I think it is fair to say that the Family Mediation Council have not embraced online mediation and see that face to face mediation is the best way to resolve disputes on parenting and finances as part of your divorce or separation.
When you are in a room together you get a better feel for the chemistry and atmosphere taking place.
It is easier to sense when someone is struggling emotionally when they are sitting across a table from you and it is usually far easier to build a rapport when talking to someone face to face.
But you can also engage more in tit-for-tat arguments and over-talking with each other when in the same room – and some people find the close physical contact makes it harder for them to mediate.
How Does Online Mediation Work?
You would usually arrange an initial session with just you and your mediator first. This allows you to explain your situation, what you would like to happen and address any concerns you may have.
These initial sessions can be held via Facetime, Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp Video. In exceptional cases – such as we are facing at the moment, they can be held on the phone too.
You do not need to have a knowledge of technology to make it work, just access to a computer, tablet or smart phone.
Once both parties have had their initial session, you will be invited to the first joint mediation appointment online. These usually last for 90 minutes but can be extended or reduced as required.
Top Tips for Online Mediation
- Try to ensure you have a quiet room to yourself and put a ‘do not disturb’ on that room and also on your front door.
- If you are still living together, make sure you are in separate rooms for the meeting. It doesn’t work if you are in the same room together.
- Ensure any children are looked after and know not to disturb you during the meeting
- Have any financial information you need to share up on your computer or be able to email it. It is handy to have a printed copy to hand as well
- Remember you are not allowed to record the meeting in anyway
- Be conscious of your background an what can be seen behind you
Does It Work?
The short answer is yes!
Meetings tend to progress faster as it is only possible for one person to talk at a time. The mediator will control the meeting, ensuring everything is covered and they can even mute one party if they need to if using Zoom.
Meetings can be set up quicker than face to face meetings, most people need fewer meetings to reach agreement and remember all mediation is ‘without prejudice’ so you can discuss everything safely and explore options without immediately being tied to them.
What If We Cannot Agree?
You can still apply to court and by having your initial meeting with the mediator they can sign and release the appropriate court form for your case.
The courts are still operating and are now holding remote hearings – so if you go to court you will usually be reliant on using Skype. So you might as well try mediation first – it could just save you a lot of time, stress and money.
Will Online Mediation Continue?
The Covid-19 crisis has led many companies and employees to re-think how they operate their services.
And Family Mediation is no different. With more people getting used to using video calling to hold meetings remotely, arranging the parenting, property and financial issues around your divorce or separation will be a natural thing to carry out from the comfort of your own home. And it avoids the awkward leaving the mediation room together and struggling with small talk.
About Ali Carter
Ali Carter is a family law paralegal, mediator, divorce negotiator and founder of Divorce Ltd. He set up Mediate UK in 2010 and has helped over 3000 clients divorce or separate amicably.
Ali was a serving police officer before going through a difficult divorce himself and he decided to leave the police and set up a family mediation business. Ali also runs a free online divorce clinic for anyone who needs help.
These can be booked here: www.mediateuk.co.uk
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