Some six years ago I wrote an article for our site entitled Long Distance Mediation. The motivation for that article came about when a couple was seeking a mediated divorce and one was living in New York and the other in Germany with no possibility to return to the United States. I met with the wife, we discussed their goals and then used conference calls for each of us to be available to talk and listen on the same call.
The advent of the Corona Virus Pandemic has caused unemployment and forced almost everyone into much longer times confined to homes and/or apartments. We reached out to those who were seeking a mediated divorce by noting on our web site that we could conduct mediation via teleconferencing and Skype.
Contrary to what one might initially think about remote mediation, the parties we have worked with since “social distancing” was mandated have exhibited a seamless transition from face to face discussions to the world of the speakerphone or the internet. And, speaking as one with simply adequate technical skills, the procedures are not difficult to implement.
It also appears that some clients actually enjoyed the use of the phone as compared to sitting with his/her spouse and the mediator. This remote mediation also affords more flexibility for meeting times. Phone calls are not uncommon after seven o’clock in the evening and a video can take place at times outside of the “normal” nine-to-five office hours.
There are some limitations with telecommunications. Often a client’s facial reaction or body movement can provide a signal of approval or concern regarding certain articulated proposals. These signs are unavailable with the speakerphone. However, the skilled mediator is always asking for a client’s reaction when new proposals are presented. And, when the clients are well prepared and have thought through a plan for their future (and, if part of the equation, the future for their children) the process moves along as if we were all together.
Doing mediation remotely affords couples the ability to finalize their Agreement, get it notarized, and file it with the Court, even if they can’t meet together physically with the mediator. Unfortunately, at the present time, acknowledged agreements must wait for the courts to reopen so that a judge can grant a judgment of divorce.