How to Choose a Mediator - the Qualities That Matter

A dispute is a problem to be solved, not a battle to be won. Mahatma Ghandhi

Divorce mediation is about you and your soon to be ex-spouse deciding how to resolve the issues in your own divorce and what is best for the both of you and your children. In mediation, you and your spouse meet with a neutral third party, the mediator, and with their help, you work through the issues you need to resolve so you can end your marriage as amicably and cost effectively as possible.

Sometimes agreements come easily, and sometimes they are difficult and require more time and work. It is when agreements are hard to reach that the mediator’s help is necessary. It is the mediators’ job to help the couple communicate effectively, listen and seek to understand each other, brainstorm ideas, and reality test possible solutions.

The skills of mediators and the ways they approach their work are critically important to the success of the process in helping parties resolve conflict. Important qualities include the ability to inspire confidence, patience, persistence, skill in asking good questions and listening to responses, and tact or diplomacy.

More often than not, “judge like” or “lawyer like” behaviors, such as telling people what to do, what is legal or not legal, or what a court would do, are counterproductive.

Parties should feel that the mediator is friendly, likeable, respectful, and conveys a sense of caring. The mediator should reassure the parties that integrity, honesty and respect are required of all parties, as well as the mediator.

A good mediator will be patient, curious, and a good listener, expressing understanding of each parties’ needs, interests, and feelings and seek to help the parties understand the same of each other.

Parties should feel that the mediator’s goal is to help them reach a mutually beneficial resolution that meets the most important needs and interests of each. A mediator may help brainstorm and engage in creative problem solving but should be clear that his or her ideas are no better or worse than those of the parties – they are just ideas to be considered in light of the parties needs and interests.

Ultimately, successful mediation requires a mediator who demonstrates integrity, neutrality, fairness, friendliness, empathy, likability, and respectfulness.