As a family court mediator serving in Union County, I read with interest your Aug. 22 article, "Mediators Mixed on Pay , Proposal for the First Three ',Hours" [181 N.J.L.J. 645].
In the context of court ordered family mediation, I respectfully disagree with the quoted comments of some of the mediators to the effect that litigants merely go through the motions and that, because they do not pay for the mediator's services, they devalue the process.
Simply put, court-ordered family mediation works. Parties who are ordered to come to mediation often are desperate to both find workable solutions to their problems and avoid the catastrophic economic impact of continued. litigation. In many cases, mediation provides the parties with the first opportunity to communicate directly with one another in a controlled environment and not through counsel. By allowing the parties to express the reasons why they have taken their, respective positions, mediation provides a unique forum in which to craft individualized solutions that often take personal perspectives and emotional considerations into account in away that traditional litigation cannot. In my experience, when parties understand that a mediator is making his or her own financial commitment to the process; they often feel a partnership with the mediator and in fact feel an increased level of commitment to the mediation process.
The financial concerns of mediators in the program are real and must be addressed. But the debate should remain focused on how to preserve the valuable role of mediation within the court system, rather than on the financial and business interests of the mediators. Although the current proposal of $100 per hour may not be universally lauded, it is a step forward and should not be rejected out of hand.
Michael R. Magaril