About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

What should you look out for in a family mediator?

Picking up on other posts about the need to check out expert qualifications Are the Experts Expert?) (and see Chris Mc Watter’s article on Using the Web to Find an Expert), I also agree with the post on mediation on Divorce Solicitor’s blog that it can be difficult to know what to look for in this fairly unregulated area. I also wonder if one of the problems with in-court conciliation (see earlier post) is that those doing mediation work are not mediation trained. There are, however, things to look out for in evaluating the expertise of a mediator.

Anyone can practice as a private family law mediator and can have gone on any course by any provider (or indeed none at all). Mediators may also be qualified as lawyers, social workers or counsellors but this is not compulsory. The lack of regulation of mediators is not satisfactory as the quality of mediators in the private field varies from excellent to poor and is not regulated by a core professional body. However, in order to take on public funded cases they have to be approved to the LSC standard which is usually done by the following route. Mediators undertake a foundation mediation course by a provider accredited by the UK College of Family Mediators. There are five providers who run family mediation courses to the standards of the UK College of Family Mediators. These are National Family Mediation (NFM), Resolution, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Hertfordshire Family Mediation and Key Mediation.

The foundation course usually contains five modules taken over the course of a year. The trainee must then complete a period of supervision taking cases from induction through to agreement and writing a portfolio relating core criteria to evidence from cases. On satisfactory completion of a portfolio it will be signed off by the supervisor and sent to the UK College of Family Mediators to be assessed. If passed, the mediator is deemed suitably qualified to undertake public funded mediations by the LSC. College membership, assessment and continuing professional development is specified as a requirement (except for members of the equivalent Law Society family mediation group) by the Legal Services Commission for family mediators who wish to work with publicly funded clients in England and Wales.

Therefore mediators accredited by the UK College of Family Mediators or who have completed a mediation course with one of the UK College’s approved providers and/or those who take on LSC mediations have been trained well. This does not mean that they are all excellent mediators nor that mediators without college approval do not do a good job but it is at least an assurance of a standard of basic and ongoing training and accreditation.

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