Family court mediation is a growing field that helps families resolve disputes and make agreements during divorce, separation, and custody battles. Mediators facilitate communication and negotiation between the parties to reach a settlement. If you’re interested in careers in conflict resolution, becoming a family court mediator may be right for you. Here’s a step-by-step guide to starting this rewarding career.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming a family court mediator is earning a bachelor’s degree. While mediators can have backgrounds in various fields, majors like psychology, social work, communications, pre-law, and conflict resolution provide useful foundations. Coursework in areas like family systems, counseling, negotiation, and law are especially applicable. Gaining a well-rounded education, experience working with families, and strong communication skills will all help prepare you for a career in mediation.

Get Mediation Training

After earning a bachelor’s degree, the next step is getting formal mediation training. Many colleges and universities offer certificate programs in mediation, which take 1-2 years to complete. These programs teach you methods like interest-based negotiation, facilitation tactics, and approaches specific to divorce and custody mediation. Clinical experience through externships and role play are also critical parts of training. Shorter training courses are also available from mediation organizations and private companies. The more education and practice you get, the better prepared you’ll be for real mediation.

Consider Earning a Master’s Degree

Though not strictly required, earning a master’s degree can enhance your credentials as a family mediator. Useful graduate programs include dispute resolution, counseling, psychology, social work, and law. The coursework and clinical practice gained through a master’s program will provide additional knowledge and skills for your mediation career. Degrees like a Master of Laws can also help if you want to understand family law procedures better. A master’s signals a higher level of education and commitment to the field.

Get Experience

In addition to formal education, you need hands-on experience to become an accomplished mediator. There are a few ways to gain valuable experience:

  • Complete an internship with a professional mediator or mediation organization. This allows you to observe real mediations and sometimes co-mediate alongside an experienced mediator.
  • Volunteer to mediate at community mediation centers. Many centers provide free or low-cost mediation services to the public.
  • Offer to mediate mock disputes and role-play scenarios with fellow students.
  • Attend arbitrations, mediations, and court hearings whenever possible.
  • Consider working or volunteering with a social services agency that works with families.

Any experience interacting with families, facilitating discussions, and managing conflict will help develop your skills.

Get Licensed or Certified

While requirements vary by state, many family mediators pursue professional licensing or certification. This demonstrates that you’ve met certain verified standards for education and experience. Organizations like the Association for Conflict Resolution and the AAA offer recognized mediator certifications. States also have their own criteria and processes for becoming a licensed mediator. Licensure protects professional status and gives you credentials that set you apart.

A career as a professional family mediator allows you to make a real difference in people’s lives during difficult times. By following these steps, you can develop the skills and experience to excel in this meaningful field. With proper commitment and training, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful family court mediator.