Since divorce mediation requires the willing and full participation of both husband and wife, the most important consideration is determining whether the person you’re considering is someone that both parties feel they can be comfortable working with, and is someone that each party believes will be competent, fair, trustworthy and without bias for or against either party.
Pay attention to your gut reactions to the person you’re evaluating. Does she/he seem able to hear and understand both the objective and subjective content of what each of you are saying? Is the mediator able to “translate” what each of you are expressing to the other, without playing favorites, but in a way that still keeps the process productive and focused on problem solving? Will he/she be assertive and directive when necessary to keep the process and the parties from getting bogged down?
In assessing a divorce mediator’s credentials, keep in the mind that the successful mediator has to guide two people, often quite alienated from each other, toward an equitable and peaceful conclusion to their marriage. They have to combine the skills of a good pastor, referee, teacher and nurse, working hard to identify with and support the efforts of both participants, informing them along the way about the law and conflict resolution, while making sure the process is fair and that neither party dominates. And, when needed, soothe and nurture the participants as they deal with the pain and anger that divorce inevitably brings about.
Yet, the successful mediator has to stay above the fray and provide expert guidance on the law and the local court’s expectations. The mediator has to facilitate a negotiated outcome that will meet the law’s requirements for fairness and equity. Once accomplished, the mediator has to create a final settlement document that, while conforming to the criteria of the court, expresses with absolute clarity the terms upon which the parties have agreed to dissolve their marriage.
For all these reasons, effective divorce mediation requires an individual with a unique combination of skills -part lawyer, part counselor -built through years of experience assisting individuals and couples end their marriages constructively.