If you have chosen to mediate your divorce, you have likely already decided that you want to control the terms of your settlement, and defined as one of your end goals, the preservation of civility.
But before you choose a mediator, do some basic due diligence because all mediators are not “created” equal.
Education / Professional Background
Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation Certification
Divorce Mediation Experience
Acceptance rate of mediator’s agreements by the courts
Be informed: Know the mediator’s educational background. Find out if they have they published work in mediation or related fields.
What are the mediator’s credentials: In Massachusetts anyone can claim to be a “mediator.” However only a fraction of mediators are certified and have met the rigorous standards of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation (MCFM), the only mediation accreditation organization in the state.
Of those mediators listed as members of the MCFM, only 34 are Certified Divorce Mediators.
Notably, Certified Divorce Mediators are required to renew their certification every 2 years, contingent upon fulfilling a combined 70 hours of continuing education and face-to-face family mediation requirements. The Mass Council requires all certified divorce mediators to maintain mediation malpractice insurance.
One more distinction sets MCFM- certified divorce mediators apart: these mediators are automatically part of the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Program and thus eligible for court referrals pursuant to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 1:18.
Another way to assess a mediator’s level of success is to ask about their agreements – and whether the courts have accepted them. Our success rate, at CMDR, is 100% after 35 years of submitting agreements to court; We have never had an agreement dismissed.
Here are some of the comments from our clients after they have gone to court:
“We went before the judge yesterday who said she sees hundreds of agreements and ours was the clearest, most comprehensive, extraordinarily fair, logically presented contract she has read. Many thanks for your patience, intelligence, and understanding.” Married 42 years, mother of four
“[We] went to court yesterday for our divorce. The judge said that our agreement was one of the most comprehensive he has ever seen. Attorney XXXX quickly said “Lynne Halem wrote it!” Thanks for all your help. I can’t believe we are finally done.” Married 15 years, mother of two
What is the mediator’s experience? How long has the person been handling divorce mediation—10 years? 15 years? Do they limit their practice to mediation, or do they “dabble” in mediation, but specialize in litigation? Hopefully you will only get divorced once. You want to make sure that your concerns, and priorities are voiced. For this reason, it is important to have a mediator who has an established track record of facilitating settlements which reflect each party’s priorities and , thus confirming each person’s right to be heard.
“Lynne, you astonish me again. Thank you for listening so well, for analyzing so fast, and for coming up with an imaginative solution that [neither of us], we agreed afterward, would have thought of. What you do, so brilliantly and deftly, calls on and rewards what’s best in people.” Married 17 years, mother of two
“I think yesterday’s court date in Canton went pretty well. We were quite fortunate to be second on the schedule, and we were done within 75 minutes after arrival. The process was painless and we had a nice, non-intimidating judge (Judge Casey). The Memorandum of Understanding was approved and its attention to detail acknowledged. There were no unexpected issues. It is good that the process is coming to an end…Thanks very much again for taking us to this point. I am sure I am speaking for xxxx as well. Both of us greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness and care in crafting a fair Memorandum, as well as your help in understanding it. We felt very well taken care of!” Married 25 years, father of two
Effective divorce mediators are able to help couples think outside the box to assist couples in structuring a fair and workable agreement. The end product should translate into a document that will guide you, not just in the present, but also into the future. Here is what our clients have reflected back to us:
“Speaking for myself, I really appreciate all of your efforts in working with us. Our MoU was rock solid and it was a pleasure to work together.”
“Restraining orders, court hearings, and the like were draining our pocketbooks and our energy. You are a miracle worker. We have an agreement that is fair to both of us and, best of all, we are friends again. Who would have thought?” Married 16 years
“What I thought about during mediation was how the kids can and would be affected. Coming from a divorced family myself, I understood what was going through the kids’ minds, and I knew what I didn’t want for my children. It’s all about give and take with a resolution at the end of the process. Thanks again to everyone at CMDR for your kindness and professionalism during this difficult process.” Married for 19 years, father of two
The breadth of experience is probably the most important criterion for choosing a mediator—no mediator would be in business for long in this highly competitive arena, if they didn’t have both financial, tax, and legal savvy.
“People had warned me against mediation. They spoke of the extent of the estate, that my husband was financially adept and an expert negotiator. Yet, I ended up with an agreement that far surpassed even my fancy lawyer’s predictions. In the end, my husband truly cared about my well-being and that of the children. The mediator’s expertise in all financial areas made me feels protected and made my husband reassured that we would not be misled. I would recommend CMDR to anyone.” Married 26 years, mother of three
Choose Wisely – All Mediators Are Not the Same!
Ultimately, you need to do some due diligence to the extent possible-before you sign on with any professional, and hiring a divorce mediator is no different. And of course, you need to feel comfortable with the person as well.
“Through our long partnership of 24 years, we never learned to hear each other’s ideas or to solve problems together. Mediation taught us the art of problem-solving and enabled us to stay in business together. Here’s to 20 more years.” Partner in a small business