By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT

The measure of choosing well, is, whether a man likes and finds good in what he has chosen
~Charles Lamb

What ARE good mediators made of? Maybe some sugar and spice. Perhaps even a puppy dog tail. Choosing a mediator for your divorce is a crucial step during an emotional storm. Dreams of smooth sailing are far in the distance. The mediator is tasked with finding order in chaos, hope in despair, and reason in the face of fear and anger. So how do you choose – and choose well?

The “standard” questions most advisors suggest have to do with the mediator’s education, training and experience. How much training in mediation have they had? How long have they been practicing? How many divorce cases have they mediated? Do they have references? Are they viewed as authorities? Do they have law degrees? What will it cost? These are all valuable inquiries, but in the end the most valuable criteria is whether they can help achieve a lasting resolution in the divorce.

The big question is whether there is a “fit.” What is the mediator’s style? Are they directive or do they facilitate? Will your point of view be taken seriously? Can the mediators identify with your concerns? Do they have expertise in the areas you need to address (i.e., legal, financial and/or child development)? Will they be unbiased all the way through the mediation? Do they work well with outside consultants?

It seems obvious that choices are limited by the amount of information you have. A good first step in choosing a mediator is to be clear about what will serve you best. The internet has changed the face of information availability to the average person. Check out resources on the web. There are organizations that can make referrals as well as websites to explore. Your education and clarity for what you are looking for will grow as you journey from site to site. Ask trusted friends and associates for referrals. They are often the best sources since they care about you. Contact potential providers to “get a feel” for their ability to connect. Finally, schedule a meeting with the best prospects – it’s worth a few dollars to make sure you are choosing well!

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