Mediators work collaboratively with lawyers, mental health professionals, coaches, financial planners and valuators, among other professionals. This cooperation with such important professionals plays a critical role in making mediation an effective and positive process. The recent growth of collaborative practice has helped develop a strong base of professionals who are accustomed to being jointly retained in a cooperative negotiation environment. Some professionals commonly involved in mediations are:
Accountants and Business Valuators
These experts are often used in mediation to save the parties the time and expense of each hiring their own experts to support their positions. Many family mediations involve challenging income determinations; valuing assets such as family companies or pensions; or finding creative and mutually beneficial ways of dealing with tax issues or property transfers.
Jointly-retained accountants or valuators can help parties arrive at figures in which both parties and their lawyers have confidence. Their neutral expertise can be essential to a fair, informed and successful mediation process.
Such experts will often be able to charge less for their services in mediation because they can be confident that they will not be called to court, and therefore do not feel they have to provide a “litigation-proof” report.
Property Appraisers and Actuaries
In family and commercial mediations, appraisers and actuaries can be retained jointly by the parties to arrive at mutually agreeable values for residential and commercial real estate, household contents and pensions.
There is a large cadre of skilled and experienced financial planners who can help both parties have confidence in the property division and support settlements being considered.
Mental Health Professionals and Coaches
These professionals are often helpful to parties and/or their children in the mediation process.
Individual and/or family counselling is often considered, particularly where children have special needs or one or both parties or a child has a history of mental illness. It is not uncommon for parents and/or children to be struggling with depression, anxiety, overwhelming fear, or intense anger. Working with a coach or therapist as part of the mediation process can help parties get what they need without feeling defensive about it.
Such experts can also be retained jointly by the parties to help them consider and evaluate various parenting options; effectively address specific parenting challenges and concerns; work together to safely convey difficult information to the children; or obtain information that will help them make good decisions in mediation.
Difficult emotional and clinical issues involving children are often arise in family mediation. In such situations, the parents may wish to jointly retain a child psychologist for advice and support.
And mental health professionals can play an important role in mediation where the parties cannot agree on their children’s wishes. Where it is not appropriate for the children to speak directly with the mediator, the parties can jointly retain a specialist who can meet with the children and present their views and preferences to the mediation process.
Sometimes, where one parent has concerns about the other parent’s abilities or behaviour, the parties can agree to jointly retain a professional for an assessment and/or opinion. Such opinions are not binding, and cannot be used in court, but can be very helpful to the parents in reaching decisions that are in the best interests of their children.
Disputes that are being resolved in mediation often raise unique and challenging questions. Bringing an objective “expert” into the process can help the parties make informed choices and help move them beyond impasse.