There are many qualities that contribute to a person being an effective divorce mediator. Above all is the capacity to listen and have compassion for both parties, and not lean to one side, but see both sides.
Like a judge, a qualified divorce mediator is someone who’s highly knowledgeable in New Jersey divorce and family law. They should have the experience to know when to be stern when required and accommodating when necessary, as well as when to apply or relieve pressure. Often, retired judges can make excellent mediators depending on what type of judge they were on the bench. To be a successful mediator one must understand children, the joys and responsibilities of parenting, the economics of business ownership, accounting, medical issues, taxes, wills and estates, and, most certainly, personalities.
An effective divorce mediator is someone who is committed to:
- Getting to know the parties.
- Understanding what they really need.
- Teaching divorcing couples about the process and how they can get through it with the least amount of economic loss and emotional pain possible.
- Working with them to achieve the most amicable solution.
But it’s not totally up to the divorce mediator.
Divorcing couples have to learn that a courtroom litigation process is not going to be helpful to them, and they need to avoid the things that will hurt them or cost them money. Some people learn quickly and some don’t learn at all. Some are out to inflict pain on the other and recoil at the idea of finding common ground. However, a mediator’s job is to teach divorcing couples how to navigate their emotions and the issues that can suck them into an emotional whirlpool if they’re not willing to negotiate in good faith. Some see the light while others resist, but the fact is: if it can be achieved, a mediated settlement is 100% better than a litigated divorce by trial.
A good divorce mediator must have a wide breadth of knowledge.
Beyond knowledge of the law, there are many qualities that a good divorce mediator needs to have outside of being able to navigate the concerns and demands of the rival parties. A good mediator needs to apply a bit of salesmanship to get both parties to buy into the mediation process.
When a couple is ending a marriage, particularly if there are business interests or wealth involved, there are sophisticated issues that very often come into play. A judge sitting on the bench doesn’t necessarily have the bandwidth to get to know both parties, nor take a deeper dive into these issues unless they already have significant background knowledge. Take accounting, for example. Many judges don’t have the background to make calls on complicated accounting issues, such as discounted cash flow analysis, asset-based valuations, or how to build a cap rate to evaluate a business as part of the overall division of the assets and liabilities.
If there are business or personal accounting affairs that need to be untangled, finding the right mediator can make all the difference in how the divorce is settled.
A good divorce mediator has professional relationships to call on.
In addition to their own knowledge, an experienced mediator will have access to an added level of expertise via key professional contacts. From accountants and mortgage bankers to therapists and appraisers, a good divorce mediator can draw on many professionals to help them navigate the finer points that lead to a final agreement.
For example, often when a couple divorces one party wants the house and the other wants their name off the mortgage. Through well-established professional relationships a good mediator will be able to quickly investigate if the remaining spouse will qualify for a mortgage. Similarly, if the party doesn’t qualify, a mediator might even help that party choose a realtor to list the property for sale. The roles that a mediator plays in the finalization of divorce can be many. The better the mediator, the more willing and able they are to engage on a more granular level to the benefit of their clients.
Furthermore, these kinds of relationships are often integral to the final resolution. In almost every divorce mediation there is one or more sticking points that need to be surmounted. Often these can be resolved with the help of outside experts, who in the end can figure prominently in a final outcome.
A good mediator diffuses emotional intensity and combativeness.
A good mediator reads the room and finesses hot-button issues. Every mediator understands that both parties are anxious and worried. And sometimes one or both enter the mediation process with knives already drawn. But the quest for the mediator is to lift the darkness in the room and let a little light shine through. An exceptional mediator reads the room and has a ready response depending on the circumstances at hand. For example, it might require opening the session with each spouse saying something positive about the other. The right tactic in the right situation can act as a springboard to a civilized conversation, rather than an open invitation to gripes and arguing.
An empathic approach is also called for in the most delicate part of the mediation: typically parenting time. Terms and labels that used to be commonplace in divorce are now replaced by more thoughtful concepts that better describe the ultimate arrangement. This softens the blow and ensures the focus is on the welfare of the children. A good mediator, working on behalf of both parties, wants nothing more than a settlement that is the most agreeable to both. And that’s a good place to be.
Good divorce mediators are hard to find. Skoloff & Wolfe makes finding one easy.
If a judge, attorney, or your own research suggests divorce mediation might be right for you, call Skoloff & Wolfe. Our family law attorneys have vast experience representing clients through divorce, whether utilizing mediation, arbitration, or litigation. To learn more, call (973) 992-0900.