How to Select a Divorce Mediator/Martin Rosenfeld

Posted on July 12, 2010


As a divorce mediator, I think much about what makes a good mediator. Of course, you need references, word-of-mouth feedback, convenient office hours, etc. However, there are other factors I would suggest be considered when selecting a mediator. I will outline a few of the more subtle tips to aid you in your important decision.

Payment Should be Per Session
The mediator should not require a retainer, or advance payment, for the mediation services. Mediations are very personalized and the couple’s comfort level is of foremost importance. The mediation should only continue as long as all parties feel comfortable with the process. Paying for each session upon completion makes sense. It gives the parties the message that they will continue only so long as it takes to get to an agreement. More importantly, if the parties feel uncomfortable, they may leave the mediation with no further obligation. There should be no sense of a forced commitment to the process. The sense gets conveyed when a retainer payment is expected before the mediation can proceed.

Pre-Scheduled Sessions
Discussions have their own ebb and flow. A positive discussion may take place over many hours. A good mediator will not cut short a mediation to fit a pre-conceived schedule. Ask the mediator how long sessions will run. If the mediator talks about hour-long sessions, it will likely be less in your interest than if the mediator tells you that a period of up to X hours has been set aside. I personally prefer that sessions run approximately 90 minutes as it always takes a while to get into a good session. (I have had sessions as long as 3 hours.) Too many discussions would be truncated if sessions only ran 60 minutes.

The chemistry between mediator and parties is very crucial. Personal and intimate matters may emerge in the course of your sessions. Are you comfortable with the mediator’s demeanor? I personally feel that the moments of laughter are the most precious of all the mediation hours spent together. Is the mediator someone you feel you can trust? Does s/he make you feel comfortable? These questions, largely irrelevant when selecting an attorney, are very important when a mediator choice must be made.

Short Messages and Calls
As a service to clients, I take short E-Mail messages, calls, etc. without charge, as the parties often have some issues that come up between sessions. This is not simply a way that parties can keep their fee at a lower rate. It is a way to assure the parties that they have someone to turn to when important matters arise between sessions. Again, the parties need to feel comfortable going to their divorce mediator and viewing her/him as a trusted guide through the divorce labyrinth.

Mediation is an important choice when facing a divorce. The choice of a Divorce Mediator is one that should not be taken lightly. Once this decision has been properly made, you may take comfort in your decision to “mediate and not litigate.”