Reasons to use a Court Qualified Mediator

October 5, 2009 1 comment
iStock_000005651286SmallSo you are looking for mediator, or your attorney has set up a mediation with a mediator.  Why should you care is this mediator is Qualified by the Court?  I believe there are several reasons:
  • You can be sure they have specific training in mediation skills
  • They understand and are held to the Ethical Code for mediators
  • You can be assured that they have had some recent training and experience conducting mediation
  • They are part of the community and are giving back to the community by providing pro bono work each year.

Training:

To be included on the Utah State Court Roster of Qualified Mediators, a provider must meet specific training and experience standards click for requirements In truth the standards are not extremely high, but they have been set as a minimum standard for those being qualified by the court to mediate.  There are many mediators, or people calling themselves mediators, in the community who have not completed the required training and are therefore not included on the roster.  Some of these providers are experienced attorneys, therapists or retired judges or commissioners.  The questions is, why should someone who has experience in another field be required to complete training in mediation?  Why can’t they just use the skills they have to mediate?  The answer is simple…..  Mediation is Mediation, it is not acting as an advocate, therapist or judge and the skills used in those professions are often antithetical to the skills used by a mediator.

In most training programs for mediators, those being trained are encouraged to refrain from inserting their opinions or ideas into the disputes in which they are serving as mediator.  For those who have spent their careers doing the opposite, training and practice is needed to develop new skills.  With training, mediators are exposed to new skills and ways to facilitate negotiation and they practice these new skills in the training program as well as when getting the required experience to qualify for the court roster.  Without this training and experience, many of those who practice mediation and have never been trained as a mediator are a “one trick pony.”  I was recently talking with a local family law attorney who has attended mediation with a mediator who is not qualified on the court roster (this person was a retired judicial officer).  The family law attorney expressed to me that this mediator only had one intervention to try to get parties to settle and that was to tell them what they believed would happen in court and scare them into settlement.  In comparison, a mediator who has training has many different interventions they are taught to try to get parties to settle, non of which are to tell the parties what to do.  Mediation is a process which is built on party self-determination, when parties are scared by a possible outcome in court, their self-determination is taken away and fear of the unknown takes over.

Ethical Code:

One of the requirements to be qualified as a mediator in Utah is to take and pass an exam on the Ethical Code for mediators  Utah Ethical Code for Mediators In addition the mediators on the court roster are putting themselves under the scrutiny of the Court ADR Director to ensure they follow the Ethical Code.  Why in the world would you want to work with someone who is not willing to follow their professions Ethical Code and be held to those standards?  As a mediator, I have heard horror stories about things  a non-court roster mediator has done, and there is nothing that can be done about it.  Basically, if you work with a mediator who is not on the court roster, you run the risk of having no recourse if they act unethically (other than to pursue something civilly).  If a mediator who is on the court roster has had sanctions taken against them for ethical violations, those must be made public.  Mediators not on the roster can hide behind their breach’s of the ethical code and by doing this may continue to engage in unethical behavior with no recourse or public notice.  By working with a mediator on the court roster, you can be assured they are familiar with the ethical code and if they breach it, will be held accountable for this and not be allowed to continue this behavior unchecked.

Up to Date With the Field:

For a mediator to re-qualify for the Utah State Court Roster each year they must complete a minimum of 6 hours of training in the field of mediation or conflict resolution.  The field of mediation is in it’s beginning stages and new findings and ideas come out every year.  The Court requires that mediators complete a minimum of 6 hours of continuing education each year; this helps ensure that mediators stay current in the field and encourages them to learn and develop new skills.

When you choose a mediator who is not on the Court Roster, you run the risk of working with some one who is behind the times. There is so much research coming out regarding neuroscience, how the brain works and how people make decisions.  Mediators should keep up on these new findings so they can grow along with the field and not stay stuck in the past.

Giving Back to the Community:

Mediators who are on the court roster are required to document a minimum of 3 pro bono ( done for the public good without compensation) cases each year.  This requires mediators to not only make a living in the community but give back to the community as well.  Ask mediators you are considering hiring if they do volunteer work as a mediator, are they giving to the community or just taking?

The Choice is Yours:

Do you want to work with a mediator who has respect for the field and is therefore willing to jump through the hoops to qualify with the court?  Or are you OK with someone who is calling themselves a mediator because it is a popular term and yet they have no training or skills?

To access the Utah State Court Roster of Mediators Click Here