How to Select Your Mediator

At a minimum, a mediator must be qualified under the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code by completing a minimum of 40 classroom hours of dispute resolution training by an organization approved by the court. If the case involves the parent-child relationship, he or she must also have completed an additional 24 hours of training in the fields of family dynamics, child development, and family law.

Here are some questions to ask to determine if the mediator is appropriate for your case:

  1. Is the mediator a credentialed mediator by the Texas Mediator Credentialing Association?
  2. If no, why not? If yes, what credentialing designation does the mediator have: Candidate for Credentialed Mediator, Credentialed Mediator, Credentialed Advanced Mediator or the highest designation, Credentialed Distinguished Mediator?
  3. Why is credentialing important? The higher the credentialing designation, the more mediation experience a mediator must have annually. Additionally, there is a continuing mediation education requirement of 15 hours each year, of which 10 hours must be on mediation topics and 3 of which must be related to mediation/negotiation ethics. Five hours may be substantive course material.
  4. Do you really want a mediator who met the minimum qualifications years ago and has done a few mediations a year since then or a credentialed mediator who meets the annual requirements for credentialing?
  5. Do you want your mediator to be a lawyer who has years of litigation experience and subject matter knowledge of the law in dispute or a non-lawyer who has no trial experience and no subject matter knowledge? Has the mediator trained other mediators? Has the mediator written articles on mediation and negotiation?
  6. Can the mediator connect well with the parties and establish rapport and trust with the parties? According to a survey by Northwestern University Law School professor Stephen Goldberg, veteran mediators believe that establishing rapport and trust is more important to effective mediation than employing specific mediation techniques and tactics. Goldberg’s research provides two important lessons. One is the importance of relationship building, especially in contentious situations. Some measure of trust is required before people will open up and reveal their true interests and goals. The other lesson is that the hallmark of an artful and successful mediation is each party feels listened to and acknowledged, rather than maneuvered and manipulated.
  7. Does the gender of the mediator matter? Will a male or female mediator be more effective with the parties? Which party will the most difficult to reach an agreement?
  8. Does the mediator need to be a soft, moderate or hard agent of reality? The mediator might need to soft with one party and hard with the other party. The lawyers for each party will have to inform the mediator. Remember, the mediator cannot impose a ruling or force a party into an agreement.
  9. Will the mediator be empathic to each party’s feelings, concerns, financial and emotional stressors, fears and insecurities?
  10. Will the mediator be prepared by knowing about the case, the issues and what each side wants, but more importantly, why they want what they want?

It is important for you to feel comfortable with your choice in a mediator to help you in your case. Carefully consider these questions when making a decision, and make sure your mediator meets your standards. The more confident you are in your mediator, the more easily he or she can help you reach a conclusion in your case.

Tim Whitten is certified as a Family Law Specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and is committed to helping clients resolve family law conflicts in a way that preserves family relationships. If you have a family law need and you think that our style and philosophy may work for you, please contact us. We can provide additional information, or set up a consultation. Please call (512) 790-5066 or contact us by email here.