11. Choosing a Mediator — Weeding Out the Clueless

But calling yourself a “mediator” doesn’t make it so. For some reason, everybody and their dog seems to think that they would be a gifted mediator. In Texas, you don’t need a law degree, an accounting degree, or any other formal training. Anyone is allowed to hold himself or herself out as a mediator after taking about the same number of “classroom hours” that would be needed to get through a one-semester course in basket weaving. To mediate child custody issues, one would need “an additional 24 hours of training in the fields of family dynamics, child development, and family law.” This “training” attracts the retired, those who have lost their jobs or gone broke in business, and numberless other combinations of people with no experience in the legal system— all of which would be fine, were it not for the fact that the very essence of the mediator function is advising people as to whether they should settle their lawsuit.

If your divorce involves significant property or any child custody, child support, or child-related issue, you should think long and hard before you agree to use a mediator without several years of experience in the court system. That’s the part that the mediation-as-the-solution-to everything people don’t get. Mediation is not just about moments of endearment and discussing peace on earth. Mediation is about helping real people make decisions about their lawsuits.

Robin M. Green, Divorce: When It’s the Only Answer (The Ordinary Mortals Guide, Inc., 2005), Chapter 14, pp. 216-217.