Ethics Guidelines for Mediators — What to Expect

Mediation has increased in popularity over recent years, with one report finding that around half of participants had used mediation as part of their divorce proceedings. With this boom of interest in services, it’s more important than ever for mediators to take a responsible approach. Above all, this comes down to following the ethics guidelines laid out by the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators, which consists of ten standards.

Here, we’ll briefly run through all ten standards so you know what to expect of mediators.

1. Conflicts of interest

A mediator is supposed to be an impartial third party, so avoiding conflicts of interest is crucial. As a result, mediators shouldn’t have any kind of relationship with their clients (even after the mediation), and they should disclose potential conflicts of interest beforehand.

2. Competence

Not every mediator is equally capable of carrying out every task. If there’s a case they don’t have the necessary experience or even cultural knowledge to carry out, it’s essential to be upfront about this instead of trying to take on the job anyway.

3. Impartiality

Even if there aren’t any obvious conflicts of interest, mediators should avoid performing services if they can’t do so impartially.

4. Voluntariness

Although mediation aims to achieve an outcome, participants should have the option to walk away at any point. Mediators need to allow (or sometimes even encourage) this to happen.

5. Confidentiality

Everything said during a mediation session should remain confidential. The only exceptions to this are cases where a mediator is legally required to disclose information, and when participants agree everything can be shared.

6. Do-no-harm commitment –  Maintaining Control and Balance

The Hippocratic Oath — one of the first ethics guidelines we know of — required physicians to commit to doing no harm. Mediators must take the same approach by being careful to avoid mediation with participants who aren’t ready for it or who could suffer from attempting it. For Example, not allowing any participant to be bullied into a resolution or dominated in mediation sessions.

7. Self-determination

A mediator’s job isn’t to tell participants what to do or make decisions for them — it’s simply to facilitate communication. Therefore, they need to remain impartial and ensure the individuals involved retain their autonomy.

8. Informed consent

It’s impossible to make an informed decision during mediation without full information. Mediators have a responsibility to ensure participants can obtain the data they need.

9. Duties to third parties

We’ve already mentioned that mediators should do no harm to the parties involved in mediation. But their commitment doesn’t stop here — they should also ensure the decisions reached don’t harm third parties (e.g., the children of two people involved in a divorce mediation).

10. Honesty

Finally, mediators need to ensure they’re honest throughout the process. This includes avoiding misleading information when advertising their services and qualifications and being upfront about the fees involved.

More than just mediation

As you can see, there’s more to mediation than going from A to B to reach a resolution. Before agreeing to work with a mediator, ensure they’re committed to upholding ethics guidelines and meeting them to the best of their ability.

At Donita King Law, we take ethics guidelines seriously and ensure we stick to the principles of the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators when carrying out our services. Donita King is a qualified mediator and bilingual (English and Spanish), allowing her to carry out mediation sessions to a high level. To find out more, schedule a consultation today.

Donita King

Ms. King is a member of the Virginia, Pennsylvania, and D.C. State Bars. She also serves as a University of Richmond School of Law Adjunct Professor of Mediation. She previously served on the Virginia Bar Association Joint ADR Council (2015 Chair), and served for several years on the Governor of Virginia’s Interagency Dispute Resolution Council. Ms. King currently serves as a board member of the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board by appointment of the Virginia Supreme Court and has been active with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Women in Business as well. Se habla espanol.

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