Mediation is gaining in popularity, so much so that there are a proliferation of people advertising that they do mediation. Some of them are attorneys, some of them are not. Many of them have had absolutely no training in mediation, yet will sit down with a couple and “mediate.” New York has no licensure for mediators, so it is difficult for the consumer to determine whether a person claiming to be a mediator is actually trained in the process or just trying to help facilitate a compromise. One can even get a mediation certificate online.
I have had three separate trainings (basic, advanced and divorce mediation) at a recognized training organization over the years, plus I attend continuing education classes and meetings specifically tailored to mediation practitioners. Many of these are provided by organizations I belong to such as the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation and the Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New York. These organizations and the classes and meetings they provide are invaluable in not only honing the mediation skill but in how to best run a mediation practice. When interviewing a mediator, knowing that they have applied to and been accepted by one of these organizations should give you some peace of mind that the mediator you are dealing with has the experience and knowledge to be able to properly mediate your dispute.
In May of 2017, I attended a meeting of the New York State Council of Divorce Mediators. Some of the choices of breakout sessions included mediating a divorce with a couple who has a special needs child and working with LGBTQ clients in a mediation. Having had clients in the past with litigated divorces with these issues, I was eager to learn about the ways in which mediation might be different for people with these needs.
In the past I have learned about how to recognize domestic violence within a mediation – what are the best screening methods and what to do if you suspect a component of domestic violence. Unlike a litigated divorce, a mediated divorce requires the couple to work together toward self-determined resolution of their issues. This is virtually impossible if one party is afraid of the other, and it is important to be able to recognize if that is happening. Often an abusive spouse will want to go to mediation so that they can get their way without the interference of the court system.
Just as you would do with an attorney when making a decision, ask a potential mediator where they got their training and what types of organizations they belong to. Inquire about their continuing education beyond what may be required for their law license. Once you have made a decision to go with a mediated process, you want to know that you are getting what you bargained for.
Deborah E. Kaminetzky, Esq.
Kaminetzky Law & Mediation, P.C.
132 Spruce Street
Cedarhurst, New York 11516