Q: My case has been assigned to mediation and my attorney tells me we are required to select a mediator. What are some things I should be aware of before I discuss selection of a mediator with my attorney?

A: I often tell my clients that it really does not matter that much who mediates the case. What really matters is that the parties have gathered their information and are willing to meaningfully discuss a settlement. If these two things have not happened, no matter how skilled the mediator may be, a case is not likely to settle.

That being said, there are a few qualities I look for in selecting a mediator. First, I would not be comfortable mediating a family law case if the mediator is not familiar with family law. Preferably, the mediator should be an attorney with significant domestic relations experience. Second, the mediator needs to be patient, and a good listener. Third, the mediator should be neutral and able to hear both sides of the story. One thing I have learned in handling divorces for as long as I have is that there are two sides to every story, and very rarely is one person solely at fault for the breakdown of a marriage. The mediator's job is not to determine a winner and a loser, but to assist the parties in coming up with a mutually agreeable settlement that will allow them to resolve their differences out of court. Finally, you should discuss the expense of mediation with your attorney. Mediators charge by the hour just like attorneys do, and, while the process may seem costly, if mediation is successful, it will most likely save you money compared with the cost of going to trial. Most counties have community dispute resolution centers which offer mediation at a lower cost than what a private mediator would charge.

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