Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Guide to Divorce Mediation Training

Divorce Mediation Legal Guidelines

In the United States, there is currently no one nationwide licensing agency or organization that governs the actual certification of mediators, although, the Academy of Family Mediators does have a set standard for the profession, which is 60 hours of basic training in order to be considered a "mediator."

Across the country, each individual state has their own set of training requirements, generally 40 to 60 hours of training, that must be met in order for one to mediate in a court of law and be listed on the court's rosters. Additionally, the qualifications to serve as a domestic relations mediator will also vary depending upon your state of residence. In the state of Michigan, for example, in order to legally serve as a divorce mediator, applicants must either be a licensed:

- Attorney
- Psychologist
- Counselor
- Marriage and family therapist

Or, hold a master's degree in:

- Social work
- Counseling
- Marriage and family therapy

Or, hold a graduate's degree in behavioral science, or have five years experience in matters of family counseling. Also in this state, mediators must also then obtain eight additional hours of advanced training during every two year period in order to stay abreast of the current laws.

The Different Types of Divorce Mediation Training

- Advanced Courses: Advanced workshops and seminars are designed for the mediator who needs to brush up on their skills, learn new laws, discover different styles of mediation, and delve deeper into issues such as financial topics, domestic violence, and learning how to handle difficult cases.

- Basic Courses: Basic divorce mediation courses are usually 40 to 60 hours long divided over a period of five to seven days on average and cover issues such as custody, child and spousal support, and the applicable divorce laws in your area.

- Computer-Based Courses: Done via the internet, this type of course is self-paced and usually includes instructional aids such as CDs, downloads, web forums, testing, and email support.

- Webinars: For law firms and organizations interested in group mediation training, especially refresher courses, there are several training institutions that offer webinars, where entire groups of people can learn together without ever leaving their workplace or office.

Sample 6-Day Divorce Mediation Training Course

Day 1

- Introducing and explaining mediation to clients.
- Adopting an air of neutrality and conveying it to clients.
- Building rapport and trust.
- Identifying client's goals and maintaining focus.

Day 2

- Learning the art of respectful listening.
- Reviewing client's financial information.
- Finding ways of increasing a client's options.
- Learning legal issues such as grounds for divorce, division of assets, spousal maintenance.

Day 3

- Setting agendas and following them.
- Creating viable parenting plans.
- Knowing how to gauge client's underlying interests and goals.
- Learning to control personal bias.

Day 4

- Learning to deal with different personality types.
- Discovering ways of empowering the weaker client.
- Perfecting the art of rewording a client's demands.
- Recognizing signs of domestic violence or abuse.

Day 5

- Learning how to take back control of a heated discussion.
- Learning the importance of consulting outside experts when necessary.
- How to draft a mediation agreement.
- Preparing clients for court.

Day 6

- Learning how to deal with combative couples.
- How to develop a marketing plan and set up practice.
- Preparing for your first client.
- Receiving your certificate and course materials.

Photo: Renjith Krishnan

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