Mediation Training: Family Law

Mediation Training:  Family Law

Here at Peace Talks we get a lot of questions about how to become a mediator.  For the full story, here’s a link to the “how to become a mediator” blog post.

 We also offer a mediation training program.  It’s a 25 hour program on DVD.  It also comes with a 220 page manual so you will have all of the forms and templates which we reference in the video program.


This beginning family law mediation training program was edited down from a full week 40 hour training so you get the full experience of a live mediation training without having to leave your home.

Here’s an exerpt from the DVD set: 5 Sources of Conflict.  Take a look and you can see exactly what the training looks like.


In fact, there are a lot of samples from the DVD set on our Peace Talks You Tube Channel. Plus lots of other interesting stuff.

It is approved for California MCLE and I can issue a certificate of completion once you notify me that you’ve completed the entire course.

 California does not certify mediators, so this is not a “certification” course but it will satisfy the minimum requirements to sign up for most mediation panels. Here’s the link to join the Los Angeles Superior Court mediation panel: For more information on the Los Angeles Superior Court mediation program, click here:

Here is a summary of the topics included:

Why mediation?

      • What we will do in this training
      • Value, benefits and results of mediation for mediators and clients
      • Uses for mediation and mediation skills
      • Who is a mediator?
      • Mediation styles and signatures
      • Other types of ADR

How mediation works from first contact to agreement

      • Mediation process overview
      • Convening
      • Mediation orientations (link is a video!)
      • Session structure (joint sessions, caucuses, preliminary appointments)
      • When the clients arrive
      • Ground rules and the agreement to mediate: the first agreements
      • Therapeutic intake
      • Setting the agenda


Role Play:  your first mediation session (intake through agenda)

What is conflict?

      • Our values surrounding conflict
      • Moore’s 5 sources of conflict
      • The nature of family conflict
      • Conflict resolution strategies

Negotiation techniques and demonstrations

      • Interest based negotiations
      • BATNA and WATNA
      • Reality testing
      • Doubt and dissonance
      • The psycho legal approach
      • Bias and impartiality
      • Neutrality redefined:  invested, but not aligned or biased
      • Getting to Yes
      • Pacing and transitions

Mediation Planning

  • Setting up success
  • Case conferencing
  • Evaluation and feedback

Mediation Planning role play:  the first agenda items

Communication in Mediation

      • Mediator goals when listening
      • Mediator goals when speaking
      • Communication techniques:
        • Active listening
        • Summarizing, reframing and rephrasing
        • Empathy
        • Naming, and making the hidden transparent
        • 10 Tips for asking questions
        • Using neutral language

Helping clients through the process

      • Mediation readiness
      • Support systems
      • Setting the intention

The Emotional Divorce and Mediating Solid Parenting Plans

      • Ambivalence
      • Grief
      • Re-capitulation and Re-traumatization
      • Anatomy of a parenting plan

The Legal Divorce

  • Child support,
  • Spousal support
  • Property division                             
  • Drafting agreements

 The Legal Divorce: domestic violence

 Role play: Parenting Plan Mediation

 Hot topics in mediation:  comparison of ethical standards, reporting requirements, mediation confidentiality, professional development, practice development, future trends, career opportunities

Final Role Play:  from therapeutic intake to agreement



Divorce Mediation: Mediator Styles

I have a 25 hour beginning family law mediation course on DVD which I sell on my web site and

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As a result, I get questions about how to mediate from some of the “students” of this taped course.  One in particular, a lawyer up north, is my new pen pal of sorts.

I’m delighted he’s using the materials. But I was a little surprised when he said that he feels like the “evaluative” style of mediation is best and helps people reach better agreements faster.

The evaluative style of mediation is how I was originally taught to mediate back in the 90’s in a court sponsored mediation program.  Basically, an experienced lawyer or judge will evaluate your case and tell you what the most likely outcome in court is, and then try and talk you into doing that.

What I found was that this method worked in the moment; parties reached an agreement. But because the parties hadn’t had much input into the process, these agreements tended to fall apart pretty quickly because the outcome was what the lawyer thought (or in the case of this particular mediation program, what I thought) and not what the parties wanted (or at least what they could live with).  And the people landed back in court.

Over the last 13 years in our mediation-only practice, I’ve learned the value of hearing the parties’ perspectives and goals, and I do a lot more listening than I used to do.  The agreement that is reached needs to work for the parties—the people who are living with the outcome—and not necessarily for me or my ego.

So while I’ll offer a suggestion if the parties are stuck, and I’ll educate them about the law, my days of starting the discussion off with “here’s the law and here’s what would happen in court” are over.

And each year that I mediate, I listen more and push less.

I think that the evaluative style is adopted by attorney-mediators, particularly early in their mediation careers, because it’s what we’re used to as attorneys:  back when I represented individual clients, I told them what to do. I told them what I thought would happen in court.  So when I became a mediator, I did the same thing. I just had 2 people in the room instead of one.

This model was comfortable to me. What I was missing is that a mediation is not about the mediator…’s about the parties.

When it’s all about the mediator and not about the people involved, it’s easy to alienate one of the parties…the person who’s “wrong,” so to speak. And then what happens? The mediation falls apart. And let’s face it, who likes to be told what to do?

As I’ve gotten more comfortable mediating, I’ve also gotten much less evaluative. 

What I’ve found is that most people are pretty sensible (yes, even the people who are behaving kind of wacky because divorce is a crazy-making time), and that they’ll  make a good decision if they have the right information, time to think about it, and emotional support as well as professional support.

So we do a lot of educating in our office.  We reality-test each of the possible choices people can make.  Is it feasible? Can you afford it? Can you really adjust your schedule to honor the parenting plan you’re thinking about? Does it fit with your short and long term goals? If it doesn’t feel fair, does it feel fair enough?

And if the answer to any of these questions is no, then we keep working.

I miss trial work. Doing trials was fun. It indulged my inner actress and let me show off everything I learned in law school (which was mostly that if you prepare like crazy, you usually win). But it wasn’t so good for clients and their families. Even if your client won, by the time they won they’d alienated their former spouse, spent most of their savings on attorneys fees, and often they’d put themselves and their kids through an emotional wringer.  Not much of a win, huh?

What I’ve learned as a mediator is that couples who are divorcing have more in common than they think they do. Most of the issues that cause trouble aren’t legal questions. They’re relationship issues, or money issues, not so much something I need to research in a law book.  And that given the right kind of information and an opportunity to discuss and think about the situation, they can come up with a solid, sensible, and fair decision that works for everyone.


Negotiate Your Divorce Settlement

This is an excerpt from Making Divorce Work.  I’m really proud of this chapter….it was difficult to explain in a few pages how to successfully negotiate a divorce settlement.  But I think I did it!  How to Negotiate Your Divorce Settlement is the excerpt published by, by the way, is a great place to find a mediator. You can search by telephone area code as well as topic. They don’t check credentials, so you’ll have to do your own interviewing researching mediators, but it’s a great way to find qualified professionals in your area.

Pretty much every mediator in the country is listed there.

More free resources:


 Making Divorce Work

Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

Skirball Center

Los Angeles, CAmcpg flyer final 2


I’ve had a few people ask if it’s “worth it” to come to the Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013.  I wouldn’t plunk down $895-$1395 (depending on when you register) without asking a few questions, either.

For Registration Click Here

Here are the questions which would be on my mind if I wasn’t involved in organizing this training:

Why does it take 3 days?

  • Day one, you hear the information and learn
  • Day two, you experience how the new information works in practice
  • Day three, you reflect and debrief.  It’s in the debrief that the magic happens, and when you see the power in your role.  It’s on day 3 that the shift takes place

Why is this training different than the million trainings I’ve already been to? [And never mind that I’ve practiced a zillion years]

This training is different because of its focus on the team and how each professional can contribute to making the team greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Let’s face it