How to Choose a Divorce Mediator

You’ve heard about the divorce mediation process. Perhaps a friend or colleague suggested you try the mediation process. Where to begin?

Here is some information you may find helpful.

Conducting a search: One option is to conduct a google search with two categories of key words in mind. The first category might include the type of mediation you are looking for, so you might type in “divorce mediation” or “divorce mediator”. The second category involves your geographical location. You might type in your city, town or village; your county; your state’ or a region such as the Hudson Valley.

Therapists and attorneys may also provide information about divorce mediators in your area.

Once you have identified your mediator options, you need to find those who are competent and experienced. Experience plays a key role. New York State, and most states, lack a certification process. Some entities, such as the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation (, are working toward that goal.

Does the mediator have a web site? If so, this is an indication of the mediator’s professionalism. Much can be discerned from a mediator’s website. Does it give you a sense for the type of services provided? A good website will provide some helpful information and relevant contacts.

Does the mediator offer a free consultation? This is your best way to determine if the process of mediation, and the mediators in general, can provide what you need. Contact the mediators and inquire whether they offer a free consultation. This is an opportunity to get all your questions answered. A consultation typically occurs with both parties to the dispute being present, so both hear the same information. During the free consultation you will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Is there a legal person on the team? An attorney who serves as mediator must be very careful to avoid the “unlawful practice of law” and keep their role as mediator very separate from their role of attorney. After all, an attorney takes a sworn oath to advocate for their client. In their role as mediator, they advocate for no one.

It is, however, helpful to have someone on the mediation team who can answer legal questions. A good mediator will have a list of mediation-friendly attorneys that can serve to answer legal questions, if they arise. In this capacity it is not necessary to pay an attorney a retainer.

A good mediator will participate in on-going education concerning recent case law for divorce, including child support, pensions, business valuations and issues involving children and parenting.

What is the mediator’s training? It is totally appropriate to inquire how long ago the mediator received mediation training, the length of the training, and their years of experience. Beware of attorneys who call themselves mediators but have received minimal training or no training. Divorce mediation requires extensive training because of the intricacies of the issues.

How much will it cost? Although a mediator cannot guarantee a result, they should be able to provide an idea of how much the process will cost. A mediated divorce through Atlantis Mediation, including the cost of the legal paperwork presented to the court, will typically cost around $3,000. It may be a bit less, or more, depending on the issues and the time involved.

What is the mediator’s fee structure? Do they accept credit cards? Do they only charge for actual mediation time? Will you be billed for research, review of documents, phone calls and copying expense? Do they charge by the hour, pay-as-you-go, or will a retainer be required?

What is the mediator’s orientation or approach? An evaluative mediator, usually helpful in business disputes, may offer an opinion on what the outcome would be in court and offer an opinion on the strength of the parties’ case. A transformative mediator does not offer advice. Their role is to look for opportunities for empowerment and recognition in the mediation. A facilitative mediator will offer resources such as lists of business evaluators, financial experts, pension evaluators, mediation-friendly attorneys, competent therapists, good books that deal with separation, supporting children, and ideas and options to support the parties’ decisions as they move forward.

Mediation works well for same gender couples and families, as well as those who have never married.

A good mediator may use a combination of all orientations, depending upon what the situation warrants.

The entire divorce mediation process is confidential.

Are the mediation offices private, comfortable and convenient?

You should choose a mediator that is confident, competent, and one that has years of experience and expertise.

— by Eileen Rowley

For a free consultation or to learn more, call Atlantis Mediation at (845) 876-6100 or click here.