Mediation can be extremely effective for parents in high-conflict custody disputes. In some cases, the courts will even require you to pursue mediation with your ex in the hope that you will be able to reach an agreement outside of court. Whether you're looking for a child custody mediator because you have to, or you've heard about the benefits of working with a child custody mediator and you're anxious to start the process, these tips will help you find a qualified professional:
How to Find a Child Custody Mediator
Some states require parents to work with a mediator. If this is the case for you, the court that referred you will have a list of approved mediators you can choose from. If no one has supplied you with this list, contact the court directly and ask the clerk for the list of approved child custody mediators in your jurisdiction.
If you were not referred by a court and are trying mediation on your own, you can find mediators in several ways:
- Court-approved mediators. Many local courts that deal with family law cases maintain lists of approved mediators. Contact the court directly to obtain a copy. And while you have the clerk on the phone, ask whether your state requires family law mediators to be certified or to register with the court.
- Private mediators. Many private mediators offer their services to the public. You can find a mediator in your area by searching online, looking through your local yellow pages, or asking friends and family members for referrals. Particularly if you know of someone who recently tried mediation for a case similar to yours, ask them for a referral.
- Community mediation centers. Some jurisdictions maintain community mediation centers where mediation services are made available to the local community. These often provide mediation at low or no cost, but they may not be trained to deal with parenting cases.
How to Interview a Child Custody Mediator
Once you research your options, take the time to interview several mediators over the phone or by email. Some questions to ask include:
- How long have you been working as a mediator?
- How many families have you worked with so far?
- Where were you trained?
- Is your training in general mediation techniques or family disputes, specifically (such as child custody and visitation)?
- Are you a lawyer and if so, have you ever practiced family law?
- Do you have experience handling cases similar to mine?
- Approximately how many hours of mediation have you conducted?
- Are you certified? And are you registered with the state? (Note: not all states require child custody mediators to be certified or registered.)
Finally, remember that working with a mediator takes time. You probably won't reach a final agreement in one session, and it may take a meeting or two before you begin to actually feel comfortable and trust that the mediator is truly a neutral party who has your children's best interests at heart. Going into the experience expecting good things will help you uncover common ground you didn't know existed before.