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Selecting a Good Mediator

Selecting a good mediator for your divorce is a process that requires a bit of time and research. A good mediator is one who will provide the couple with as much information as possible in order for them to make the best decisions concerning financial matters, children, and property. However, mediators are not licensed, which makes it a bit difficult to distinguish which ones have adequate training in the field and have the experience necessary to mediate your case properly. Diane Neumann, a long time attorney-mediator and acclaimed author on the topic of mediation who has mediated over 2,000 divorce cases, offers advice on the ins and outs of selecting a good mediator.

Mediator or Attorney-Mediator? An attorney-mediator possesses a law degree while a regular mediator does not. While both essentially perform the same function, some people prefer an attorney-mediator because he or she has the advantage of understanding legal technicalities. Many attorney-mediators tend to also have a general grasp of the way in which local courts work. Additionally, individuals who feel that they would like legal advice from an attorney during the mediation process should feel free to do so. A consultation with a lawyer can give someone the extra assurance he or she needs to continue with the process.

When to use a mediator:
  • If you and your spouse believe you can work together to agree on most divorce issues. Mediation is different that traditional, attorney-representation divorce in that the couple takes a very active role in creating their own divorce agreement.

  • Anytime there is a dispute over children

  • Anytime there is a dispute over child support (every state has different laws and it is more cost-effective to hire a mediator than an attorney to resolve the issue)

  • When there is a disagreement over property. In a traditional case, if the court decides to sell the property and divide profits, the property will be sold at a significantly lesser value

A good mediator should:
  • Be extremely knowledgeable about financial matters. He or she should be incredibly thorough in reviewing a couple's financial history, and may ask to review tax returns, insurance plans, ownership documents, etc.

  • Take the time to explicitly inform both couples about their financial situation. Often, the case may be that one partner is financially independent while the other is not, or that one knows a great deal about the financial situation while the other does not. A good mediator will take the time to right this imbalance so each spouse may make the most informed decision possible.

  • Discourage rash decisions, such as cashing in one's life insurance policy or preventing one spouse from seeing the children.

  • Allow you to consult with a lawyer if you desire and help mediate new issues and perspectives that the attorneys may introduce

How to find one:
  • National Conflict Resolution Center (

  • Academy of Family Mediators (formerly Association for Conflict Resolution) (

  • Friends, family, word of mouth

Feel free to contact a few mediators and ask them to send you references or set up a free consultation. Don't feel rushed or pressured into selecting one, especially if they have not had any formal training as a mediator.

* NOTICE: * Any advice provided here represent the opionions and research of the writer and are for informational purposes only. For guidance relating to your specific needs, contact a professional.
About the Expert:

DIANE NEUMANN, J.D., M.A. is the principal of a Massachusetts based Divorce Mediation firm. She began her mediation practice in 1981. She is recognized as one of the foremost mediators in the country. Diane is the author of two highly acclaimed books: Divorce Mediation: How to Cut the Cost and Stress of Divorce and Choosing a Divorce Mediator, published by Henry Holt & Co. In addition to her practice, she has been training mediators since the mid 1980's.

Diane's areas of expertise are two-fold: complex financial and tax matters, and difficult custody and parenting issues. She is Past President of both the national Academy of Family Mediators and the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation. She holds a Juris Doctorate and a Master of Arts in Counseling. Her experience as a licensed Massachusetts attorney, a couples and family counselor, and an Internal Revenue Service Representative make her uniquely suited to help people reach a settlement.

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