Having the “right” mediator can make a real impact, especially on your pocketbook. A really good mediator will often settle even the most difficult, highly contentious case.
In general, there are two “types” of mediators, attorney mediators and mental health mediators. There are a few mediators who are not either attorneys or mental health professionals, although most mediators have one background or the other. In a few instances, mediators are both attorneys and trained mental health professionals. There are also some teams of mediators, often made up of a man and a woman, in which one member of the team is a lawyer and the other is a psychologist or other mental health professional.
Often, it makes sense when the only contested issues concern children, to use as a mediator a child psychologist or other trained mental health professional. In the same vein, it may make sense to utilize an attorney (or in some cases a Certified Public Accountant) where the issues are related to finances.
The best place to start, to find a good mediator who is a match with the issues in your case, is to ask an attorney for referrals. Most domestic relations attorneys know a variety of mediators and are happy to make recommendations.
The Colorado Office of Dispute Resolution staffs various mediation offices throughout the state, and if the parties cannot pick a mediator themselves, they can obtain a low-priced mediator through one of these offices. Usually, the mediator will come to an office at the Courthouse where the case is pending.
If the parties cannot agree on a mediator, both sides can submit to the Court the names (with a resume) of proposed mediators, and ask the Court to choose one. The Court may choose a mediator from those names submitted, or may pick one with whom the Court is familiar. It usually is preferable, however, for the two sides to come to agreement on who to use as a mediator.
Another good source for referrals are friends or acquaintances who have had family law cases (often a divorce or a case for allocation of parental responsibilities). If they have used a mediator who they think did a good job, they will usually be willing to recommend their mediator to others.
Litigants who have an attorney representing them should ask their lawyer to make recommendations, and may wish to review the resumes of likely candidates to perform mediation in their case. The parties also may wish to call the potential mediators and have a brief conversation with them, to see if they seem knowledgeable in the issues that are contested in their case. Parties should not, however, attempt to run all the issues by the potential mediators – asking them to take sides in advance of the mediation is not allowed. Most mediators will not answer specific questions about issues in a case upon which the mediator may be appointed.
Once mediation has taken place, the mediator will provide to the Court a certificate showing that the mediation has occurred. This will notify the Court that the mediation requirement has been satisfied, and permit the parties to get a date for the final hearing, called a Permanent Orders Hearing.