Before I become a signed up client of a legal practice, I have to be told who will be representing and advising me and what that person’s level of qualification is. I therefore know whether I am speaking to a trainee solicitor or a partner. That seems a reasonable requirement so that the client knows what level of expertise they are being offered, and paying for.

One of the current issues in the world of family mediation is that it is not easy for prospective clients to ascertain the level of experience or qualification of a mediator whom they are considering engaging. A client can of course always ask a straight question. However, many people find that difficult. They also, perhaps not unreasonably, assume that the very title “family mediator” is a badge mark.

Mediation is a relatively new profession. I am sure that, in time, we will have established levels of qualification. Indeed, there are moves to introduce a quality mark for all mediators. Such has existed for many years for any mediatior wanting to obtain a contract to offer publicly funded (legally aided) family mediation. Any mediator who is recognised to carry out publicly funded mediation must have met  certain criteria. Doing so  involves the preparation of a portfolio based on concluded cases which has to be marked and reach a certain standard. It is clear that any such mediator has not only passed through certain hoops but also has a level of experience in actual mediation.

The reality is that there currently are no such requirements on mediators setting up a practice where clients pay for their services without public funding. Indeed much of the terminology has become muddled so that newly trained mediators emerging from training courses with no real life experience are sometimes described as “accredited”. “Accreditation” for either a Family Mediators Association (otherwise now known as “senior mediator” status) or Resolution mediator in fact means that a mediator has reached and passed an advanced level qualification. That, again, involves the submission of a portfolio based on actual mediation cases on which that mediator has worked.

A couple trying to sort out children and/or financial issues on divorce, is seeking assistance in resolving matters which will impact on their future financial security and on the happiness of their children. These are self-evidently vital matters.

There will one day, I believe, be a way for such couples to find out very easily what level of experience their chosen mediator has so that they can make an informed choice. Until that day arrives, if a solicitor wanting to refer in to mediation or a client wishing to self refer, wants to know what level of experience a family mediator has, I am afraid that they need to ask.

My experience is that many solicitors making enquiries to find a mediator for a client referral usually ask about cost rather than anything else when their clients might actually want to know how many mediation hours a mediator has under his or her belt.


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