How To Become a Divorce Mediator

Even under the best circumstances, ending a marriage is an emotional and overwhelming experience; for those who are interested in helping others during this life-altering event, learning how to become a divorce mediator may be the right career path for you. Divorce is an ever-constant reality in our society, which is why when people think about mediation, most of them presume divorce mediation. Mediation has become a worthwhile venture for many families facing divorce because it helps the parties resolve their disputes without litigation and with more speed than the traditional court system. With mediation quickly becoming one of the most popular conflict resolution programs for divorce, there is a growing need for divorce mediators. For aspiring mediators, divorce mediation can be a rewarding career as they help guide families through painful and emotional conflict and toward dispute resolution. However, just how to become a mediator who handles divorce is often not clear.

This article will outline how to become a divorce mediator and share some tips and tricks to ease the process.

The Role of the Mediator in Divorce Mediation

Before diving into how to become a mediator, one should look at the role of the mediator in divorce and determine if the role is a good fit for them. Mediators, in general, will help facilitate communication and work with the parties to find a solution that everyone can agree on. A mediator is like a guide through the negotiation process between the parties, remaining neutral and letting the couple guide the process, yet noticing and addressing anything that may be standing in the way of the parties resolving. The mediator is neutral and cannot influence the decisions of the parties for their benefit.

The mediation context, or the basis for the mediation, adds additional roles and skills that the mediator will need to have. In divorce mediation, the mediator must use their communication skills and any experience they have with dispute resolution and emotional regulation to address the emotions and huge life decisions at play in a divorce. Many divorce mediators will also have experience in social work or other therapeutic vocations, while other mediators will have a financial background to handle the financial aspect of it. Others will be attorneys who practice law related to divorce and make the leap. Regardless of where one starts, it is possible to become a mediator and guide parties toward conflict resolution.

Earn a Degree (Or Two)

The first step to becoming a divorce mediator is to earn at least a bachelor’s degree, as many state mediator certification requirements state that a bachelor’s degree is necessary for either their own practice or to be added to court rosters. For someone without a bachelor’s degree, choose a degree that relates to family law, such as social work. psychology, or interpersonal finance, may be helpful to consider when wanting to become a divorce mediator. These degrees are not necessary, but they can be helpful to provide experience with the intense and often combative aura of divorce mediation.

Consider a Master’s or Law Degree

For those looking for a graduate degree to pursue, a master’s or juris doctor degree may be a good solution. If you want to practice law, as well as mediate, law school may be a great next step. Additionally, some schools will offer a degree in legal studies. Both legal studies and a law degree will teach students the ins and outs of the general district court and the judicial system. They will learn how some states have different divisions and names for a similar system, such as circuit court civil and circuit court family law divisions. Finally, they will also learn how civil cases move from the circuit courts to the supreme court of a state on appeal. Understanding the court system and court procedures can be incredibly beneficial for a mediator to give adequate instruction on what could happen next if a case does not settle.

In addition to law school, some family mediators will pursue master’s degrees in social work or psychology, hoping to further their ability to hold and receive emotions and hard situations from the parties.

Complete Basic Mediation Training

The next step in the process is to complete a basic training program that focuses on divorce mediation. Divorce mediation training is offered through a variety of training programs, both online and in person. To meet the requirements to be certified pursuant to many state standards, a mediator will need to complete at least a 40-hour basic mediation training.

Approved Mediation Training Program

Divorce mediators will also often undergo a specific mediation training program for family disputes. Each state or county will have its own standards for a complete mediation training course to be a certified family mediator, but participating in approved mediation training will ensure that aspiring mediator becomes a professional mediator when they complete their training.

Special Family Law Considerations

Other considerations when deciding to become a mediator are the different aspects of family law that set it apart from other areas of law and mediation. Most commercial mediators will not handle child custody cases, order family counseling, or have a professional background that can handle domestic abuse and domestic violence as it presents in mediation. The specific issues that arise in family law mediation differ greatly from other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and divorce mediators need to be prepared to handle these issues. This is why specialized mediation training is vital to becoming a mediator.

Child custody is a particularly difficult type of mediation because it will often involve the emotions of both parents, possibly new partners, and the children. Because of the trauma and difficulty of the decisions in this case, many courts will have a court roster of court-approved mediators that will handle these cases and understand the difficulty of this mediation. Some places will even have a dispute resolution center that handles the issues surrounding divorce and domestic abuse through mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. These types of centers can be excellent to gain experience in mediating disputes, especially under the watchful eye of the professional mediators that work in those centers.

Practice Mediation Skills

After completing their basic training, mediators will need to gain mediation experience in family law divorce cases. One of the best ways for aspiring mediators to gain experience is to work on divorce mediation with experienced mediators. Almost all states will require that a mediator practice with experienced mediators on at least two cases before the court will allow them to become a mediator on the court-referred mediator list.

Those wishing to begin their mediation career can also reach out to local divorce mediators and ask to observe mediation. Some counties or states will let new mediators work with a professional mediator to gain experience through cases referred from the domestic relations district court or other family law courts. By observing mediations, the new mediators will gain experience and knowledge about the process. Eventually, they will be able to co-mediate disputes and help resolve the cases. By co-mediating a dispute, a new mediator will learn the skills necessary to meet the mediation experience requirements.

Start a Practice or Join an Organization

After completing their mediation training and mentoring, a new mediator is ready to begin to take on clients for mediation. This can be a daunting task, as family law and mediation is a field often concurred by word of mouth. Those hoping to start a mediation practice can do so by taking on mediation from the courts or their neighbors and showing off their mediation training and skills to the parties and attorneys in the case. The more people that are pleased with the way the process goes, the more likely that more clients will show up. By participating in court lists, a new mediator will be able to get cases sent to them without much work; however, court-referred cases alone will likely not be enough to sustain a mediation practice, and marketing and networking will be essential.

There are also local, state, and national professional programs that a new mediator can join that will refer cases and place their stamp of approval on certain mediators. This can be a great way to grow a client base within an area, but it can be expensive to join and maintain membership, so an evaluation of the cost will likely be necessary.

Continuing Education

Many states will also have continuing education requirements for their mediators. Continuing education seminars are sessions where mediators will learn about any new laws or developments in the field that may impact their practice. These seminars are also often fantastic networking sessions, as they will gather people eager to learn about a specific area of mediation or alternative dispute resolution.

Taking the First Step

If you are looking to become a mediator in the family law or divorce realm, you can take one of the first steps and sign up for mediation training today. ADR Times offers a mediation training program that will satisfy training requirements in most areas. Click here for more information.


Emily Holland
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