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San Diego Family Mediation Center

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How to Choose the Right Mediator: Divorce Help In San Diego

divorce help san diego

By Amanda Singer

Choosing the right mediator can be a difficult decision, and unfortunately, not all mediators are created equally. If you’re looking for divorce help in San Diego and have decided to try mediation, there are some things you can do and questions to ask to find and choose the right mediator. Below I share some of the questions to ask and make sure your mediator covers before working with them. Now many mediator’s will offer a free consultation, whether that’s in person, over the phone or video call and I would highly recommend taking advantage of that so you and your spouse can meet the mediator and make sure they’re right for you before working with them.

What is the mediator’s background and educational training?

Mediators are not required to have any specific background or training, and there is not one certification that ALL mediators must have like some professions. Some mediators may have a law degree, while others may be a therapist or have financial experience/background or may have a combination of the above.  While there is not one thing that automatically makes your mediator the right mediator, knowing their history and educational training can help you in making sure you choose the right mediator for you. Having a law degree is essential in many mediations. However, it can also be important that your mediator understands the financial complexities of your situation and can handle the emotional part as well. Because being a mediator does not require specific training, basic divorce mediation training is only 40 hours, and some mediators don’t have any training at all. In addition to understanding the issues surrounding your divorce your mediator also needs to know how to mediate and being a good lawyer doesn’t automatically make you a good mediator

How many mediation cases does the mediator do each month?

This question can key you into whether the mediator practices exclusively (or at least primarily) as a mediator, or whether mediation is more of a “side gig” for them that they do now and then. Working with a mediator who focuses exclusively on mediation allows them to have the most training, experience, and knowledge in assisting you to resolve your divorce amicably through mediation. It also means that a mediator who practices mediation exclusively is more up to date on developments in the field and has the experience and expertise to guide you through this process.

How long as the mediator been practicing?

While all mediators must start somewhere (I had my first cases too) you want to ensure that the mediator you choose has the experience to handle the complexities of your specific situation. This is going to vary for every couple, and there may be situations where working with a new mediator may work for you, and that’s ok, however, if you do have a more complicated case, whether that be financially or might be more high conflict you want to make sure the mediator can handle that.

What is the mediator’s style and approach to mediation?

You’ll want to ask the mediator about their style and how they approach the mediation. This can vary significantly and may also be dependent on some of the questions you’ve asked previously, however, mediators will usually define themselves as facilitative or evaluative. Facilitative mediators will not tell parties what to do or evaluate their case and will take more of a facilitator role in the process. Evaluative mediators are more likely to assess the situation and give the couple their take on what should be done. It’s essential to know the style of the mediator and also understand that the best mediators are usually a mix of the different styles and know when one method versus another is best based on the couple and the situation at hand.

How does the mediator charge?

Most mediator’s you’ll find still charge as attorneys do and bill hourly for mediations as well as emails, phone calls, paperwork, etc. Some attorneys may take a retainer to do so, while others will have you pay as you go. A smaller percentage of mediator’s work on a flat fee basis which allows you to know up front what the cost will be. Almost always a flat fee is going to be a cost saving to you and your spouse overpaying hourly and more importantly, there are no surprises. You may feel though that you like one way better than another and it’s essential to know how they charge before working with them.

What is the mediator’s success rate?

This is one of those questions that shouldn’t be what you base your entire decision on. However, it should be something you ask and how they answer is just as important as what they answer. Now as I tell all of my prospective clients any mediator who tells you they settle 100% of their cases is lying, that’s not possible (unless they’ve only done a handful of cases). The vast majority of their cases should be successful in mediation. If they’re not, then that may leave you to question why they’re not successful and whether they’ll be able to resolve your case. How they deal with an impasse in mediation is also very important because there may come a point where you and your spouse are at a standstill, and a mediator who has the skills to handle that impasse successfully will keep you in mediation.

Lastly, what sets the mediator apart from other mediators?

I’ve often had prospective clients ask me this question, and I think it’s an important one because it allows the mediator to explain to you why they’re different and what sets them apart. This question also gives you something to compare between the mediators you speak with and understand what is going to make them the best choice (or not) for you. When you’re looking for divorce help in San Diego, you have many options, and you want to make sure you choose the mediator that will be best for you.

At San Diego Family Mediation Center all of our mediators have their law degree, extensive mediation training and are certified divorce financial analysts. They mediate full time and are here to assist you through your divorce in a peaceful, amicable manner.

Our mediators understand that the process is not an easy one and are here to help you move forward, legally, emotionally, financially and logistically and look forward to speaking with you and providing divorce help in San Diego. Contact us for a free consultation or call (858) 736-2411 if you have any questions or concerns.