You’ve decided to proceed with mediation. You know it’s better than going to court. You know it’s cheaper than going to court. But how do you choose a mediator when there are so many choices out there? A recent search of Albuquerque mediators turned up no less than 20 different firms whose websites mention mediation.
First, look for good reviews. Too few stars and too many bad reviews and you may wish to look elsewhere. A firm needn’t have perfect reviews, but neither should it have fewer than four stars. Bad reviews mean too many unhappy clients. It is common to think that neither side is unhappy in mediation because compromises have to be made on both sides, however, the opposite is actually true. Both sides can be happy following mediation. In mediation, you can pick the issues most important to you, and if you are willing to compromise or even give up leverage in other areas, you can get exactly what is most important to you!
Secondly, look for a lawyer/mediator with a significant amount of legal experience. Why is this important? Mediations are successful when they settle outside court, saving both parties time, money and heartache. They settle when the mediator can find creative solutions to resolve all issues and often this involves reciting the law and telling the parties how judges tend to rule on the pending issues. A party who thinks they could fare better in court, might not wish to settle in mediation. An experienced mediator can inform you about the strengths and weaknesses of your case. A mediator who doesn’t know divorce and custody law or hasn’t been in front of the local judges more than a few dozen times, cannot significantly assist in your mediation.
Additionally, look for a firm with a website featuring information about mediation. Very few firms specialize in mediation, but one with ONLY mediation information is one committed to the ideals and the process of mediation, rather than litigation.
The other qualities you might want to consider in choosing a mediator is the mediator’s availability. Are you having to wait a month for an appointment? Usually when parties are ready to mediate, its best to do so sooner than later. Does the mediator require a retainer? One of the advantages of mediation are a lower cost. Retainers can significantly increase costs. A flat fee uncontested divorce will generally much cheaper than paying a retainer.
Does the mediator provide consultations? Sometimes a free 15-minute consultation can help inform a person whether or not she wants to proceed with mediation. Most attorney consultations last an hour and cost in excess of $250. Mediation consultations won’t provide legal advice but they should inform the mechanics and costs of mediation as well as information about the mediator.
Finally, a lot of people ask whether they should choose a male or female mediator. As a woman myself, I can relate to many of the issues raised by women, but I can sympathize with the woes raised by men and I represented many men over the 28 years I litigated divorce cases. Overall, a mediator shouldn’t show preference to either party, however that doesn’t mean the mediator won’t share opinions about a party’s case or the strengths or weaknesses of the case. It also doesn’t mean the mediator will necessarily believe everything one party is saying. Doing such means the mediator is in fact taking sides. The mediator should listen, process and offer suggestions.