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Hanging Out the Mediator Shingle Does Not Make You a Qualified Mediator

September 20, 2017  | 
Hanging Out the Mediator Shingle Does Not Make You a Qualified Mediator by Clare Piro

{4:18 minutes to read} I’ve heard many complaints regarding divorce mediation:

  • “It might be okay for simple matters but not for anything complicated.”
  • “It’s too touchy-feely.”
  • “You give up all of your rights when you mediate.”

These types of complaints are easily dismissed as biased and uninformed; however, there are some complaints I’ve heard which I agree should be taken seriously.

Mediator Lacking Relevant Knowledge

In mediation, there is a difference between providing clients with legal advice, which is prohibited, and providing legal information, which is a vital and necessary component of the process. A qualified mediator must know New York family law and how it is likely to be applied.
 
This does not mean that only matrimonial attorneys can competently provide divorce mediation services. Rather, it means that unless you know and understand the laws regarding custody, child support, maintenance and equitable distribution, as well as the divorce process and proceedings, you should be co-mediating with someone who does possess that knowledge.
 
You also need a knowledge of the economics of family budgeting, how to identify and define income, relevant income tax issues, life insurance, estate rights, different types of retirement assets and the like.
 
Finally, a mediator should have knowledge of the impact of conflict on children and some basic understanding of child development, domestic abuse, child abuse and neglect.
 
The scope of some of these issues requires expert knowledge, and you need to know when clients should be referred to other professionals, such as a child specialist, a mental health professional, an attorney, an accountant or a financial advisor.
 
This education does not end with your initial training. You must continually attend seminars and be aware of modifications to family law and how the law is likely to be applied.
 

Mediator Lacking Mediation Skills

The fact that you may be a good negotiator, you went through divorce mediation yourself, or you practiced family law for many years does not mean that you should consider yourself qualified to mediate.
 
As important as it is for divorce mediators to have knowledge of the law, it is equally important for a divorce mediator to have training in mediation.
 
You must understand the principles of mediation and the skills necessary to help the clients resolve impasse.
 
Again, a qualified mediator will also attend continuing education classes to learn new mediation skills and techniques, and other ways to understand and help their clients.
 

To Be a Qualified Divorce Mediator

Initial Divorce Mediation Training: Find a program that offers divorce mediation training, including law specific to New York State. Many trainers also offer supervised mediation or practicums after the initial training, which is a great way to begin to mediate. Another option is to co-mediate with a more experienced mediator.
 
Continuing Education: To stay current on matrimonial law, you can attend Bar Association programs, even if you aren’t an attorney. You should also join a professional divorce mediation organization such as the New York Council on Divorce Mediation or The Family & Divorce Mediation Council. These organizations not only provide support from other mediators but also provide continuing education in both legal and financial matters, as well as mediation skills, including the impact of divorce on children and families.
 

An unqualified mediator is harmful not just to the clients who work with him or her but also to the profession. In addition, unqualified mediators can legitimize complaints made by some who want to minimize the practice.

Fortunately, there are more qualified than un-qualified mediators who have helped thousands of couples through this safe and less expensive means of working out the issues of their divorce.

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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