Why is Mediation so Important Today?
Mediation during the time of COVID-19 has been a savior to those who want or need to move their family law-related disputes forward. With the courts taking necessary actions to enforce social distancing, ensure the safety of litigants, attorneys, and court staff, while following the governor’s stay-at-home order, clients and attorneys are left with few options to efficiently advance their cases. Thanks to technology, the best option is to participate in mediation through online resources such as Zoom and Google Meets which allow for face-to-face mediation to still occur and for cases to avoid stagnation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution resolving disputes between two or more parties. Typically, a third party, the mediator, assists the parties to reach a settlement acceptable to both parties. In the divorce world, the most successful mediations take place when the attorney for each side is present. This allows both parties to confer with their chosen counsel throughout the process so they have real-time realistic expectations of an outcome and the security of knowing that if they are not comfortable advocating for themselves, their attorney will advocate on their behalf.
How Do I Get My Case Into Mediation?
If you want your case to move forward in mediation, whether due to COVID-19 delays or not, ask your lawyer to confer with the opposing attorney and to try and agree on a private mediator. Although mediation via technologies like Zoom and Google Meets might seem like the best option to one party, be prepared that the other party might not agree. This becomes an issue because in order to conduct any private mediation, both parties must be in agreement. And there may be one party who is content with the status quo and who prefers to take advantage of the COVID-19 delay.
What If My Spouse Won’t Agree To Go To Private Mediation?
It is still possible to navigate the new, temporary procedures for filing and obtaining hearings and pre-trial conferences remotely. Discovery (the information gathering process that takes place in each case) is still happening with only minimal encumbrances. Our judges want to work and are looking for ways to help attorneys and litigants continue to be as productive as possible under the present circumstances. And while the court closure date may very well get extended beyond the current May 30th date, more hearings are occurring each week as all participants acclimate to technology.
During this pandemic, families are feeling increased stress-levels. The option of being able to resolve their disputes now, via mediation, and not at some indefinite time in the future, should be comforting for many.
Thomas T. Field, Divorce and Family Law Partner and Head of the Family Law Group