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From the Real Divorce Mediation Blog of Nancy Hudgins and Debra Synovec

Today I was planning to set out some questions for you to ask a mediator in order to determine if they are someone you might want to use as your mediator. However, I read an article, “Certification of Mediators Needed Now More than Ever” published in the Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR) Family Mediation News, Winter 2009, about certifying mediators which was written by Stephen Erickson of Erickson Mediation Institute , and decided to comment on this article first. Stephen Erickson is the Co-Chair of the ACR Taskforce on Mediator Certification and co-founder and second president of the Academy of Family Mediators (now merged into ACR) and is an esteemed mediation trainer and leader in the field of family mediation.

As he points out, the fundemetal and essential element of mediation is self-determination. This is the key to an agreement that is empowering for the participants!
Before the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM) merged with two other organizations to form Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR), it defined self determination as follows:
“The primary responsibility for the resolution of a dispute rests with the participants. The mediator’s obligation is to assist the disputants in reaching an informed and voluntary
settlement. At no time shall a mediator coerce a participant into agreement or make a substantive decision for any participant.”
As pointed out by the article two styles that people calling themselves mediators often use but which are not mediation because the styles do not support self-determination and actually promote coercion are:

  • Evaluative processes
  • Directive processes

Both of these processes usually involve the so called “mediator” giving their evaluation of some aspect of the issues and often times take place with the cleints in separate rooms; these methods fly in the face of real mediation, which is interest based and promotes self-determination. These methods are coercive and adjudicatve processes and clients generally find them to be extremely unsatisfactory.

So the first thing to ask a mediator is: Do you use a facilitave style or an evaluative or directive style?

If they say an evaluative or directive style, or if they do not know what you are talking about, call another mediator who is able to effectively mediate using a facilitative, non-evaluative style…after all…it is your life!


Debra Synovec

Debra Synovec, a Seattle-based mediator and lawyer, has mediated divorces for 20 years. She believes in empowering the parties to reach their own resolution. MORE >


Nancy Hudgins

Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class… MORE >

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