7 questions to ask when choosing your mediation service
Whatever you do, choose a mediation service you are happy with and one you know has professional FMC accreditation, experience, qualifications and skills to do a good job for you.
Whether or not you go with Harmony Mediation for your family mediation we suggest you should ask the following questions of any service you are looking at, to help you make an informed choice:
1. The most important question of all. Is your mediator FMC accredited?
(If you only ask one question of a mediator this is it.)
To give the public peace of mind about the qualifications and status of family mediators the Family Mediation Council (in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice) has set up a register of suitably qualified accredited family mediators who can use the letters 'FMCA'. From the start of 2016 only FMCA mediators are recognised by the Courts as being able to sign forms.
It takes a minimum of two years to gain FMCA status after foundation training.
Make sure your family mediator is FMCA compliant.
2. Are the mediators able to offer more than one type of mediation?
Can they offer only one kind of mediation? Do they offer shuttle, co-mediation, Direct Consultation with Children? Are they able to undertake both legal aid and private work?
Each case is different and an experienced mediator will make discuss with you the best type of mediation for your case. We don't offer a 'one size fits all' approach to mediation but discuss with you the best approach to your case. Our mediators are experienced at handling cases on their own, or with another mediator if required.
We offer co-mediation as standard when one of the mediators is a trainee or lacks the experience to mediate a case without assistance.
3. How many cases have the mediators handled? How many cases does the service handle in a year?
Would you like to see a mediator who conducts a few mediation cases a year or one who permanently has mediation cases 'on the go'? The more cases being handled in a service the more experience there is available to benefit clients. Previous experience as a solicitor or counsellor or other profession can be helpful, but it is not the same as being a family mediator. Family mediation is a profession in its own right.
Does the service charge VAT? The answer to this question will give you an idea of the volume of mediation work carried out.
Harmony Mediation is a specialist mediation service. We have handled almost 7,000 referrals in the past decade and yes, we charge VAT. This may make our prices a little higher but you are paying for an established experienced dedicated service.
4. Is mediation what the service specialises in - or is it an add on? Do they have dedicated, permanent business offices in each location? Is your phone call answered by a specialist administrator...or does it go to a mobile phone?
Is the service full-time and focused on mediation? Are their mediation rooms permanent, dedicated offices or just rooms hired by the hour? Is there a dedicated telephone line for mediation and specialist mediation administration staff? Is there a website devoted to mediation alone or is it an incidental service among many others?
Again, yes to all questions. We have a full-time experienced mediation administration staff, who are employees of Harmony Mediation, to deal with queries, answering your calls on one of our five dedicated telephone lines.
All our offices are permanent offices dedicated for the use of our mediators and clients. We don't use hired by the hour ad hoc meeting rooms as we are an established service.
5. Who audits or regulates the service?
Is the service regulated by any external organisation? All mediators have individual professional supervision but this isn't the same as an audit by the Legal Aid Agency or monitoring by National Family Mediation of its members services.
Up to 2016 Harmony Mediation was audited by the Legal Aid Agency working under contract with this government body. We gave up our Legal Aid contract in February 2016 as we could not continue to offer a high quality service on the fees paid by legal aid which had not increased since 2007.
6. Does the service have a professional presence?
When it comes to professional presence there have always been Harmony Mediation mediators represented on many of the national bodies. (We like to know what is going on!) At present one of our mediators is the mediation representative on the Hertfordshire Family Justice Board.
Our Practice Director recently served as one of six representatives sitting on the Family Mediation Council, the umbrella organisation recognised by the Ministry of Justice as representing mediation. She has also been part of an MoJ working party on mediation and a participant at a working group commissioned by the Cabinet Office to look at ways of improving mediation.
7. Are the fees a bit high...or a bit too low?
Does it feel like a professional service? Is there a permanent office with a specialist mediation administration team there to answer your call? If the fees seem exceptionally low there may be a reason for this. If they seem exceptionally high you may also wish to ask why!
We aim to offer a professional service and have a permanent Head Office with an a highly experienced full-time administration team. To run a professional service isn't cheap but through efficiencies and re-investing any profits in the service we are able to keep our fees low.