With the many challenges Americans have faced over the past year, the added stress of marital conflict has only added fuel to the fire. For Oregon couples going through a divorce at this time, it can be a relief to know that there are simpler, less expensive and less contentious ways of reaching a divorce settlement than by going to court.
In fact, Oregon courts encourage alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation for all kinds of family matters, whether it involves property division, child custody, parental time or child support and alimony issues.
Given the increasing use of video conferencing services as a means of connecting people to a range of services, the question of how the core tenets of mediation can be achieved in a virtual setting comes up. How is it possible to create connection and common ground virtually, and are there takeaways from the past year that may be useful for mediation services in the future?
Unexpected benefits of the virtual platform for mediation
One of the main advantages of virtual mediation is convenience. As participants in a video conferencing format do not have to travel to a city center, a mediation session does not have to take up the major part of a day. For clients living in different locations, it is even more convenient.
Having flexibility is a key element of virtual mediation, and so shorter sessions can focus on individual issues such as spousal or temporary child support, custody orders, parental time or property division. Sessions can also be effective in narrowing points of contention between parties. It is important to note that mediation services in Oregon can specialize in individual aspects of divorce, including each of the above.
A bad connection or audio feedback when a participant does not understand the technology can make video conferencing challenging. Some of these issues can be discussed and dealt with during a pre-mediation orientation, however.
As a hallmark of mediation is confidentiality, attorneys should make sure that the format provides HIPPA-compliant privacy and encryption methods. The attorneys must also inform their clients that other clients may be recording the sessions.
Building rapport and trust is the greatest goal and challenge for the mediator to surmount, and the virtual format will only succeed where all parties are invested in the process. But above all, it is essential to have an experienced divorce mediator at the table. While it is too early to tell, early positive outcomes may make virtual mediation a standard option for the future.