Family law mediation is an area of legal practice that involves negotiating a settlement between two parties. Typically these types of attorneys work with families in crisis who are dealing with issues of divorce or the custody of a child. A family law mediator may be appointed by a court to settle the differences between the parties in a setting that is less formal than the court room.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 6,250 mediators. The median income for family law mediators is $29.46 per hour or $61,280 annually. As compared to other occupations in the legal professions, the pay rate of family law mediators is higher than that of paralegals ($46,680) and court reporters ($47,700) but below that of judges ($91,880) and others in the general practice of law ($112,760).
Where are Family Law Mediators paid the most?
Family law mediators who practice in the following metropolitan areas have the highest annual mean wage: Los Angeles, where the annual mean wage is $120,960; San Francisco, which pays mediators $120,790; Milwaukee mediators earned an average wage of $93,270; in San Diego, the fourth highest wage was paid at $91,820; and, Hartford, CT is at $90,910.
The average wage for mediators of $61,280 places the career near the bottom of all types of lawyers. The BLS data for 2011 indicates that top lawyers earn a median income of $187,199 while those at the bottom earn an average income of $54,120. This means that family law mediators earn just over 13 percent more than the least paid attorneys.
The importance of Family Law Mediators
The function of family law mediators in the judicial process helps courts manage their dockets by reducing case load depending on the successful outcome of the mediation. A couple in a child custody, divorce, or other proceeding that involves the family may submit to private mediation which provides many benefits over going to court.
Through a mediator families can focus on the central issues regarding the dispute and discuss these issues in an informal setting that is private and less stressful. Mediation conducted with the aid of a family law mediator is less costly than litigation. The average cost of mediation at $500-$2,500, which is one tenth that of court costs, which can average over $30,000 depending on the jurisdiction.
The need for Family Law Mediators
Understanding the important role that family law mediators play in legal proceedings means that more should be done to raise the median salary in order to attract additional individuals. The top five jurisdictions for employment are: Los Angeles at 650 employed, New York City at 290, Minneapolis at 190, Chicago with 160 mediators, and Phoenix with 150 mediators.
The number of domestic relations cases in California alone for the year 2010 according to the National Center for State Courts was 1,216 per 100,000 population. The number of mediators on the job is 1,450. Although specific data regarding the number of domestic relations cases that end up in mediation is not available, even a conservative estimate of 10 percent of the more than 454,000 cases in 2010 leaves a case load of 31 cases per mediator. This is assuming that all 1,450 mediators in California handle family law. The need for more family law mediators can be met with more financial incentives designed to meet growing caseload demands.
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