Updated February 2024
Family mediators help families settle conflicts and disagreements without going to court.
Mediators do not take sides or make decisions. Instead, they help each party understand the other's concerns, explore options, and agree on solutions.
Family mediators are often called in when a couple decides to end their relationship. They help the ex-partners work out arrangements regarding children, property, and finances.
But while divorce is a common family mediator practice area, it's not the only one. In fact, a variety of specializations exist within the field.
In this post, we explore four major practice areas in family mediation—and some helpful information on getting started in this career.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Separation and Divorce
- Child Protection Mediation
- Intergenerational Mediation
- Family Business Mediation
SEPARATION AND DIVORCE
For most people, this is what comes to mind when they think of family mediators.
Separating or divorcing couples often turn to family mediators to help resolve conflicts arising from their split. Those conflicts can include:
Spousal support—If one spouse needs financial support and the other is in a position to provide it, a family mediator may focus on helping them work out the terms.
Division of assets—Everything from houses, cars, and investments to electronics, artwork, and antiques must be divided between the parties.
Child custody and access—Who will have care and control of the children? How will visits from the non-custodial parent work?
Parenting—How will issues related to religion, education, health, or even extracurricular activities be handled?
Child support—How much child support will be paid, and how will it be paid?
Family mediation training prepares you to guide parties to a consensus and write up a Memorandum of Understanding that becomes the basis for a separation agreement.
CHILD PROTECTION MEDIATION
Family mediators can also get involved in situations where child protection services workers have concerns about the well-being of a child.
For instance, if child protection services believe a child may have been neglected or abused, they might step in to remove the child from the home and place him or her in the agency's care.
The role of a family mediator is to help everyone involved (parents, guardians, government case workers, the child) communicate effectively and agree on a plan to meet the child's needs going forward.
That can mean working through issues like:
- The conditions of a temporary care agreement
- How much contact a parent will have with the child
- What has to happen before the child can be placed back in a parent's care
- What supports a child will receive within a parent's home
The goal is to come up with a written agreement that is in the best interests of the child.
Some family mediators specialize in resolving disputes involving older adults and their grown children or other relatives. This is known as elder or intergenerational mediation.
Often, these types of disputes revolve around an older parent wanting to remain independent and an adult child wanting to keep the parent safe. But they might also focus on disagreements between an older adult and a care facility, or conflicts between siblings over a parent's care.
Common issues addressed in intergenerational mediation include:
- Whether the older adult is safe to continue driving
- Where the parent should live (in her own home, with a family member, in assisted living, etc.)
- Who can make medical decisions (is a guardianship or power of attorney appropriate?)
- How finances are handled (is a parent still capable of managing their own money?)
- How caregiving responsibilities are shared among siblings
- What end-of-life arrangements are made
Specialized training in intergenerational mediation can prepare you to address these kinds of issues.
FAMILY BUSINESS MEDIATION
Another possible specialization for family mediators involves resolving conflicts that arise when relatives work together.
Family business disputes can be difficult to navigate because personal relationships and business interests are bound up together.
In many cases, the conflict stems from old grievances that have nothing to do with the business. Maybe Joey has always felt that Dad favours his older brother, or two sisters have never seen eye to eye since that incident at a family gathering decades earlier.
Family mediators have a unique skillset that helps them uncover the root of the issue and get parties collaborating toward solutions.
Family mediators can help address issues like:
- How should the business grow or expand?
- Are the kids entitled to raises or promotions?
- Who will take over when Mom and Dad retire?
- Should the business be sold?
A successful mediation can resolve disputes, improve communication, and preserve or even improve family relationships.
INTERESTED IN BECOMING A FAMILY MEDIATOR?
Inspired by the possibilities within the field of family mediation? Interested in training to become an accredited family mediator?
Start by exploring the 12-week Family Mediation certificate from Kompass Professional Development.
The certificate is fully accredited by the Ontario Association for Family Mediation (OAFM). Courses are delivered online and meet the educational requirements for the OAFM's Accredited Family Mediator designation.
We also offer a 12-week Intergenerational Mediation certificate that focuses on disputes involving older adults.
Click below to learn more about the certificate and connect live with an admissions advisor who can answer your questions.