Mediation via Video Conference – Pros and Cons

Perhaps you were considering resolving your divorce through the mediation process, and have put things on hold, given the limits on in person meetings during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.  Coronavirus has lead to the adoption of new and creative ways to complete functions typically done in-person during the divorce process. One option is to proceed with the mediation process through the use of video conferences.  There are some pros and cons to think about as you consider this option.

  1. Do you have the needed technology?  In order to fully participate in a mediation via video conference you will need a relatively stable internet connection and a computer or laptop.  You will need to be able to view the other participants in the mediation as well as documents and spreadsheets.  This is almost impossible to do well on a tablet or phone alone.
  1. Do you have a private space to attend the meetings?  You will need to give your full attention to the mediation discussions and will need to be able to speak and participate freely.  If you do not have a space to do this, because of children or other people in your household, you will not be able to adequately participate.  If this is a difficulty you may want to ask the mediator if there is an empty office or conference room available for you to sit in to attend the video conferences. During stay at home orders in particular, this is a realistic possibility.
  1. Are your financial records in electronic format?  If you are mediating anything involving financial issues you will need to be able to provide financial documentation to the mediator and the other participants.  This is most easily done if you have your financial records already in electronic format.  If you keep your records in a paper format you may want to make arrangements with the mediator in advance to have them scanned so that they are available to all electronically.
  1. Do you prefer the “distance” that a video conference provides?  Somewhat surprisingly, some people have found that they prefer the video conference format to in person meetings.  Travel and parking hassles are avoided, and with the physical distance some find there is also enough emotional distance to make the meetings easier to attend.  The mediator may still use break out rooms to speak with each participant separately as needed, and some feel more comfortable attending the sessions from their own home.
  1. Do the participants live distantly, making video conferencing a better option?  Often mediation is dismissed as an option as the parties are not both in the same town and available to attend the mediation in person.  Video conference mediations can take place regardless of the location of the participants.

My own view as a mediator is that I was skeptical about the use of video conferences for mediation sessions, but after using this technology out of necessity, have been surprised at the effectiveness.  If you would like to proceed with a mediation process and have access to the needed technology, mediation via video conference is a worthwhile option to consider.