To understand what it means to be a divorce mediator, it helps to look first at the more basic question, “What is a mediator?”
The Definition of a Mediator
In the simplest terms, a mediator is anyone who facilitates the resolution of a conflict between two or more people while maintaining a strictly neutral position. A critical term in this definition is “facilitate,” which literally means “make easier.” The mediator is not there to solve the problem, but to provide a safe and structured setting that will help the participants solve it themselves. A good mediator knows how to support and empower people who are embroiled in conflict, helping them find the confidence and motivation they need to reach their own solutions.
The best mediators know how to cultivate self-direction, helping participants become more proactive and creative. Another critical term in the definition of a mediator is “neutral.” A mediator needs to keep all personal feelings out of the equation. Each participant gets equal time, equal attention, and equal consideration. Maintaining strict neutrality requires a special kind of skill. The mediator needs to cultivate empathy and understanding for each party while still maintaining enough distance to remain objective.
Not all kinds of mediators require a lot of professional training. A mediator with basic training and the right set of personal skills can be adept at helping people resolve many kinds of conflict, such as disputes between neighbors or other types of community conflicts. Even elementary and middle school students can learn to be effective peer mediators, facilitating communication on the playground or in the lunchroom.
A professional mediator, on the other hand, needs more advanced skills. In addition to training in the process of mediation, a professional mediator needs to have knowledge and experience in the industry the mediator is working in. Court-appointed mediators must also satisfy standards imposed by the courts. Even though the parties propose their own potential solutions, the mediator needs to be able to determine which solutions are practical and legal in order to help the participants stay on track and focus on the right issues.
The Definition of a Divorce Mediator
A divorce mediator is a professional mediator who helps divorcing couples resolve all of the legal issues that are part of their divorce. Common issues include things like how to divide marital property equitably, whether or not alimony is appropriate, and what kind of parenting plan will work once two separate households are established. Because divorce generally requires resolution of multiple issues and is often accompanied by particularly challenging emotions, divorce mediators require additional training to ensure that they will be competent to handle all potential situations that may arise in divorce mediation. For more information on mediator training, see: How does a Lawyer Become a Mediator?
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