Family Lawyer and Accredited Family Mediator, Sarah Jackson, explains why, following initial reluctance, she is now a convert to remote family mediation. And her clients like it too!
Sarah is available on 01225 462871. Alternatively, you can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of my clients have expressed a reluctance to mediate via Zoom – and I get it, as I was reluctant to start with too. However, when the Covid pandemic made remote mediation a necessity, I just had to get on with it. Now, 12 months on, I am a remote mediation convert, as are many of my clients; some have said they would like to continue with remote mediation even once ‘in person’ mediation becomes possible again.
Online mediation has some obvious advantages. It is convenient because as you can mediate from your home or place of work (as long as you cannot be overheard), without the necessity of a commute. It is also potentially cheaper as you do not have to pay for parking or travel. A less obvious advantage is that clients have reported feeling calmer and more relaxed when mediating from their own home.
The benefit of no interruption
As a mediator, a definite benefit I have experienced is that clients (and I) have to allow each other to speak without interruption when mediating via a video chat platform, such as Zoom, as the software will not work if people talk over one another. This allows clients to really listen to one another and to think before they speak, which results in less friction – and more respect. The calmer the atmosphere during a mediation, the more productive it is likely to be.
Reluctant to mediate remotely?
It is understandable that clients might be afraid to be put on the back foot if they are unfamiliar with Zoom, particularly if their ex is tech-savvy. Additionally, mediation is all about sorting things out face-to-face rather than at arm’s length, and my worry was that the technology would detract from the simplicity of this approach.
However, my fears have been unfounded and I am pleased to say that I have assisted many couples to reach settlement proposals through remote mediation during the pandemic, which has kept stress levels and anxiety to a minimum whilst potentially saving them many thousands of pounds in legal costs.
The key is to ensure everyone is prepared and feels comfortable with the technology in advance of the first mediation session. I therefore use the preliminary MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting), which mediating clients attend (remotely) on their own i.e. without their ex present, to talk through any fears and what we will do if we encounter any tech issues while mediating. This then serves as a stress-free trial run for those who have not used Zoom before. Additionally, I host the meetings and so my clients need only use the free version of the software. I occasionally use other platforms if needed.
Do you still have reservations?
For those who are reading this and still have reservations about mediating via Zoom, I would be happy to discuss these with you. You will find my contact details at the top of this article.
We will, of course, be offering ‘in person’ mediations again when the Covid roadmap allows, but in light of the positive response from clients to meetings via Zoom during the pandemic, remote meetings will continue to be offered as an option – and I suspect will be the preference of many (even those who were reluctant at first).