Family Mediation by Zoom – the way forward?

20 May 2020 | David Leadercramer

Like most mediators I have had to embrace distanced or remote mediations. I have been using Zoom, a video conferencing platform, although there are of course other options such as Skype. It is also worth pointing out that there are some concerns about Zoom and privacy and it is important that clients are made aware of this. In addition, Resolution as well as giving excellent guidance to mediators has also produced a particularly useful addendum to be sent to mediating clients regarding remote mediations.

I approached this new way of working with some trepidation. The traditional mediation model has the obvious advantages of letting the clients and the mediator see each other, react to body language as well as the spoken word and to generally make the process highly interactive. Would remote mediations work as well?

My impressions thus far have been broadly positive with some unforeseen benefits as well as a few drawbacks. One unexpected plus was that for the first time in a mediation I saw myself as well as the clients. This was quite a revealing experience. I could look at my own body language and expression in a way that previously had been impossible. I was able to be more aware of how I might be perceived by the clients and could adjust accordingly.

Some clients seemed more relaxed by being at home and not in the same room as the other client. Before the lockdown restrictions, clients who might have preferred not to be present with the other client might have felt reluctant to express that view, but since the restrictions have been in place that has not been a concern.

I also found that once the mediation was under way, whether it was remote or not moved into the background as the clients and myself became absorbed by the issues.

Zoom also makes it difficult for participants to speak simultaneously and so the process is helped considerably by the need for all participants to listen to just one voice at a time.

Mediation practice for family matters could be revolutionised by remote mediation. It will not matter where the clients are physically situated. They could be far from one’s place of work or even in another country. Geographical limitations will be unimportant.

I anticipate that once lockdown restrictions are eased or removed that we will be more adaptable and prepared to mediate in a way that previously we would have been reluctant to contemplate.

Blog post written by David Leadercramer, partner in the Family Law team.

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