How to make Mediation work for you. How to find the best Mediator for your case.
The Truth about Mediators
Let’s dispel some myths first. The following may surprise you.
Mediators don’t believe everything they hear. Mediators aren’t judges. Their job is not to figure out the truth or take sides. They are trained to direct you, the customer, to craft your best solution.
Mediators don’t have the mantle of authority. They’re not the judge. And they’re not the boss of you. They can’t force you into anything. They can’t even tell the judge or the attorneys what happened during your mediation sessions. All they can do is report to your judge whether mediation was successful; whether mediation is ongoing, or whether someone did or did not show up. That’s all. You are actually in the driver’s seat during mediation.
Mediators don’t care what the truth is. Mediators’ jobs are to help you reach a settlement. A byproduct of that is you save the emotional and financial costs of litigation.
Mediators don’t love your kids. Neither does your attorney or your judge. Only you love your children.
Mediation is your opportunity to craft an agreement that serves your children the best way possible.
Mediation -- What It Is
You, the other party and your mediator meet. Sometimes you will be in separate rooms at first.
A professional mediator guides you to a solution for the financial and child-related issues of your family law case. Mediation is your opportunity to settle your case without an expensive and psychologically destructive court battle. Mediation can be court ordered, or you can opt in yourself.
Mediation – What It’s Not
Mediation is not mini-court.
Mediation is not the place to attack your spouse
Mediation is not therapy.
How to Select the Right Mediator for You
Does your mediator matter? Is one mediator as good as another? The short answer is no. You need a good fit to get your best result.
The first assurance of quality is experience. Trust experience. This is no place for a novice. It’s true that everybody needs to learn somewhere, but just not on you. Novice mediators are a mixed bag. The difference in fees between a rank beginner and a seasoned, experienced mediator is negligible. The time you save with a skilled and insightful mediator more than makes up for any difference in fee, and most times is more cost effective in the end.
After you’ve selected for experience, you gotta trust your gut. Is this person taking sides? Is this person disrespectful? Does he or she allow one of the attendees take pot-shots at the other? (A big no-no. Do not tolerate it.)
Boise Mediator Kristie Browning is clear on boundaries. “I do not allow sniping at my mediations,” she said at a recent professional seminar where she was the keynote speaker.
If your mediator is a round peg in a square hole, get out. Cut your losses and find another mediator. This may be easier said than done. Especially if you are court-ordered to mediate. Generally the judges don’t care who you mediate with, so long as you mediate.
How do You Get Ready for Mediation?
Kristie Browning, a Mediator with over 20 years’ experience, gave the following recommendations during one of her seminars to attorneys:
Go to mediation with your lunch packed. No, you don’t need to bring a sandwich and a soda, but rather be prepared. Be totally prepared. Some mediators like lots of content, and others don’t want to see any documents or the like. Prepare your case anyway. It will benefit you either way.
Assemble all your legal documents in a three ring binder, at least 3” wide. In it, you will assemble the following, with the newest documents on top:
Legal documents, including Petition, Answer, Counterclaim, Motions, Orders and the like
Calendar of parenting time
Child support calculations
Property and debt information
Know the strengths and weaknesses of your own case. Know the strengths and weaknesses of the other party. Be able to say what you want, and why. Write them down.
The Third Wheel
Should you invite a third person to mediation? Generally no. Whether to allow third parties is up to the mediator. Some mediators will allow a third person to attend, but will not allow the third person to talk. Which leads to the next question, and that is what’s the point of a third person?
Some may say that he or she needs a third person to feel safe. If you don’t feel safe with your mediator, you need another mediator, or maybe mediation is not for you.
In the End
It is said that if you never want to have another civil word between you and the other party, go ahead and fight like hell in court. Mediation is a self-guided experience designed to preserve your respect, your peace of mind, your money and your emotional energy.