How to become a family mediator (plus duties, skills and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Family mediators help families to sort out disputes without having to go through court. This might involve helping parents to come to an arrangement regarding child custody, or helping couples going through a divorce to separate their assets. Family mediators can make a real difference to the lives of the people they work with, which makes it a very rewarding career. In this article, we explain how to become a family mediator, discuss the skills needed and main duties of this role and provide the answers to some FAQs.

How to become a family mediator

Family mediators are often professionals with a degree and experience in their fields when they decide to go into the role. They often come from backgrounds such as social work, counselling, education or human resources. You can follow these steps to learn how to become a family mediator:

1. Attend a foundation course approved by the Family Mediation Council (FMC)

The first step in your journey towards becoming an accredited family mediator is to attend a course approved by the Family Mediation Council (FMC). There are several providers who run these courses, and they usually last several months. You can do a course either in person or online, depending on your preferences and what is available in your area.

2. Build up practical experience

Once you have completed an FMC-approved course, you can look for a Professional Practice Consultant (PPC). These are experienced mediators who help new mediators to begin building their experience. Mediators who have completed an FMC-approved course but have not yet received their accreditation are likely mediators who are 'working towards accreditation'. During your training, the PPC may supervise you as you work on cases. Most family mediators do this for around three years. You can use the time to build up a portfolio that shows how you meet specified competencies.

3. Register as an accredited family mediator

Using the portfolio built up through supervised work, you can then apply for accreditation with the FMC. Once you receive this, you're officially an accredited family mediator. This means you can work independently as a family mediator.

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4. Keep up your CPD

Family mediators typically complete a certain number of continued professional development (CPD) hours throughout their careers to maintain their accreditation. This could include attending training workshops or conferences, contributing to academic work or self-study. This allows you to keep up-to-date with the latest techniques and development in the field. This is particularly important for family mediators who work within the court system, as they work within certain legal frameworks.

Related: How to mediate conflicts (with definition and steps)

Family mediator roles and responsibilities

A family mediator's duties might vary depending on the types of cases they work with. Typically, the job might include:

  • organising initial meetings with the parties involved in mediation to discuss what needs to be resolved and understand the relevant background information about the situation

  • explaining the mediation process to everyone involved and ensuring that everyone understands their responsibilities

  • obtaining written permission from everyone involved to make sure they are willing to engage with the process of mediation

  • arranging sessions and communicating with clients to facilitate the mediation process

  • maintaining client confidentiality at all times

  • listening to what everyone has to say within the mediation process and ensuring that everyone has a chance to speak without judgement or interruption

  • making clear and impartial notes of the process that reflect the outcomes of the mediation and any remaining issues

  • deciding how and when to assess whether mediation has been effective and whether further action (such as legal action)

  • working within a professional code of practice set out by the FMC

  • putting the final agreement into writing and making sure everyone understands the decision made and what it means

  • carrying out follow-up communication for cases you have completed as appropriate

Some family mediators are self-employed, which means they are also business owners. In this case, their role may also include the following tasks:

  • developing contacts and building a professional network

  • maintaining a website or a professional online presence

  • communicating with potential clients by telephone or email

  • managing freelance finances, including setting rates, paying themself a salary and completing tax returns

Family mediator skills and knowledge

Family mediators have a wide range of skills that allow them to do their job effectively. If you already have some of the following attributes, you may be a good candidate for this role:

  • excellent communication and listening skills to communicate clearly with your clients and ensure you understand their points of view

  • the ability to speak clearly, calmly and confidently, even in potentially stressful situations

  • the resilience and professional distance needed to cope with difficult or challenging situations in clients' lives

  • the ability to calmly and effectively manage conflict in various different contexts

  • the ability to remain impartial and maintain a non-judgmental attitude

  • negotiation skills to help your clients find an amicable solution that works for everyone

  • the ability to encourage, motivate and support other people when they are going through difficult situations

  • empathy, compassion and a genuine desire to help others to resolve their issues

  • teamwork skills to collaborate effectively with colleagues and partners

  • a flexible and creative approach to work to find different solutions when parties can't agree

  • the ability to relate to people from a range of different backgrounds and personal circumstances

  • a thorough understanding of confidentiality as it applies to professional practice

  • organisation skills to work with multiple clients at the same time

  • time-management and planning skills to decide when and where to hold sessions

Related: What are conflict resolution skills?

Family mediator FAQs

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about working as a family mediator, to help you decide if it's the right career choice for you:

What salary can I earn as a family mediator?

Salaries for family mediators vary depending on whether they have received their accreditation, how much experience they have, and their location. According to the National Careers Services, the average starting salary for a family mediator is £18,000 per year. Experienced family mediators might earn up to £35,000 per year.

What are working conditions like for a family mediator?

Family mediators usually conduct sessions in offices, which provides a neutral setting for their clients. They usually work standard office hours, although some weekend or evening work might be necessary to meet with clients who may have differing schedules. Many family mediators work freelance, which means they may travel to their clients and find suitable venues to hold mediation sessions.

What career development is available to a family mediator?

Once you've developed a track record of excellent mediation work, you might be able to apply for more senior roles. Some family mediators sidestep into another type of mediation, which may require further study. There may be opportunities to take on a management role, supervising other mediators. Alternatively, you may decide to start your own business as a freelance family mediator.

What are their areas of expertise?

Family mediators usually work with clients who are going through a divorce or separation to resolve any disputes or disagreements between them. This could include:

  • helping clients to decide where children are going to live, or to outline the specific arrangements for shared custody

  • helping couples who are separating decide on terms for child maintenance payments to be made by the non-custodial parent

  • helping couples to maintain shared financial agreements or separate financially, including finding agreements on shared properties, pensions or savings

  • helping clients to find an arrangement when one or both of them have debts to pay

What benefits can family mediators provide for their clients?

Many people choose to go through family mediation as an alternative to going to court to resolve an issue, which has many benefits. First, choosing to attend sessions with a family mediator means the parties are in control of any decisions instead of a judge, which gives them more control over the process.

If there are children involved, it can be less stressful if their parents attend mediation sessions, where they work together to resolve conflict, than going to court, where their parents may be in opposition. Family mediation can also help to foster better communication between parties, which is beneficial for their future relationship. All of this means that working as a family mediator can be a very rewarding career.

Other types of mediation

If you're still not sure whether family mediation is the right career for you, consider working in another kind of mediation role. There are many types of mediators who might work to resolve:

  • employment disagreements

  • financial disputes

  • industrial strike action

  • landlord/tenant disputes

  • disputes between neighbours

  • settlement of legal issues without going to court

Related: The best careers for INFP personality types (plus traits)

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.

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