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Mediation During COVID | Video Mediation in Illinois Explained | Learn About Law

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Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
August 24, 2020

Family mediation is one of several alternatives available to couples in Illinois to resolve divorce or parenting issues. Prior to COVID-19, individuals and couples would go to the mediator’s office to mediate various issues involving their case. With COVID restrictions in place, mediation did not cease only the way it was conducted. Now mediation is done through various streaming apps such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. These apps make it possible for all parties to still meet, but to meet safely without the fear of possible exposure to COVID.

What do you Need for Video Mediation?

To participate in video mediation you will need internet access, a computer with a camera, or a smartphone, and a room where you will have very few interruptions. This could be in your home, or at your office.

How Does Video Mediation Work?

Prior to the mediation session you should receive an invitation for mediation. It will include a date, a time, and a link to join the video session. Before mediation you will want to download the software that makes it possible to video conference.  With video mediation, just as in face to face, your mediator can separate into a shared room. This allows the mediator to discuss the issues with each party separately and privately—just as you would if you were face to face at the mediator’s office. The mediator also has the capabilities of bringing all of the parties together to discuss various facts or issues. Like a face to face mediation the mediator is working to try and find areas the parties can agree on, and areas the parties might be willing to compromise to reach an agreeable settlement.

 The Benefits to Mediating Online

  1. Flexibility – Parties are able to match schedules easier, because they do not need to travel. 
  2. Time – Online mediation frees up a lot of your time. It typically does not take as long as it does when meeting in person. 
  3. Intimidation from Confrontation – When resolving a conflict there may be one party that tends to dominate more than another through their gestures or better communications skills. This may cause the other party to shy away from putting forth their opinion. The benefit of online is the likelihood of feeling intimidated can be eliminated due to the separate rooms, and lack of non-verbal communication being seen by each party.
  4. Geographical Constraints Removed – When one of the parties lives out of state or in a different city mediation can become time consuming and expensive. With video mediation it makes it possible for everyone to meet without the cost of travel expenses, and it saves on time.
  5. Less time consuming – Depending on the number of issues mediation may take all day. With online mediation the mediator is able to move back and forth easily between the parties saving time and interruptions.
  6. Less expensive than litigation – The more you resolve in mediation the less you will spend at trial, and the less you leave in the judge's hands to decide.

Privacy: How Can I do Mediation with Others in the House?

An obstacle to online mediation is finding a separate place where no is present during the mediation. Kids may be at home, and depending on their ages it may be difficult to arrange privacy for 4 to 8 hour blocks. Some people have gone to separate rooms for the mediation, others may participate in their car, and others have gone to their workplace to participate. The positive to online mediation is you are able to mute the sound when you are not talking, and chat privately with the mediator. These tools will help with keeping the mediation more private should you have unexpected interruptions.

How is Mediation Binding if I am not There to Sign the Document?

When an agreement is reached each party needs to sign a written document. Typically, in-person the document is created throughout the course of the mediation, and then all parties sign it before they leave. With video mediation a document can still be drafted throughout the course of the mediation and emailed for electronic signatures at the completion of the mediation, but prior to it ending. If there is not enough time to complete this step then parties can place their agreement on the record, and the document can be drafted and reviewed by all parties for their signature. 

What can I do to Increase the Success of Mediation?

There are a few steps you can take to make video mediation successful:

  1. Practice prior to the initial meeting. Make sure you have a good connection, your camera works and audio is working. 
  2. Make sure the room you are planning to be in has a good internet connection.
  3. Practice with the app so you know how to use the various tools such as muting the volume.
  4. Have a back-up plan in case you lose connection or get dropped from the meeting.
  5. Have a way you can communicate with your attorney throughout the mediation. This could be through texting or chatting with another app. 
  6. Schedule your first meeting for only 4 to 5 hours. Because you are doing mediation from home and on video the time will be more intensive than when you meet in person. 

Although mediating via video became more popular due to COVID, it most likely is going to be around for a long time due to the benefits, and saving of time it provides for all the parties involved. The more you are prepared for your video mediation, the more likelihood you will have for success.

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Mediation During COVID | Video Mediation in Illinois Explained | Learn About Law

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