With court closures and restrictions, many are frustrated and looking for alternative ways to resolve their divorce or custody matters. Many are also concerned about whether mediations can occur, or can occur successfully, during this period of stay-at-home orders, if parties, attorneys, and the mediator cannot all be physically in the same room with each other. The short answer is that they absolutely can occur, and occur successfully, using videoconference software, where each party is in a separate location. It is a great method for resolving conflicts, and particularly for bringing peace faster and more constructively to families in conflict.
As a mediator, as well as a litigator who participates in mediations, I find that conducting mediations by videoconference actually has many advantages over traditional, in-person mediations.
First, remote mediation is the ultimate convenience! Dispute resolution from the comfort of your own home! This allows greater scheduling options and flexibility in timing. It can also alleviate some of the anxiety of being in the same room with one’s spouse, ex-spouse, or co-parent. For someone with work or family obligations, a non-traditional window of time for mediation may be preferable.
Second, the technology being used is confidential and flexible. I use Microsoft Teams primarily but have also used Zoom and other software platforms. A participant does not need to download the software or pay any software fee, in order to attend mediation on Teams or Zoom. These programs also allow flexibility of private meeting rooms with your own lawyer and/or the mediator, while simultaneously or alternately having rooms for larger group conversations. The sharing of documents is also easy using these platforms.
Third, participating in a remote mediation by videoconference can be more cost-efficient and faster than traditional in-person mediations. There is no travel time for the participants, no time wasted looking for parking or finding an office you have not been to before. The fees for your lawyer and your mediator do not include travel time, or extraneous time wasted just getting settled into a conference room. In this way, videoconference mediations can actually reduce the professional fees involved.
I also find online video conferencing creates more focused communication, which is not only more cost-efficient but also requires more active listening than in-person communication can be. So, in some ways, more can be accomplished in a shorter period as a result of our having to become accustomed to this new technology and method of resolving conflicts.
In short, mediation is a great method for resolving issues in a constructive manner, more cost-efficiently than litigation, and even more than traditional in-person mediation. It is also a path forward while our Courts are restricted or closed to contested matters during the current pandemic. If you are interested in scheduling a mediation, or a consultation about your matrimonial issues, please call my office at 240-507-1704.
ABOUT MARJORIE JUST
email@example.com | 240.507.1700
Marjorie Just is a Principal attorney and Chair of the Family Law Practice Group (North). Her practice as a family law attorney focuses on the negotiation, settlement, and litigation of complex family law matters in Maryland and the District of Columbia, including issues of property distribution, custody, child support, alimony, same-sex marriage, and domestic partnerships. She prepares family-related agreements such as, pre-marital agreements, separation agreements and reproductive agreements. She is also trained as a family mediator and collaborative lawyer.
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