keep discussions focused and to ensure that where Legal Advice is sought between sessions that it is focused to the right issues. They are perhaps better able to ensure that the legal advice that you get between mediation meetings is focused on the right issues.
  17. Will their summaries be to a sufficient standard to enable the Solicitors to prepare final Financial  Court Orders? You have completed your mediation. You have a final summary. You still have to have it made into a Court Order to be final (so far as finances are concerned). Your Solicitor tells you; Financial disclosure is inadequate; the proposals do not make sense or are impossible to implement; or that the proposals are outside of the parameters that the Court will approve. (The Court has to be satisfied that the final agreement meets certain criteria and essentially  a general standard of fairness). What do you do?! Having a bad deal can be worse than no deal at all. back to question 16.
  18. Do they have experience and expertise in abuse issues? This is so important. Mediation is stressful. It needs to be safe for the couple, and their children, before during and after the mediation. But many Mediators may be have limited experience in safety issues. Ask a Solicitor Mediator if they undertake injunction work and what their experience of child protection issues is? With a Solicitor, this can be verified; for example, they may be a member of the Law Society Child Law Accreditation Sheme, or Accredited by Resolution as a Domestic Abuse specialist (or both). If not, ask what is their backgound and training in safety issues?
  19. Are they respected on a national level? Are they a trainer? Do they participate in any of the governing bodies. Is there something which makes them stand out? that shows a commitment to improving standards and best practice?
  20. Are they the cheapest? Be careful. Mediation is cheaper than going to Court. You want to concentrate on the mediators experience and skills. You do not want a bad process and for Solicitors to unpick any deal afterwards. A failed mediation could well make things harder to settle, than if you had never bothered.

Having chosen the best Mediator for you, engage in their process! And be open and honest and respectful  in your dealings with them and the other person. Mediation is about, negotiation and a good out come requires good communication, openness and delivery of what you say you are going to do.

There is a problem to be solved, not a battle to be won. The sooner it is solved, the sooner everyone can move forward

So how did I do?

Check out;

Also worth a look is: which takes you through the different ways in which you could resolve divorce/separation issues and their financial and emotional cost.

The opinions expressed are my own views and are not on behalf of anyone other than myself. You may not be able to find anyone who ticks all the boxes (apart from me!) but mediation is a process to be recommended. There are good mediators who will tick a lot of boxes; just be careful.

Ian Walker


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