In choosing a marital mediator, the background and experience of a mediator, the geographical location, the mediator’s hourly rate, and the experience of the marital mediator are all important considerations. There is also the intangible personal “fit” between mediator and the clients which promotes a successful marital mediation. The compatibility of styles, values, and personality of the clients and the mediator will be evident in the first marital mediation session.
Discuss the use of outside reviewing counsel with your marital mediator. Mediators are permitted to provide legal information, but cannot (even if they are attorneys) provide legal advice to their mediation clients. If a postnuptial agreement is being formulated in the context of the marital mediation, and if it is one that affects marital (or inheritance) rights, it is very important to have outside counsel to advise each of the spouses separately.
Marital mediation relies on full disclosure and good faith. If a written agreement results, there must be transparency and fair dealing in its formulation. If one party is in marital mediation to gain advantage over the other in a divorce, the marital mediation won’t be successful, and the written agreement resulting from it will not be enforceable.
Like marital counseling, martial mediation is confidential. The mediator is not permitted to reveal any matters discussed in the mediation.
To choose a marital mediator, look at the mediator’s website and ask questions. See what mix of work the mediator does. If you have “legal” issues that may require in-depth analysis and property agreements, you might choose a lawyer/mediator. If your conflict is more interpersonal, including infidelity and family issues, you may choose a marital mediation with a mental health background. Neither of these are fixed rules. Lawyer mediators are often excellent at helping with interpersonal conflict problems, and martial mediators from other backgrounds are often good at resolving and analyzing financial issues.
Get the outside help you need. This may be a consult with an estate planning lawyer, an individual therapist, or a child specialist. Don’t think that marital counseling and marital mediation are mutually exclusive. Many couples in marital mediation are also meeting with a couples counselor at the same time. Marriage is valuable. Put all the resources you can at your service.
Don’t expect marital mediation to solve all your problems. But remember — if one nasty, intractable problem that causes conflict and bad feelings is resolved or lessened through marital mediation, your entire marriage might begin to change. Good feelings can begin to be present again. Things can rapidly to change for the better with tiny, incremental, positive changes between spouses.