When deciding to hire a family or child custody mediator to assist with your divorce or separation, it is important to choose one who will work well with you and your spouse or partner. In choosing the right mediator, you might wish to ask the following questions?
1. What is the mediator’s experience? How much experience does the mediator have in handling disputes such as the ones you have? Has he mediated a multitude of cases or just a few? The issues that can arise in a family mediation are child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, division of community property, asset distribution, division of liabilities, money matters, post-divorce or post-separation financial plans, distribution of retirement plans, insurance matters, and medical and dental coverage issues, just to name a few. Before making a decision, you might want to determine if the mediator has handled some or all of these issues. If the mediator that you are thinking of hiring has not handled many of these issues, it might be better to find a more experienced mediator.
2. Have you interviewed the mediator? Mediation is a very competitive field in the twenty-first century. To determine if you are hiring the right mediator, you might want to consider interviewing the mediator. Pick up the telephone and call the mediator. Ask him questions about the concerns you have. Ask him how much he charges. It is by the hour or a flat fee? Is there a charge for the initial consultation? Most mediators will meet with prospective clients for an initial 15-20 minute session at no cost to the parties to explain the mediation process and his approach to mediation. You can meet alone with the mediator or you can bring your spouse or partner.
3. What happens next after the mediation? Ask the mediator whether you need to go to court. Ask him where the courthouse is and how the Memorandum of Understanding will get incorporated into a consent judgment. Also, you might wish to get the mediator to explain whether you need to hire an attorney.
4. How long will the mediation process take? This is one of the most commonly asked questions of parties who are considering family mediation. The answer is, “it depends.” It depends on how well you work with your spouse or partner. Are you “high conflict,” or “low conflict?” If the parties are relatively “low conflict” and have thought about or discussed the issues before the mediation, it might take just a few hours to mediate the entire dispute. If the parties are “high conflict” and do not communicate well, it may take many more hours to get the parties to first communicate with each other and then to get to the point of discussing the many issues involved in a family mediation. However, it is important to note that every case is different and the outcome depends on the facts of each situation.
5. Can the mediator provide you with materials before the mediation that explain the mediation process so that you can get a better understanding of the process? Many mediators have printed materials or web sites with detailed information to help prospective clients read about and learn about the family mediation process before they choose the right mediator. Mediators who have taken the time to explain the process of mediation in printed form, whether it is on a web site, in books, or in articles will usually be more knowledgeable about the mediation process that those who have not taken the time to do so.
Our team has more than twenty-five years of mediating family and civil cases in Louisiana and Mississippi. We have written extensively on mediation, arbitration, and ADR issues and teach mediation courses in Louisiana and Mississippi.