Updated: Nov 18
The most important question to ask when considering a mediator is: ‘Are you registered with the Family Mediation Council?’ If not, then avoid them like the plague – they may not be properly trained, supervised or subject to basic professional standards.
A registered family mediator may be either Accredited or working, under supervision, towards Accreditation. All registered mediators, whether Accredited or not, will have had previous experience in a relevant professional role– some will have been lawyers, others social workers, or therapists.
Having been selected for training, a would-be mediator will undertake ‘Foundation Training’ approved by the Family Mediation Standards Board. This involves attendance at teaching sessions as well as reading and other assignments and is but the start of the mediator’s preparation to practice.
The next step is to gain some practical experience with an experienced mediator. This will be done under the supervision of a ‘Professional Practice Consultant’ who will decide when the mediator is ready to take on the responsibility of mediating alone.
To become accredited, a family mediator must submit a portfolio of evidence of their competence. The standards required for this are high, and many do not pass at the first attempt. It may take up to three years, or sometimes longer.
Every registered mediator must continue to have a Professional Practice Consultant who will provide continuing supervision and will check that they are continuing to study and develop.
If a mediator is registered, then perhaps look at their website to find out about their background and other interests. Check out a few, and allow your feelings to guide you – but remember that the mediator will be working with both of you, and must be a fit for your ex as well as for you. If you have a solicitor, they may know about a particular mediator’s strengths and weaknesses and may be able to recommend a mediator to your situation.
Before family mediation starts, there is always a preliminary meeting (known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting or ‘MIAM’). During this meeting, you will be able to form a clearer impression of the mediator and their approach to the process If you don’t feel comfortable with the mediator, you are at liberty to look for another one. Do check whether the mediator you see for the preliminary meeting will also be undertaking the mediation itself.
Things to note:
It is important that you are confident that a mediator will keep you safe and comfortable in the mediation meetings – the mediator should screen carefully for issues of abuse or other factors that might cause you difficult and should be prepared to adapt the mediation model to keep you safe.
Mediation is always voluntary – you cannot be forced to mediate – nor will you be punished by a court if you decide, after the assessment meeting, that mediation is not for you.
Not all people holding themselves out as family mediators are properly trained or supervised. Mediators who are part of The Family Panel will always be registered.
Mediators are not permitted to give legal advice, though they may provide neutral legal and financial information. Mediators are working with both of you to help you to make good choices, but will never make choices for you or tell you what you should do. And if your Mediator suggests that you should seek legal advice on an issue, you really should do so.
Only Accredited Mediators are able to sign the certificate required before you can start court proceedings – so if a mediator is not yet Accredited, and you think you may need a certificate, check whether their Professional Practice Consultant will sign the certificate for them.
An article originally written by family mediator Paul Kemp for the Family Law Panel website.