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What should you look for when choosing a mediator?

A mediated divorce can save a couple considerable time, money and stress. If you have children, the mediation process can provide a good basis for a healthy, cooperative co-parenting relationship. While you can each have an attorney and other professionals advising you as you go through the process, you'll be responsible for working out your property, support and custody agreements with the guidance of a neutral third-party mediator.

If you and your spouse have decided that you can work together to have a mediated divorce, you'll need to choose a mediator. What traits should you look for as you consider whom to hire?

First, you need someone you both trust. You'll be sharing very personal (and often unpleasant) information about your lives.

A mediator needs to have empathy and understanding for both of you, but they should never "take sides." You want someone who will listen carefully to what each of you says and be able to summarize it accurately. You don't want someone who gets mired in the details. They should also be able to lower the temperature in the room if emotions run high.

A mediated divorce is certainly more informal than a litigated one. However, you want a mediator who will bring structure to it. They shouldn't allow one spouse or the other to take over, and they should be able to bring the discussion back to the topic at hand if you wander off into other areas or begin rehashing old grievances.

As you talk with potential mediators, you'll be able to determine how comfortable you are with them. It's essential that both of you feel good about your choice. You'll be spending a number of hours in a room with this person discussing sensitive subjects.

You should also find out how they will bill you. Usually, mediators charge by the hour. Find out if they charge for any work done outside of the mediation sessions.

By choosing an experienced mediator whom you and your spouse both feel has your best interests and those of your children at heart, you can work to craft divorce agreements that you can feel good about as you move forward.

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