The Time Has Come for Licensing and Best Practices
I've long been saying it will take a tragedy following services provided by unqualified mediators before the States will move in to set standards and require licensing. Here's the first breath that will stir the leaves of change in Sacramento.
Unqualified mediators prey on broken families by Linda Diebelof the Toronto Star.
When Miriam and Andrew Grenville's 20-year marriage ended in 2006, they agreed on one thing – protecting their children from collateral damage was their utmost priority.
A Toronto-area family's problems with the mediator they'd hired to work on their daughter's messy divorce reached a nadir when her 6-year-old son came home with a bizarre story.
During a supervised visit with his father in a restaurant, the mediator told the waitress she was the little boy's "mommy."
"He was very distressed, very, because he didn't know what was going on," said a female family member, asking to remain anonymous because their case is still before the courts.
The family was aghast but initially didn't complain. They were afraid to fire the mediator, whom they paid more than $15,000, because they feared a negative report in family court.
"Everybody told us, `Don't make the mediator mad'," she said.
When they finally did try to file a complaint they found they had nowhere to turn: mediators aren't regulated in Ontario.
Instead, anybody can hang a shingle and plunge into a highly sensitive area of working with divorcing couples and their children at a time when most are financially and emotionally vulnerable.
Listen, this is an access to justice issue, not simply a problem that the legal profession -- particularly those legal professionals who are mediators -- can ignore.
"I don't do family law" or "I don't work with the kind of mid- to low-income people who can be taken advantage of in this manner," is no excuse.
This is an issue that we must now all join together in an attempt to vigorously address, retaining flexibility and creativity in the profession while at the same time preventing the practice of mediation by the unscrupulous.
I ask my readers to please weigh in on this issue. I do not have the time to spearhead this effort but will offer my services as a team member to immediately begin addressing the ways in which we can impose standards and retain independence.
Geoff? (welcome back!) Diane? Stephanie? Gini? Colm (pre-blogger)? Les? Mike? John? Eric? Phyllis? Jan? Carrie? Paula? Kristina? Josh? Dina? Christopher? John? Tammy? Colin? Leo? the Indisputably bloggers?
For responses from other bloggers that are not included in the comments below, see the following:
Chris Annunziata's Thoughtful Opposition to Licensing here -- primarily arguing that licensure would not prevent abuse; and, would bring the weight of inefficient and intrusive state bureaucracies into the process. (But don't trust my summary; click on the link to get it direct from the horse's mouth)