Solicitor and popular family mediator, Sarah Jackson, shares her very positive experience of remote mediation during lockdown. To discuss mediation or family law matters more generally, please contact Sarah by email.
It’s business as usual for BLB Mediation Service, or perhaps better than usual. During the lockdown, with face to face meetings still restricted I have been holding sessions with my mediation clients via secure video link. Despite a few clients—and me—initially preferring not to do this, it has proven to be a great success. Some clients have even said they would like to continue with remote mediation once the social distancing restrictions have been lifted.
Advantages of Zoom
There are some obvious advantages for the clients – they don’t have to travel or pay for parking. However, the technology brings with it some hidden advantages too. Zoom doesn’t work if two people speak at once, so clients get to speak one at a time when invited to do so without interruption. In meeting rooms, it is always a possibility that a more dominant spouse persistently talks over the other. However, online, I have the ability to mute their microphone; a warning has proven sufficient to deal with this issue so far.
Additionally, I am able to speak with each client individually using the waiting room facility if one becomes upset or heated and we need to regroup. This is much simpler and far less distressing for the clients than the real-world equivalent of breaking out into separate rooms and using shuttle mediation.
There are occasional issues with the connection, of course, but we are all getting more adept at tackling those with a minimum of disruption. My clients have joined successful sessions via personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones.
Fewer sessions required
In general, I have found that clients appear calmer and more comfortable mediating in their own homes and, importantly, I have been seeing positive outcomes; I am finishing mediations now that have commenced during lockdown and concluded after fewer sessions that usual.
Overall, then, I would say that being forced to explore different ways of doing things has had a positive result for the way mediation can work. For the right couples, sessions can be even smoother online and help avoid the great stress and cost of fighting it out in the courts.