What Are the Challenges of Remote Mediation?

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    Mediator Experts

    What Are the Challenges of Remote Mediation?

    In the age of virtual meetings, remote mediation presents unique challenges. We've gathered insights from a Founder & Professional Family Mediator and a Family Law Attorney, among others, to share their experiences. From navigating remote mediation technology to adapting communication for success, explore the four strategies these experts used to effectively mediate from afar.

    • Navigating Remote Mediation Technology
    • Organizing Remote Mediation Effectively
    • Positive Effects of Virtual Divorce Mediation
    • Adapting Communication for Remote Mediation Success

    Navigating Remote Mediation Technology

    I handle about 80% or more of my mediations remotely these days (and have since March of 2020), and at this point, I don't even see it as challenging. However, just as mediating in person can, mediating remotely has its own challenges that can arise, although it also has many benefits for the mediator and the client. The main challenge I find is that sometimes people just aren't set up correctly technology-wise, so we'll have to play around with the video or the sound, and I sometimes play tech support for the first 5-10 minutes. Additionally, I do find that clients aren't always making sure that they're in a place where they can focus solely on the mediation at hand, like they would if we met in person. I've had clients driving or walking around while we do the mediation because they're on their phone, and this can be incredibly distracting to the other parties, as well as means that person is not giving the mediation their full attention. To overcome both of these challenges, we've put together resources for the clients to review before we meet that help them make sure that their audio/video will work and reminds them to be in a place where they can focus on the meeting and that they are alone when doing so.

    Amanda Singer
    Amanda SingerFounder & Professional Family Mediator, West Coast Family Mediation

    Organizing Remote Mediation Effectively

    During and following COVID-19, many mediations were and are now conducted without personal appearances. Assuming that the mediator and all parties are able to access the mediation with appropriate equipment and an electronic conference app, the mediator will be able to access the parties and conduct the mediation remotely. The challenge for the mediator will be to conduct the mediation smoothly, without interruption, and in an organized manner. For these types of mediations, the mediator should require written opening statements and a mediation brief. The mediator can then communicate with counsel for each party prior to the mediation and have a confidential discussion to narrow the issues and get some idea as to the parties' positions on a possible resolution. These steps will give the mediator a better understanding of the issues and goals of the parties and perhaps make the remote proceedings less complicated and allow the mediator to have more quality time to caucus with the parties and, hopefully, assist the parties in attaining a resolution.

    Frank Zaid
    Frank ZaidFranchise mediator, arbitrator, business operations consultant, expert witness, ADR Chambers, Toronto, Canada

    Positive Effects of Virtual Divorce Mediation

    I have been using Zoom and other virtual tools to mediate since 2018, and I host about 60% of my mediation sessions virtually. I believe that a virtual setting in the context of divorce mediation can have a positive effect. An in-person meeting places the couple in the same physical space, which allows for each to be impacted more readily by the other's body movements, facial expressions, and demeanor. In a virtual setting, I can help couples no matter where they live from the comfort of their personal space, and I find that the impact of the movements and attitude are diminished. Mediating divorce in a virtual world, especially high-conflict cases, is a benefit.

    Scott Levin
    Scott LevinFamily law attorney, San Diego Divorce Mediation & Family Law

    Adapting Communication for Remote Mediation Success

    There was a time when I had to mediate between a buyer and seller who were both quite particular about their terms, and to make things more challenging, it all had to be done remotely. The buyer was located in Toronto, while the seller was in Montreal, and coordinating schedules was a bit tricky due to the time difference and their busy lives.

    To overcome these challenges, I started by setting clear communication channels. We utilized video conferencing for face-to-face interactions, which helped build trust and rapport despite the physical distance. I also made sure to keep detailed notes and summaries of each meeting, which I shared with both parties to ensure everyone was on the same page.

    Another key strategy was flexibility. I made myself available at unconventional hours to accommodate their schedules, showing both parties that I was committed to finding a resolution. Additionally, I emphasized transparency, providing regular updates and being upfront about any potential issues.

    By fostering open communication and maintaining a proactive approach, we managed to reach a satisfactory agreement for both the buyer and the seller. It was a great learning experience in the importance of adaptability and clear communication in remote mediation.

    Samantha Odo
    Samantha OdoReal Estate Sales Representative & Montreal Division Manager, Precondo