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What Makes a Mediator an Expert?

What Makes a Mediator an Expert?

One of the most challenging uncertainties of any separation or divorce is simply: “How do we do it?” You may have emotionally decided that you want to move on, but how do you actually do it? How do you untangle and resolve everything with your partner so that you can get from where you are now to where you want to be?

First, ask yourself what you want. Put it in words. And do you know what the most common words are that separating couples say they want? ‘Peace.’ ‘Resolution.’ ‘Fairness.’ When couples get past all the emotions of anger, sadness, guilt, and frustration, they just want to move on. They want peace.

Why Involve a Mediator?

Mediation is about creating a fair resolution. It’s about brokering peace. In fact, if you dig into the root of the word, ‘mediate’ derives from ‘mediatus’—an old Latin term meaning “placed in the middle.” And that is the job of a mediator: to be placed in the middle.

A judge, on the other hand, is there to pass judgment. It’s right there in the old Latin job description; from combining root words that mean ‘the law’ and ‘to decide.’ It is their job to decide the law—not necessarily to create peace—but to process all the facts of the case, apply statutory laws and legal precedents, and cast a decision that is just in the eyes of the law.

One of the main reasons that separating couples involve a mediator is to avoid the contentious process of the courts. Rather than hiring lawyers to persuade a judge or make legal assertions and accusations, couples instead opt to involve someone “placed in the middle.”

What Qualifies a Mediator?

Many professional mediators have backgrounds in law. In fact, some are lawyers or retired judges. Other mediators come from backgrounds in psychology, therapy, social work, and other disciplines of de-escalating disputes and resolving conflicts. Of course, the best of both worlds would be a combination of therapeutic experience and education in divorce law!  Each state has its own requirements to qualify a mediator, though it’s generally an unregulated profession. 

In California, the state Supreme Court lays out model standards for mediators. This includes a mediation training program of at least 40 hours, followed by a minimum of 2 mediations of at least 2 hours that are observed by (or co-mediated with) a senior mentor mediator. As with hiring any professional—be they a mechanic or a mediator—experience is key. A minimum of 2 mediations of at least 2 hours is not much experience, so seek out professional mediators who have been doing divorce and relationship resolutions for years.In the end, what qualifies a mediator most is how you feel around that person. How comfortable do you feel with them? How confident are you with their experience? Remember, it’s not a mediator’s job to judge you or your relationship. In fact, a good mediator isn’t there to decide your fate at all. A good mediator is there to be “placed in the middle” and bring you and your partner together to that middle ground.


Good mediators are experts at peace. They are not about passing judgment. They are not about litigation and adversarial methods. They are about bringing two parties together, helping them create an equitable resolution, and forging an amicable path forward. If you choose to engage a professional mediator in your divorce, you will almost certainly not get everything you want. Neither will your partner. But what you can hope to get is resolution. And fairness. And peace.

To learn more about mediation and how a professional mediator can help you move forward, please contact us at SouthBay Mediation. With hundreds of clients guided to peaceful resolutions and settlements, we have years of experience in relationship mediation and being “placed in the middle.” Helping couples work through painful conflicts to find common ground and peace is our passion.