Unlike some other states, Mediation is not regulated in any way by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Organizations such as the Massachusetts Council of Family and Mediation (MCFM) do provide recommended guidelines and specialized training, but MCFM membership is not compulsory for practicing Mediators, nor are MCFM recommendations legally enforceable.
Most Mediators are attorneys, financial advisors, or mental health professionals – but not always. In the absence of Mediation regulations, here are some important steps you should take before hiring a divorce Mediator to help in navigating your divorce settlement.
Take a Look at the Divorce Mediator’s Professional Background.
Anyone who believes s/he has “good people skills” could legitimately hang out a shingle as a Mediator in Massachusetts. That is because training, while important, is not required. You will find (as with any profession) that not all Mediators are equal in terms of training, knowledge, and the real-life experience that only comes from working in the trenches. Do your due diligence to find out what other qualifications besides mediating skills an individual has. Simply “being good with people” is not enough to ensure that you will be in good hands or be led down the right path. S/he may help you and your spouse to agree to something only for you to find that it is not legally sound.
Find Out If the Divorce Mediator Has Been Trained in Mediation.
Several organizations in Massachusetts offer excellent Mediation training, and other national organizations also provide informative resources as well. Basic training is important, but so is continued professional development. Do some research to find out if the person has taken advantage of any of these professional development opportunities. If so, what did the training entail? Make sure that it was focused on the areas of family and divorce. Also, is s/he involved in continuing education to stay current in the field? Is s/he a member of MCFM? These are important details that can help provide perspective on qualifications.
Look at the Divorce Mediator’s Website.
If the divorce mediator has a website, it can be a handy tool to give you a sense of background and approach. Websites often reflect a person’s personality and style. For example, a lawyer whose website screams “I’ll fight to the death for you!” may have some difficulty shifting into the neutral role that Mediation requires.
Additionally, chemistry will play a big part in who you feel comfortable working with. Decide what resonates with you. Do you feel peaceful and reassured when you visit the website, or overwhelmed with discordant color schemes or jam-packed pages that are too full of content? Take a long look at how the person is portrayed as a professional on the website, and consider whether this makes you feel confident in choosing him or her to help determine your financial and emotional future post-divorce.
Have a Conversation By Phone or in Person.
It is wise to have an initial consult before hiring a Mediator. Mediators have different policies about initial client contact. My policy is to hold an initial screening consult over the phone to provide efficiency for both parties. Usually one party contacts me first and I offer information about my process and background. I also offer the other party a similar conversation. I am careful to defer specifics of the situation until both parties are in the room together. The Mediator you choose will play an important role in both of your lives, so it is worth investing a little time to make sure this is the right fit for you.
What to Expect When Working With Me as your Divorce Mediator
In my own practice, my initial meeting usually covers my process and fees. I explain the anticipated number of meetings, the two-hour meeting blocks, and the fact that my scope of services goes through drawing up the contract. I also gather general information, such as background and logistics.
The concept of a divorce may be new to you and so you may not know where to start. If you find yourself in this position, I can help you understand what Mediation is, how it can help you, and what steps to take.
I personally have over 30 years of experience in Mediation. I have received professional training in the field, and regularly undertake significant continuing education in both Mediation and Family Law. I have been very active in numerous professional organizations, including serving as past president of MCFM. In 2012 I was awarded the John Adams Fiske Award for Excellence in Mediation by MCFM, an honor of which I am quite proud because it reflects the nominations of my peers.
To learn more about how I might be able to help you in Mediation, contact my office at (781) 944-0156 to set up a consult.