A large percentage of people engaged in family law litigation represent themselves, without lawyers, and the number of self-represented litigants is growing. Some states, in response to the problem, have set up family law facilitator programs to help people who do not have lawyers.
Because the family law facilitator programs have been started recently, in the mid-1990s or later, the job of family law facilitator is a fairly new one.
Family law facilitators are employees of the court. They are neutral and do not represent or form attorney-client relationships with the people they help. The same facilitator may assist both parties. Facilitators give out educational materials and court forms, assist with the forms, and refer people to other agencies and services.
The scope of the issues that facilitators can assist with varies by location. In California, for example, facilitators assist with child support, spousal support, and health insurance issues, but may or may not also assist with divorce and custody issues, depending on the county.
The family law facilitator programs are different in each state, and the experience required and salaries offered for the job vary as well. One state may require their family law facilitators to be attorneys, while another may require only a high school diploma.
In the summer of 2004, a job posting for a Facilitator I in Anchorage, Alaska offered a salary of $32,568, and required high school graduation and three years of deputy court clerk experience or a two-year paralegal certificate or bachelor’s degree and one year of court experience — while a job posting for a Family Law Facilitator in San Joaquin County, California offered a salary range of $81,456 to $99,024, and required State Bar membership, five years experience practicing law and a minimum of three years of family law mediation or litigation experience.
Because the requirements for and responsibilities of family law facilitators vary so widely from state to state, if you’re interested in this career opportunity, you should contact the state employment office or county court in the area(s) where you are interested in working to find out about the local job requirements and duties and to inquire about job openings.
There are other opportunities in the field besides jobs with the specific title of “family law facilitator.” In California, for example, while family law facilitators must be attorneys, the Offices of the Family Law Facilitator may also hire support staff, depending on the needs and resources of each individual county office.
Many family law facilitator programs also use volunteer attorneys and paralegals. Contact the court(s) where you are interested in volunteering for more information.
Family law mediators — While family law facilitators, as described above, are employees of the court working in a specific role assisting unrepresented parties, family law mediators, even though they have a different role, may sometimes also call themselves “facilitators because they facilitate the process of resolving disputes, especially those involving child custody and visitation.
Mediators meet with both parties and help them to create an agreement on their own. Family law mediators often have a background in social work, counseling, or psychotherapy. Some are family law attorneys.Mediators meet