Online mediation allows parties to resolve their disputes without having to meet in person. Meetings are conducted using video conferencing software that allows participants to see and hear each other. The benefits of online mediation include: cost savings, convenience, flexibility, and access to mediators from around the world.
Online mediators must have serious training and substantive expertise as well as a keen analytic skill. However, the most important component of an effective online mediation is building rapport and trust. Participants need to feel that their interests are truly understood by the mediator, and that the mediator understands how those interests might be addressed in a way that can lead to a resolution.
While there are obvious benefits to online mediation, it isn’t right for everyone. For example, if you are not comfortable with technology or haven’t used the program before, conducting hours-long meetings might seem daunting. If this is the case, talk to your mediator and ask if you can conduct a “dry run” before a real mediation.
A lack of ability to read body language is another potential problem for some participants. Many participants rely on their ability to gauge other people’s reactions to make informed decisions during negotiations, but in online mediations it can be difficult to know what each participant is thinking and feeling.
Another potential drawback is that there are some cases in which a physical presence is necessary. For instance, if a participant is facing an alleged assailant or has been the victim of domestic violence, a physical barrier between them and the alleged perpetrator can help reduce tensions and increase safety.
Respondents report that online mediation has changed their processes, allowing them to mediate more quickly and efficiently. One reason for this is that it eliminates travel time and costs, as well as the need to schedule sessions around busy work or family obligations. Another advantage is that it allows participants to participate from the comfort of their own homes or office, avoiding travel-related health risks and reducing the stress of the situation.
Some mediators have also found that the use of virtual tools such as shared screens, whiteboards, and breakout rooms has improved efficiency. These tools give the mediator control over what each participant can see, allowing them to mute and separate participants. This allows mediators to focus on individuals when they need it and prevents participants from being manipulated.
As more lawyers and businesses look for ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies during the pandemic, online mediation may be the answer. For those who are considering it, consider talking to your mediator about how they would approach a divorce online and what their process looks like. Make sure to talk to them about their qualifications, the scope of their services (including preparation and filing of post-mediation paperwork), and what they think the pros and cons are of this type of mediation. You can contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems for more information about our e-mediation services. online mediation