Family Law Attorney

What to look for when choosing a family law mediator

No two family law cases are alike and a “one type fits all” attitude regarding choosing a mediator may not lead to the best result.

Some mediators take a very practical, no-nonsense approach to resolving a domestic relations dispute.  They will work quickly and efficiently to get to the point, and write up a solution.  They are more likely to weigh in on options and make recommendations based on their legal experience.  This process can be especially useful when the problem is relatively concrete and emotions are low.  This type of mediation is referred to a “evaluative” and I find it most effective in smaller cases involving money and perhaps some support issues.

Other mediators are more patient and focus on creating the time and space necessary so that the parties will understand that they have been heard. This kind of mediation allows for emotions to be expressed through the mediation process and seeks to create a path towards healing as well as a solution to the legal problem.  This kind of mediation is called “transformative” and is best deployed in resolving very difficult and emotional issue such as child custody.

Some mediators take the middle way and focus their mediation based on the parties’ interests.  This kind of mediation is called “facilitative” and a mediator using this approach will ask probing questions trying to understand what specific interests motivate the parties.  Using a facilitative style, a mediator seeks to reach agreement based upon common interests.  While their legal positions may appear to be hopelessly at odds, a good facilitative mediator will look beyond the stated legal positions to see if there room to reach an agreement based upon shared interests.  

Personally I like the facilitative and transformative mediation styles as they seem to reach underlying issues that can get to the heart of problem.  However, as a trial lawyer for 31 years, I am not shy from the more aggressive “evaluative” approach when the situation requires it.  

Guy Vitetta, Charleston

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