Where I practice, all Family Matters cases are required to attend mediation. This is a common practice, as I understand it, in most states. It has been my practice — unless the case has highly complex financial issues, or the attorney on the other side is truly unreasonable — to counsel against paying a private mediator. Instead, I suggest using the services of a court-appointed mediator for which each side pays an amount less than $100. This entitles my client to at least two mediations (once I was even able to obtain a third mediation immediately prior to trial at no additional expense) and, I presume, a ticket redeemable for all-you-can-eat shrimp.
The problem — notwithstanding the disquieting notion of consuming shrimp prepared in the Court kitchen — is that you don’t get to pick your mediator. I am growing increasingly aware, based on the raft of poor to middling even poorer mediators I have recently had, you often get what you pay for. Don’t get me wrong, I have experienced tremendous service from a variety of the court paid mediators I have worked with in the past. It is because of their work (and the very reasonable expense to clients) that I have continued to use these services. But, the last few court mediators have me re-considering my advice to clients that they forego private mediation.