Updated April 2023
Are you interested in helping Ontario families work through their differences without going to court?
Family mediators play an important role in helping people navigate the end of a relationship. They help families work through disputes related to separation, divorce, child custody, and more—all while avoiding a costly, drawn-out litigation process.
But if you’re looking to specialize in family mediation, you may be wondering what it takes to get your career off the ground.
We combed through job postings and spoke to industry experts to find out what skills and qualifications are required to thrive as a family mediator.
Here’s what you typically need to have.
FAMILY MEDIATOR CERTIFICATION
You don’t technically need to be certified to become a family mediator in Ontario.
However, experienced mediator and Kompass instructor Grace Baker notes that obtaining a designation can lead to more career options. "Many government contracts will require certification, licensing, and insurance, and yes, I feel certification and a recognized designation are helpful overall as well."
Several organizations offer relevant certifications, including:
- Ontario Association for Family Mediation (OAFM)
- ADR Institute of Ontario (ADRIO)
- Family Mediation Canada (FMC)
- Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario
Each organization sets its own requirements for certification.
For example, to qualify as an Accredited Family Mediator (AccFM) through the OAFM, you must complete specific training courses in family mediation, screening, family law, and family relations.
And to become a Qualified Mediator (Q.Med) through ADRIO, you must complete 40 hours of basic mediation training and 40 hours of specialized training, among other requirements.
The Family Mediation certificate offered by Kompass includes all of the OAFM-required courses. It also fulfills 64.5 of the required hours for FMC certification and 21 of the 40 specialized training hours required for the Q.Med.
Job postings for family mediators often call for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, law, social work, or a related area.
A degree isn’t always strictly necessary. But post-secondary training can help you qualify for family mediator certification more quickly.
For instance, for the AccFM designation, candidates with a bachelor’s degree or a college diploma only need four years of professional experience. Those with no post-secondary training need at least six years.
Many people wonder if family mediators need to have a legal background. Grace says the answer is no. "However, a strong understanding of the law is very beneficial and can be learned as part of a family mediation course.”
LISTENING, QUESTIONING, AND SUMMARIZING SKILLS
To be an effective family mediator, you have to be able to listen attentively, ask clarifying questions, and respond to what each person is saying to make sure you understand the issues involved.
Hayley MacPhail has more than two decades of mediation experience and specializes in family mediation. She says it’s about facilitating communication. "Mediators must be curious, ask questions, and encourage clients to tell their stories," she explains.
"You have to know how to ask goal-directed and future-oriented questions so clients can move forward and begin discussing goals and strategies for change."
THE ABILITY TO CONNECT WITH DIVERSE GROUPS OF PEOPLE
Family mediators deal with individuals from all walks of life. You need to be comfortable relating to people from all kinds of backgrounds, perspectives, and circumstances.
That means being sensitive to religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and other issues.
It also helps to be fluent in more than just English. If you can communicate in multiple languages, you may find your mediation skills in greater demand.
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT AND PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
Helping families work through issues around separation and divorce requires a sensitive touch.
You must be able to manage emotionally volatile situations and frame the issues in a way that promotes problem solving and helps clients come to a mutually acceptable solution.
Grace points out that family mediation requires good conflict management skills as well as an understanding of family dynamics. You need to be aware of what may lie beneath the surface. "Rarely are you mediating one thing," she says. "It's usually several things which are interconnected."
THE ABILITY TO REMAIN CALM AND IMPARTIAL
Family disputes are often highly emotionally charged, and a mediator must always remain above the fray. Remember: you’re not there to pass judgment.
Accredited family mediator Mary Joseph notes that this is one of the toughest aspects of the job. "I would say that people vastly underestimate the challenge of remaining neutral while conducting mediations," she says.
"Every mediator is influenced by their own values and personal experiences. We bring all of who we are to the mediation table. We look at each case through many different lenses—and must be very aware of our own biases."
START DEVELOPING THE FAMILY MEDIATOR SKILLS YOU NEED
Begin by exploring the Family Mediation certificate from Kompass (a division of Herzing College).
It meets the educational requirements for the Accredited Family Mediator (AccFM) designation from the Ontario Association for Family Mediation. It also includes coursework that counts for 64.5 hours toward FMC certification and 21 hours of specialized training for the Qualified Mediator (Q.Med) designation from the ADR Institute of Ontario.
The program covers the fundamentals of family law, the impact of divorce on parents and children, and the stages of the mediation process. Students learn how to screen parties for mediation, manage emotions, facilitate discussion, and more.
The certificate takes just 12 weeks to complete. Training is delivered online and includes live video simulations and role-plays.
Click below to explore the program in more detail and chat live with an admissions advisor.