Interested in pursuing a new career path, or learning how to become a mediator in NJ? Mediation has grown in popularity in New Jersey and the surrounding states. Many more cases are being recommended for mediation to avoid overloading the court with cases that could benefit from dispute resolution professionals guiding them through the mediation process. This has caused an increased need for qualified mediators wishing to receive cases from the courts. Because of this, the Supreme Court has developed standards of conduct for mediators and created a list of requirements for mediators wishing to join the court-approved mediator list.
A private mediator in New Jersey may practice without meeting these requirements or licensing, but to take recommendations from the court, they must have basic mediation training and experience, often coupled with other requirements for specific types of mediation. This article will outline the process of being court-approved mediators and give readers a taste of the process in New Jersey.
The Court-Approved Mediators List
The court-approved mediators list is a list that is maintained by the Supreme Court system in New Jersey and helps the superior court to create court rosters for mediators that are qualified to mediate disputes within their county. One exciting piece of this list is that it helps those who would not normally be able to participate in mediation due to the cost of the mediator by requiring mediators to provide the first two hours of mediation for free. The mediators that make this list must have mediation experience before applying for the list and agree to participate in mentored mediation training in certain fields before they take court-referred mediations.
These lists often pull the best private mediators and help litigants have access to them through these low-cost programs to avoid litigation with conflict resolution. Because many mediators on this list have served as private mediators, they will have completed basic mediation training programs before applying, but the completion of these programs within a few years is required, as well as mediation experience and the mentorship program. Many mediators will also be a part of the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators, which has its own standards for developing and certifying mediators.
Within these systems, there seem to be two distinct tracks that mediators may take to become a part of the court rosters–civil mediation and divorce mediation.
Basic Mediation Training
Before getting into the particular mediator qualifications for each of the types of mediation that one may want to participate in within New Jersey, it is important, to begin with the completion of basic mediation training programs. This course teaches basic mediation skills and encourages the students to gain knowledge about the mediation process. These courses will also often have students practice their skills through role-playing exercises that help them develop their mediation style and technique.
This course is not designed to create mediation expertise, but instead to expose students to the various aspects of mediation and encourage further development and participation in the process. Exposure to the mediation process and the development of these skills provides a good base to help the participants understand what a career in mediation could look like. Training will provide a certification in mediation that can help with licensing of professionals or towards approval from an executive committee that oversees mediation training and certification.
To take part in the civil mediation court list, the mediator must have at least 40 hours of training. If the mediator has been practicing for several years or more since their last 40-hour course, they will need to complete more training through the six-hour civil supplemental mediation course in New Jersey. There are no specific requirements for training courses in New Jersey; however, knowledge of the standards of conduct is necessary to become a mediator under the state requirements.
Most mediators in New Jersey will participate in the civil mediation court roster. These mediators will handle a variety of cases, involving everything from business negotiation to probate. Importantly, the parties consent to use the mediation program from the court, which means that not every case will participate in mediation. Additionally, general civil mediators will not handle criminal cases or family law disputes. There are several requirements for acceptance into the court-approved list for mediators.
The first requirements for mediators are education requirements. To become a civil mediator the applicant must have at least a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience in the subject area in that they will be a mediator. Many people will assume that mediators need a juris doctor degree or to be attorneys, but many mediators are not lawyers and instead have degrees that deal directly with the area in which they serve as a mediator, such as commercial or business experience for commercial mediation.
Approved Mediation Training Program
Aside from the education requirements listed above, a civil mediator will need to complete forty hours of mediation training from an approved course. There are a variety of courses that have been approved for training mediators in New Jersey and many private mediators in the state will take one of these courses before they begin mediating disputes. If it has been five years or more since the mediator has completed the course, they will need to supplement this course with an approved six-hour course.
Mediation Experience and Mentoring
The courts in New Jersey institute an experience and mentoring program as well. A mediator that is applying to be on the approved list must provide evidence of completed mediation practice of a minimum of two Civil, General Equity, or Probate Part cases within the last year. They must also be mentored in at least two cases in the Law Division-Civil Part or Chancery Division-General Equity or Probate Part of the Superior Court for at least five hours by a civil roster mediator mentor who has been approved by the “Guidelines for the Civil Mediation Mentoring Program” created and enforced by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
The responsibility of the mentor in the mediation process is to provide hands-on training to mediators and ensure that they will be prepared for any mediation they are involved in. This practice, coupled with the basic training that they would have already received, gives budding mediators the ability to see their skills and knowledge in action by working to resolve the conflict. It provides a safety net for the mediator to perfect their communication skills and practice dispute resolution.
In addition to these requirements. the mediator will have to agree to provide two free hours of mediation before charging their regular fee. They also need to provide the court with a list of counties that they will be responsible for covering.
Those hoping to work in divorce mediation have slightly different requirements for their training and experience. Because these mediations deal with difficult and specialized topics like child custody and domestic violence, they need to have particular knowledge about the laws and court decisions that impact the case. New Jersey has two distinct mediation and conflict resolution programs for couples going through a divorce, as well as standard mediation.
The first is an early settlement panel. This most closely resembles divorce mediation, and is an opportunity for the parties to discuss all of the aspects of the divorce from child custody to financial obligations. Judges can recommend that the parties attend the early settlement panel and attempt to resolve the dispute, in which case participation is mandatory.
The second type of divorce mediation that New Jersey offers is family economic mediation. This mediation is specialized and focuses on the shared finances between the parties and determining how to divide them.
Traditional mediation can be used in divorce cases as well. If mediation is successful, the parties will send their agreement to the judge, who will determine if the divorce may be ordered. A judge may recommend mediation to the parties if they believe it could help them further their dispute resolution process; however, a judge will never recommend mediation when domestic violence is involved, because the power imbalances in these issues may make true mediation impossible.
For family law mediation, most mediators will need to have completed a bachelor’s degree and have experience in family law or other careers related to it. Again, they do not need to have a law degree, but attorneys with experience in family law are often able to transition to mediators more smoothly. Both lawyers and non-lawyers will need to have at least 7 years of experience in family law or other financial and mental health fields to become an economic program mediator.
Approved Mediation Training Program
Family law mediation training differs from basic training because many specialties and areas within family law require specialized care and attention. For this reason, many organizations that offer training will offer family-mediation-specific training. Like other mediators, they will need to have completed a 40-hour program within the last five years. Professionals will also frequently participate in other family-specific training programs as well.
Within these programs, the mediator will learn the mediation skills that are required to resolve family disputes. This can often involve an intense negotiation program to ensure that a mediator understands how to handle the heightened emotions that may be present.
Finally, family law mediators will need to participate in mentored family law mediation with an experienced mediator. This provides practice with the new role, especially when a lawyer moves from litigation in the district or circuit courts and moves into a neutral role. It ensures that lawyers who receive certification for family law mediation can perform these mediations successfully.
Other than proving residency requirements, mediators will need to complete at least four hours of continuing legal education each year. Continuing education ensures that mediators can stay up to date on the laws and standards of practice in the state. If mediators choose to specialize in a particular area of law, continuing education helps them to develop the skills and practice that they need.
Taking the First Step to an Alternative Dispute Resolution Career
The first step in the process to become a mediator is to register for a course in meditation to gain the skills necessary for dispute resolution. The Supreme Court has chosen not to require a specific degree or certification to practice mediation for the courts. Many programs can be completed to satisfy the New Jersey requirements, but choosing one that is beneficial for you can open up the doors for both private mediation and court-approved mediator lists. Some schools or training courses will offer certification upon completion of certain skills and training, and some will even offer a degree in mediation that can be transferred to other states. However, because there is no specific requirement outside of completing forty hours to understand the skills necessary, you can register for any course you may choose.
ADR Times is offering a mediation course that will satisfy many requirements for mediation training around the country. If this is something that you are interested in, please click here to register for the course and take the first step on your alternative dispute resolution journey.
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