Pick a Mediator, Any Mediator?

Hopefully from January next year, the Family Mediation Council (FMC) will have in place requirements for gaining accreditation as a family mediator. Many of us in the trade say “At long last”. Probably the vast majority of people who are not family mediators will scratch their heads and wonder what on earth that all means, particularly given that there are lots of family mediation practitioners currently offering their services to the public.

Surely, that majority will ask, all those mediators are already accredited? Well the answer has to be “No”. Indeed that will still be the answer, even once the FMC scheme is in place as there will still be nothing to prevent anybody who wants to do so from hanging up their shingle and calling themselves a family mediator. What it will mean is that you will be able to ask any mediator whether he/she has FMC accreditation.

What that accreditation will mean is that the mediator has a level of actual experience as a mediator beyond simply having attended an approved foundation training course. That is because accreditation will only be given to those who, among other things, have completed a portfolio which will demonstrate that they have carried out a certain number of successful mediations over a period of no more than two years.

If you are a solicitor or other professional advising one of your clients on the choice of a family mediator, you can already ask questions of any family mediator to ascertain whether he/she either has the level of actual mediation experience which will justify FMC accreditation when it does come in or already holds qualifications which will provide a passport to accreditation. Broadly, at present, that last means any mediator who is fully recognized to carry out legally aided work and/or has a senior level of recognition from their professional body, for example, FMA Senior Mediator Status.

As a solicitor you wouldn’t dream of instructing anyone but a qualified forensic accountant to carry out a share valuation or anyone other than a fully trained valuer to value a property as a joint single expert. Why then would you recommend that a client attend mediation with a mediator who may have barely any experience of mediation since having attended foundation training?

And “Yes” I will declare my interest in this as both Vanessa Stirum and I are fully recognized for legal aid work and hold FMA Senior Mediator Status and have done for many years.

I am sure that there are many talented people out there who wouldn’t yet achieve FMC accreditation but who will eventually, just as you can undoubtedly pick out the talented trainee solicitors in your own practices.

Surely however, you owe it to your clients to ask a proposed mediator the appropriate questions. I can’t think that any mediator will mind giving you the answers.

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