Standards of Practice - Family and Divorce Mediation

Content taken from the Association for Conflict Resolution and edited by Papa & Roberts, PLLC

The Standards for divorce and family mediation include topics such as domestic violence, child abuse, the issue of the best interests of the children, and how mediation can help parents to address such issues them in divorce.

The Symposium, which developed the Standards, included representatives from the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM), Association of Family Courts and Community Professionals (AFCC), American Bar Association's (ABA) Family Section, and other state, national, and regional organizations. The Standards of practice represented a consensus of the best suggestions made over a two year period in which the Symposium met.

The Standards had previously been adopted by the AFCC and the ABA Family Section, as well as several state mediation organizations.

The General Standards of Practice-Family and Divorce Mediation

STANDARD 1: A family mediator shall recognize that mediation is based on the principle of self-determination by all participants.

STANDARD 2: A family mediator shall be qualified by education and training prior to undertaking the mediation.

STANDARD 3: A family mediator shall facilitate the participants' understanding of what mediation is and assess their capacity to mediate before the participants reach an agreement to mediate.

STANDARD 4: A family mediator shall conduct the mediation process impartially. He/she shall disclose all actual and potential grounds of bias and conflicts of interest reasonably known to the family mediator. The participants shall be free to retain the mediator by a written waiver of conflicts of interest. However, if bias or a conflict of interest clearly impairs a mediator's impartiality, the mediator shall withdraw from mediation, regardless of the express agreement of the participants.

STANDARD 5: A family mediator shall fully disclose and explain the basis of any compensation received, as well as fees and charges to the participants.

STANDARD 6: A family mediator shall shape the mediation process so that the participants make decisions based on sufficient knowledge and information.

STANDARD 7: A family mediator shall maintain the confidentiality of all details acquired in the mediation process, unless the mediator is allowed or required to reveal the information by law (or agreement) of the participants.

STANDARD 8: A family mediator shall aid participants in determining how to promote the best interests of children.

STANDARD 9: A family mediator shall recognize a family situation involving child abuse / neglect and take appropriate action to shape the mediation process accordingly.

STANDARD 10: A family mediator shall recognize a family's situation involving domestic abuse and take appropriate action to shape the mediation process accordingly.

STANDARD 11: A family mediator shall suspend or halt the mediation process when the mediator reasonably believes that a participant is unable to effectively participate in the mediation process.

STANDARD 12: A family mediator shall be honest in the advertisement and solicitation for mediation cases.

STANDARD 13: A family mediator shall acquire as well as maintain professional competence in mediation.

Family Mediation Overview, Terms, and Definitions

Family and Divorce Mediation - Family and divorce mediation ("family mediation" or "mediation") is a process in which a mediator, (who is an impartial third party), facilitates the resolution of family disputes by promoting the participants' voluntary agreement. The family mediator assists with communication, encourages understanding and helps focus the participants on their common and individual interests. The family mediator works with mediation participants to explore options, make decisions and reach their own agreements.

Family mediation is not a substitute for the need of family members to obtain independent legal advice, counseling or therapy; Nor is it appropriate for all families. Experience has established that family mediation is a valuable option for many families because it can:

  • Raise the self-determination of participants and their ability to communicate;
  • Promote the best interests of children;
  • Reduce the emotional / economic costs associated with family dispute resolution.

Effective mediation requires that the family mediator be qualified by experience, training, and temperament; that the mediator remain impartial; that the participants reach decisions voluntarily; that their decisions are based on sufficient factual data; that the mediator is aware of the impact of culture and diversity; and that the best interests of children are considered. Furthermore, the mediator should be prepared to identify families whose history includes domestic or child abuse.

The above Model Standards of Practice for Family and Divorce Mediation ("Model Standards") aim to perform three major functions:

  1. Serve as a conduct guide for family mediators;
  2. Inform the mediating participants what they can expect; and
  3. Promote public confidence in mediation as a process for resolving family disputes.

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