By Amanda Singer
In the days of online mediation, it matters less and less where your mediator is located since you may never see the inside of their office. As a company that works with clients throughout California, although our headquarters are located in San Diego, I get from prospective clients sometimes whether they need to work with an online mediator who’s located where they live. In our perspective, when working with a mediator online, it matters less about where they’re physically located and more about things such as, do they have experience working and filing in the county you live in, do they have qualities to be a good mediator, and do you trust them.
Do they have experience working and filing in your county?
Just because they aren’t physically located where you live does not mean that you can’t work with them. However, it is important to make sure that they have experience working and filing in counties other than the one they’re in and hopefully have some experience with the specific county you live in. Now in California, for the most part, family law forms are the same no matter whether you’re filing in Ventura County or San Diego County. However, there are sometimes local forms that are required to go along with your filing. And some counties (like Riverside, for example) even have different filing fee amounts. It’s less important where your mediator is physically located and more important to make sure that they know what local forms are required and any nuances to the court you’ll need to be filing in. You don’t want to have to worry about whether your forms will be accepted or not when your online mediator files them. I know for us, we have worked on court forms in almost every county throughout the state and are very thorough in making sure that we know the differences in every county and the best way to file in that county.
While many courts offer e-filing these days, they’re all a bit different in what they allow. Ensure that if you work with a mediator in a different location, you feel confident that they’ve dealt with those courts before and know what they’re doing. There is a difference between mediators who work online and actually work throughout the state and those who just once in a blue moon get a case in another jurisdiction.
Are they the right mediator for you?
Without a doubt, the most important things to consider when choosing an online mediator is whether they have the training and qualities to be a good mediator and if they are the right mediator for you. Not every mediator is going to be a good fit for every client, depending on what you’re looking for, so it’s important to determine not only whether they have the right training and qualities to be a good mediator but whether they are right for you.
Most mediators, like ourselves, offer a free consultation that will provide you with the opportunity to meet them, ask them questions and learn about their process before you decide to work with them. Even if their consultation is not free, if you are serious about working with them, I would suggest paying for a consultation. This is an important time to understand more about what type of mediator they are, whether they have the training (such as a master’s degree in conflict resolution or a certified divorce financial analyst (CFA) training), and what experience they have. If you have a complex financial situation, you may want to make sure your mediator has a CDFATM so they can understand the financial issues.
While you may still end up working with an outside financial professional, it will work more smoothly if your mediator understands the issues. It’s also helpful to understand their level of experience and the number of mediations they’ve done. Are they just starting out, or have they been at this for 5 or 10 years? While working with a newer mediator can have its advantages, depending on the issues in your case, you may want a mediator with more experience. And if they don’t have that many years of experience, do they have other mediators within their office that they can turn to for advice and help on their cases? And ultimately, you have to make sure that they’re the right mediator for your situation.
Do you trust them?
Lastly, but I think probably the most important is whether you trust them. I think it is so important to make sure that any professional you work with is someone you trust, and your mediator, who will help you through one of the most difficult times in your life, is no exception. Again, this is where a free or paid consultation is helpful to determine how you feel about the mediator and whether you can trust them. If you don’t trust your mediator, the process won’t work as it needs to because you’ll constantly be questioning not only them but probably your spouse as well. You want to make sure that you feel comfortable with your mediators’ skills, expertise and that they have you and your spouses’ best interests at hand. While the mediator does not represent either you or your spouse, you should be able to trust that they are making sure that the best interests of the family and especially the children, if you have them, are being considered.
If you have questions about mediation and are interested in working with an online mediator throughout California who may not be located where you live but knows what needs to be done wherever you live, contact West Coast Family Mediation for a free consultation. Call (858) 736-2411 today for assistance.