How do I know if a mediator will be fair to me?

ANSWER:

Mediator neutrality is one of the most crucial qualities of a good mediator.  Mediators are trained to understand and deal with any biases they may have without letting it interfere with the process of the mediation.  Couples should select a mediator based on clear criteria: education, training, years of practice, professional background, membership in family mediation organizations and certification in family mediation. If a mediator is selected in this way it is more likely that they will have had extensive training and experience in dealing with issues of neutrality.  If a husband or wife feels that the mediator is biased or is “acting” in a biased way, it is most useful if that person can verbalize their concerns and have a discussion with the mediator about it. It may be a miscommunication or misunderstanding that can be addressed.

Is mediation legally binding? What can I do if I don’t like the way the mediation is going?

ANSWER:

The agreement that is produced as a result of mediation is only legally binding after it has been signed.  The discussions and conversations that couples have during mediation are actually confidential and cannot be disclosed by the mediator.  The purpose of the confidential nature of mediation is for couples to feel free to communicate and negotiate without fear that what they say may be used against them in the future.  Many tentative agreements are reached during the mediation process on the way to coming to a final agreement of all of the issues.  It is important that both the husband and wife realize that as they go through the process they are making agreements in “good faith”, and to know that they have the right, up until they sign the final agreement, to reconsider or change some of the agreements that have been made.  This is especially important as mediation clients are encouraged to seek independent legal advice during the process of mediation and as they are coming to tentative agreements. Once all agreements have been reached, the final agreement signed and approved by the court, a mediated divorce agreement is as legally binding as a divorce agreement negotiated by attorneys.