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Mediators: Qualifications and roles

When deciding on a mediator, couples need to know what qualifications the intermediary should have and what role he or she is expected to play in the proceedings. In Ohio, the court system has answered most of the questions about credentials, and the Ohio State Bar has outlined expected roles.

According to the Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio Judicial System, not just anyone can provide mediation services. In particular, the courts suggest when parents are resolving matters of child custody, the mediator must hold at least a bachelor's degree and certification by the Supreme Court of Ohio. Beyond that, the system requires intermediaries to have two years' experience working with families in similar situations. Local judiciaries may include additional stipulations, so those interested in mediation services may benefit by researching regional requirements as well.

Once families have agreed on who will help them settle matters, it becomes important for them to understand how the process works. Mediators are primarily facilitators. The  Ohio State Bar Association delineates their role as unique from that of a judge or other court official. The OSBA states an intermediary "facilitates communication and negotiation between parties," ultimately allowing couples to decide for themselves. Judges, on the other hand, make decisions on behalf of the involved parties. Spouses who have chosen the mediation route, then, can expect total involvement in the decision-making process. For this reason, both parties should prepare to communicate honestly and amicably, making the most of the opportunity to have direct input about their future. 

The chance to be wholly involved in determining settlement terms makes mediation an attractive alternative. With the help of an intermediary whose primary duty is getting opposing parties to communicate well, perhaps it is possible for any disagreement to resolve peacefully. 

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