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We are coming to the end of Family Mediation Week which is a very different landscape compared to this time last year. This year the majority of mediation sessions are being conducted as virtual or online mediation sessions, usually through Zoom or Microsoft Teams; platforms which many people had not even heard of one year ago.
The majority of couples going through the process of divorce will want to avoid the Court process with an average cost of £15,000 each and a timescale of 12-18 months. Therefore, the Court process should always be considered the last option, especially bearing in mind there are now so many alternative ways of resolving matters outside of Court.
Family Mediation is the most well known form of dispute resolution on separation or divorce, resulting in a much quicker and cheaper method of resolving matters when compared to the Court option with a likely realistic cost of £2,000 to £4,000 in total and timescales of 2 – 4 months (or at any other pace you choose to suit you).
Lockdown restrictions have forced face to face meetings with family lawyers and family mediators to move to video platforms over the last year and whilst there can be some downsides of not meeting face to face for a family mediation meeting, such as technical difficulties and maintaining concentration and eye contact, there are also many benefits to consider.
Online mediation means that you are not physically in the same room together, but will see each other on screen only. Many prefer this as physically meeting can be more emotional and stressful for them. Cameras can also be turned off and breakout rooms used if you find even seeing the other person on screen distressing.
The meetings can be from the comfort of your own home in a more relaxed environment and of course there is no travel or waiting time. Therefore, rather than having to take time off work or arrange for childcare, online mediation meetings can be slotted in between work and home commitments.
Having conducted almost daily online meetings via Zoom and Teams with clients and other lawyers for Round Table meetings, collaborative work, family mediation and initial free advice sessions over the last year the feedback from most clients is that they prefer online meetings as opposed to face to face meetings (subject to them having a good internet connection!).
Whilst some clients may choose face to face mediation meetings in future, I anticipate online mediation to become the ‘norm’ and be the popular choice for most.
by Catherine Sousa
Arbitrator (Children Scheme)
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