Family Mediator

The Job and What's Involved

As a family mediator, it would be your job to help divorcing or separating couples agree on arrangements for their children and finances without using the courts.

You would be an impartial third party helping clients discuss issues constructively. You would not tell people what to do, or give them counselling or legal advice, although you could give legal information if it helped them make an informed decision.

Your work would involve:

  • Meeting clients jointly or separately, to explain the mediation process and identify issues.
  • Holding further meetings until issues are resolved.
  • Listening to each party's feelings and concerns.
  • Getting details about clients' financial circumstances.
  • Discussing issues like child residence and contact, property and money.
  • Suggesting and discussing workable solutions.
  • Helping clients to consider all options.
  • Keeping discussions fair, equal and focused.
  • Keeping accurate and confidential records of discussions.
  • Summarising agreements in writing.
  • Recognising when mediation is not working.
  • Liaising with solicitors and courts when necessary.

In some jobs you may also directly consult with children, or use your skills to mediate in other family conflict situations.

In many full-time jobs you would work standard office hours, although some services offer evening and Saturday morning appointments to clients. Part-time and sessional work is common.

You would be based in an office at a local family mediation service or solicitors' practice, and see clients on an appointment basis.

Full-time salaries are normally between £20,000 and £29,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The number of opportunities for this type of work are stable, but there is still fierce competition, especially for full-time jobs.

You could be employed by local family mediation services, charities and other not-for-profit organisations, private mediation practices or firms of solicitors.

Vacancies may appear in the local press, and on mediation organisations' websites. However, you may need to approach mediation services directly for training and work opportunities, as jobs may not always be advertised.

Education and Training

You could come to family mediation from a range of backgrounds, including law, social work, counselling, therapy or education. Law qualifications are not essential, although some family law solicitors and legal executives choose to train and practise as mediators.

Whatever your background, you will need paid or voluntary experience of working with families. It would also be helpful to have experience in other types of mediation or conflict management.

If you do not have a relevant professional background such as social work or law, you could get experience though volunteering with families in settings like child contact centres, family support centres and some counselling services.

Volunteering at a local community mediation service (helping to solve neighbour disputes) can also be useful, particularly in services that also offer opportunities for mediating in disputes between young people and their families.

To become a family mediator, you could either apply to a family mediation service for a trainee position, or fund your own training and find a placement with a service during or after your training.

To be accepted for family mediation training you will normally need education to degree/diploma level, or substantial relevant work experience. You will also go through a selection process to show that you have the right personal qualities and skills to be a family mediator.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

To qualify as a family mediator you must complete training that is run by or approved by one of the member organisations of the Family Mediation Council (FMC).

The member organisations are:

- National Family Mediation
- Family Mediators' Association
- ADR Group
- College of Mediators
- Resolution
- The Law Society

Your training would involve a series of short courses spread over few months, plus self-study and written assignments. You would cover subjects including conflict theory, mediation skills, family law and child welfare. You would also need to complete some supervised practical experience.

Once you have completed foundation training, you can work alongside another mediator or conduct private mediations. To be able to work alone with legal aid clients, you must be assessed as competent by the Legal Services Commission. On average it takes around two years from starting your foundation training to reach this stage.

You should keep your skills and knowledge up to date throughout your career. To remain a member of a recognised FMC organisation, you must take part in ten hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) each year, and meet regularly for supervision and support with a mentor, known as a professional practice consultant (PPC).

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A family mediator needs:

  • Excellent communication and listening skills.
  • The ability to relate to people from all backgrounds.
  • Empathy, tact and sensitivity.
  • An assertive manner, to keep discussions moving forward.
  • A fair, objective and non-judgemental attitude.
  • Patience, commitment and enthusiasm.
  • The flexibility to work solo, in pairs or as a group, as necessary.
  • Creative thinking.
  • The ability to deal with people who may be upset, vulnerable, angry or distressed.
  • A good understanding of family law and the ability to apply theory to practice.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience you could set up your own mediation practice, train and supervise other mediators, or become a service manager.

Alternatively, you could use mediation skills in a number of other careers such as housing, social work or advice work.

Get Further Information

Family Mediation Council,
PO Box 593, 7 The Close,
Exeter EX1 9HG

Family Mediators Association,
Grove House, Grove Road,
Bristol BS6 6UN
Tel: 0117 946 7062

National Family Mediation,
Margaret Jackson Centre,
4 Barnfield Hill, Exeter EX1 1SR
Tel: 01392 271610

College of Mediators,
Alexander House, Telephone Avenue,
Bristol BS1 4BS
Tel: 0117 904 7223

ADR Group,
Grove House, Grove Road,
Redland, Bristol BS6 6UN
Tel: 0117 946 7180

Central Office, PO Box 302,
Orpington, Kent BR6 8QX
Tel: 01689 820272

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