Making the Best of Virtual Mediation During the COVID-19 Crisis
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when courts are closed and economic fears abound, using mediation might be the best option for many couples to resolve disagreements over divorce and parenting terms. While social distancing guidelines warn against groups of people gathering in small places, technology gives parties, their lawyers and third-party mediators the ability to communicate and negotiate without being in the same room. However, if you’re going to use Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or some other type of online video interface to proceed with a virtual mediation, you should put everyone in the best possible position to overcome obstacles and reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
Here are some specific tips for using virtual mediation to resolve your divorce terms or other family law disputes:
- Prepare for the change in circumstances — Conducting a virtual mediation can be as effective as convening an in-person discussion. However, it’s unwise to assume that the session will run just as it would if the parties and mediator were in a room together. Check to see how the technology works and review a few of the available conferencing options to determine what best suits your needs. Come up with ground rules about how to handle private attorney-client communications and devise a method to prevent people from talking over each other when it’s difficult to read verbal cues. You might wish to go through a dry run beforehand and have backup technology available in case a glitch occurs.
- Share documents and information — Parties and their attorneys can’t run to the printer or pass documents around the table when the mediation is held via video conferencing. If you expect to use certain materials in your presentation, it’s best to get them to the other side and to the mediator in advance. Should negotiations raise the need to share additional documents, you might want to set up a shared online repository that can be accessed by the participants to the mediation.
- Find the right mediator — No matter the situation, finding the right mediator is a key factor in whether the alternative dispute resolution process succeeds or fails. When selecting a virtual mediator, look for someone who not only has a strong grasp of the subject matter and the ability to bridge gaps between parties but also is comfortable communicating through a screen and is not overwhelmed by minor technological issues.
Whether you’ve always been interested in the mediation process or are considering it now because of court closures, an experienced family law mediator can explain the procedures and potential advantages, especially in a time of social distancing.
Solutions Divorce Mediation in Dix Hills conducts divorce mediation for Long Island residents and spouses from other parts of New York. To speak with a qualified mediator in a telephone consultation, please call 1.631.683.8172 or contact us online.