How to find a good family mediator
By Euan Davidson
In most cases, making the decision to seek the assistance of a family mediator will prove to be one of the best decisions that a separating or divorcing couple can make. However, in order to maximise the chances that there will be a positive outcome to this decision, it is vitally important that both parties think very carefully about their choice of mediator. As with choosing any professional, there are a number of important steps that you should take.
If you have instructed a solicitor, an accountant, a counsellor or seen a local organisation such as a Citizens Advice Bureau, then they may be able to suggest names of possible mediators in your local area.
Equally, you may have a friend or family member who has used a mediator themselves and who may be able to share their experience and thoughts with you.
If you do not have the benefit of being able to seek anyone else’s input then you may decide to take the step of turning to Google, Yahoo or one of the other internet search engines to find local mediators.
Regardless of how you come up with the names of possible mediators, it is really important to ensure that any mediators that you contact are properly trained and have the correct experience to deal effectively with your situation. The first step that you can take is to check whether the mediator is recognised by the Ministry of Justice as a qualified mediator via their website at: https://www.familymediationhelpline.co.uk/
You can also contact one of the organisations recognised by the Family Mediation Council (https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/) and ask them for details of properly qualified local mediators. For example, I am a member of the Family Mediators Association: https://thefma.co.uk/
Once you are satisfied that you have identified suitably qualified potential mediators, the next step is to pick up the phone and call them. Personally, I would suggest that you ensure that you are able to speak to the mediator himself/herself before agreeing to make any payments or before booking any chargeable meetings as it is extremely important that both parties have confidence in their choice of mediator before committing to mediation, so if you find that the mediator is too busy to speak to you or if you find that the mediation firm is trying to book you in for the first meeting without giving you detailed information about the specific mediator then I would suggest that you look elsewhere.
Having been offered the opportunity to discuss your situation with the mediator, whether this be over the phone or in person (for a free initial consultation), it is then very important that you prepare, either in your head or on paper, a list of questions to ask the mediator. Some of the information may already be on their website but, if not, some suggested questions would be to discuss the cost structure of the mediation process, to ask whether the mediator has dealt with similar cases to yours, to check whether the mediator is prepared to speak to the other party before starting the mediation process, to check whether the mediator has available slots within a suitable timeframe, to ask whether the mediator is able to offer evening and/or weekend appointment if you would prefer this, to enquire about the mediator’s background (such as whether s/he is a qualified solicitor/barrister or other professional) and to ask whether the mediator is a full-time mediator or another professional who practices mediation part-time (as if they are only part-time you might want to get a feel for whether they are dedicating sufficient time to developing their mediation practice).
Covering all of these points might take about half an hour but I would suggest that if the mediator is too busy and/or not prepared to spend this time with you then you might want to question whether this might affect the way that s/he approaches the mediation process in general unless s/he have a good reason for taking a different approach.
Whilst you might be fortunate enough to feel that you have found the perfect mediator the first time around, it may still be worth contacting one or two potential mediators just to ensure that your initial instinct was correct and to be able to compare the approaches taken and information provided by each mediator.
As a final word of caution, one of the most common mistakes to make is to allow the cost of the mediation service to colour your judgement. This can work both ways, as some people will be tempted to “bargain hunt” by choosing the cheapest mediator whilst others will go for the “reassuringly expensive” approach. Personally, I would suggest that if it seems too cheap to be true then there is probably a catch in there somewhere – for example, if a mediator is charging £60 per hour per person then when you consider all the training, membership, advertising, room costs and administrative expenses (including the time spend dealing with new enquiries) then is it really likely that a high quality mediator would either be able to or choose to offer these sorts of rates? On the other hand, if a mediator is charging an eye-wateringly high rate then you may simply find that you are paying well over the odds – for example, if a mediator is charging much over £120 per hour per person then you might want to assess whether the additional money in being paid for additional expertise, for an expensive location (mediators in London are generally more expensive) or office premises or for some other valid reason.
I hope that you find this article helpful and if you live in the Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire or London area and want to talk to a local full-time mediator who is also a qualified solicitor and who offers flexible appointments at a sensible rates, and who is very happy to spend plenty of time talking over the options before you commit to mediation, then please feel free to give me a call or send me an e-mail.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I look forward to reading your comments.
Godalming Family Mediation