Return to About Divorce Mediation
by Julie Denny
Questions from Julie and Answers from Philip Crump
Supporting Effective Agreement
and selecting a mediator can be easier if you follow some simple steps. In
the best of circumstances, divorce is an uncomfortable process. Take the time
to assure you have a mediator whom you like, respect and believe to be
qualified to help both of you negotiate that equitable settlement. Start by
generating a list of four or five mediators in your area. Comparison shopping
is just as important here as anywhere else. By talking to a number of
mediators you will not only become clear on which one feels right for you,
but you will also familiarize yourself with the process, the topics you'll
need to discuss, the costs associated with mediated divorces and the issues
involved in selecting a mediator. Names of mediators are available through
several channels including Mediate.com , the
Yellow Pages, state mediation associations, and local attorneys, therapists
and clergy. In compiling your list don't rule out mediators a little distance
away from your home. The right mediator may be worth a drive. Now call each
of the mediators and check him or her out. Factors to consider in choosing
your mediator are:
What is the mediator's training? Anyone can hang up a shingle and
call herself a mediator. The basic Divorce Mediation training is 40 hours.
As indicated in my professional resume,
I have over three hundred hours of mediation, conflict resolution and
facilitation training since I began in early 1992.
How long has the mediator been practicing? [A note here: I remember with
gratitude the couple who took a chance on me when I was just beginning. When
I told the prospect I was just starting out, she responded, "Well you
have to start somewhere," and set up an appointment. I don't want to
deny my colleagues the opportunity I had, but if you decide to go with a
beginner, do so in full knowledge that they are less experienced.]
My first mediations were in Metro Court
in Albuquerque and in the Parent-Teenager mediation program in Santa Fe in
early 1992. I mediated an employment situation successfully—at my place of
work. My first divorce case (1992) involved a couple who each called
independently; I had stood up with them at their wedding! We’re all still
How many divorce cases has he mediated? Mediators often handle community and
business disputes as well as divorce. The issues involved in divorce are very
specific and a certain level of knowledge about those issues is critical.
Make sure the mediator has adequate experience with divorce mediation.
I don’t know how many cases I have
mediated in 25 years. A lot. I kept my day job until January of 1999, then
went to full time solo practice. I have mediated hundreds of cases, at least,
in a wide variety of fields beyond divorce.
Does the mediator have any references? Can the mediator provide you with
names of other mediators, therapists, or attorneys who will vouch for his or
her qualification? Because mediation is confidential, the mediator may not be
able to give you names of former clients.
Right. I cannot name clients, even
though some have offered. Call any Family Court judge in Albuquerque or many
of the Family Law practitioners in Santa Fe. I can give you lots of names of
professionals who have sent clients.
Is s/he viewed as an authority on the process of mediation? Has the
mediator written any articles or served on any association boards, trained
others or made any speeches on the subject of mediation?
I have been on the board of the New
Mexico Mediation Association in previous years. I have served as trainer for
State employees as well as in private settings. I have most recently been a
co-trainer at the UNM Law School in Basic and Family mediation trainings.
What is his mediator's style? Mediator's processes vary significantly. It
is useful to understand that some mediators are highly directive, offering
evaluation of likelihood a judge will sign off on one or another option in
court and giving you concrete proposals for resolution of conflicts; other
mediators opt for a more facilitative approach empowering the couple over and
over again to make their own choices through deft questioning and discussion.
Neither is right or wrong. They are just different. Ask yourself how much in
control of the negotiation you and your spouse want to be. Get the mediators
to discuss their approach to mediation. It will help you become more
knowledgeable about the process.
I‘ll tell you about my style, which
ranges from facilitative to transformative. I am firmly committed to helping
people express their own needs in ways that others can hear clearly and
respond, not react. I am firmly committed to helping people make their own
decisions. I don’t decide anything, don’t make anybody do anything and don’t
What are the mediator's fees? These vary significantly from region to
region, but a comparison of various mediator's fees in your area will be
useful. Most mediators require payment at each session. Some will take a
retainer up front. There may be a flat fee for preparation of the Memorandum
of Understanding, the final document of the mediation. Clarify and compare.
I have a standard rate, which I will
tell you about. I charge mostly for direct mediation and preparation.
Sometimes I charge travel if long distances are involved. Generally, my
clients split the cost. I ask that participants bring their checkbooks.
Does the mediator offer a free consultation? This is a
great way to get to know the mediator and become familiar with the process. Not
everyone offers it, but you should ask. Sometimes mediators offer the
consultation free if the couple continues with the process and charge a
minimal fee if they don't.
Yes—I allow up to 30 minutes of
no-obligation timer (preferably with everyone present and face-to-face), to
allow you to meet me, learn about my style and format and make informed
decisions about proceeding or not.
Does the mediator have materials to help you make your decision? They might
include a website, a brochure, specific information on the mediator, overview
of divorce in your state, child support guidelines, issues to be covered in
divorce mediation, relevant articles. Materials are a reflection of
mediators. If you have the sense the materials are slap-dash, so might the process
be. If on the other hand, the materials are instructive, relevant and well
put together, it's more likely the mediator's process also will be.
I have lots of “homework” and handouts
for you. I believe that when people can do a lot of work outside the
mediation, everyone is better off.
What is the mediator's point of view about your having an attorney? Good
mediators recommend that attorneys for both parties review the agreement, a
Memorandum of Understanding, before it is signed. This assures you protection
from any legal oversights during the mediation. Mediators frequently can
supply clients with a list of mediation-friendly attorneys who will protect
you from those legal oversights without undermining your choice to
Some of my best friends are lawyers.
No, really. I subscribe to the statement above. Attorneys most often are
helpful, creative, supportive and provide the
reassurance that everything is done well.
How do you feel about the mediator? Chemistry counts. Divorce is never
fun. If you are uncomfortable with a mediator, for any reason, you should
seek another one.
I sometimes say, “If you are anxious,
that means you are paying attention.” Yes, mediation is not easy if done
well. Most people find sitting down with someone they’ve been in conflict
with to be stressful. It should not be overwhelming. Tell me your needs and
we can look for a format that will be safe, reasonably comfortable and
Let me know if you have experienced
domestic violence, so that we can establish reasonable safeguards. I do
not subscribe to the belief that mediation is always inappropriate in
situations of domestic violence. However, there are many safeguards that can
be put into place, if it is determined that mediation may be appropriate.
Julie Denny biography and additional articles:
let’s talk about your situation and
whether mediation with me might be productive.
Luisa Street [Map]
Fe, New Mexico 87505
me by email!
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