Mediator directiveness in child custody mediation: An exploration of alternatives and decision making


  • Bruce Balto

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Bruce Balto presently works as a supervisor at a public child welfare agency in Chicago. During a recent six-year period, while employed by the same agency as a court-appointed child custody mediator, he handled over a thousand custody and visitation cases originating from divorce, paternity, and probate courts.


When if ever should child custody mediators become directive with their clients, and when should they remain “neutral”? In response to this question, this article reviews different conceptualizations of mediation as well as some ethical guidelines. It notes, however, that mediation texts and ethical guidelines provide only limited aid in practical decision making with respect to the important question posed above. The article concludes by proposing additional practice strategies that may help to mitigate the dilemma of the clients' rights to autonomy and the mediator's sometimes necessary use of authority.