I just completed my first divorce mediation using Zoom.com. Unsure of what to expect, to my surprise, I actually loved it!
Concerned about COVID-19 issues, my client and I both logged into the mediation from separate locations. My client was at her home and I was in my office. The opposing counsel joined from his office with his client present.
Our session began with the mediator creating one virtual room for me and my client and a second room for the opposing attorney and his client. She went back and forth between the two rooms, just as she would normally do if this were a physical caucus.
One thing I worried about was the security of using Zoom. Thanks to some recent upgrades, Zoom now requires each participant to wait in a virtual waiting room. The meeting host has to admit each person to the room. This prevents hackers and uninvited guests. As an added security measure, Zoom now also requires a password to ensure privacy.
Another issue that I was worried about was whether I would be able to speak with my client privately outside of the mediator’s presence. Most mediators advise you that if there are things you don’t want the other party to know, point it out to the mediator and the information will not be shared.
Despite this assurance, I generally advise my clients to discuss these things outside the presence of the mediator. If the mediator knows that you are asking for $20,000, but would really accept $10,000, I believe this could subconsciously affect the negotiation. Also, a client may want to confer about something embarrassing or deeply private.
When I felt the need to discuss private matters alone with my client, I simply asked the mediator for a moment alone with my client, just as I would during an in-person mediation session. The mediator left the virtual room and pointed out a feature that allows us to alert the mediator (meeting host) that we were ready for her to return to the room.
During periods where the mediator was meeting with the other party, I was able to use that time to discuss matters with my client. I was also able to use the mute button to discuss matters with my staff privately. I had to make sure to use the mute microphone located within Zoom and not just the mute volume on my computer.
I was also concerned about handling the issue of domestic violence. In a traditional mediation setting, the parties are kept in separate rooms (sometimes separate floors) so they never have to come in contact with the other person. Even though the parties don’t have to worry about bumping into the other person in a virtual setting, sometimes it is traumatic to face a person whom you believe has abused you. By notifying the mediator in advance about this concern, the mediator can ensure that the parties are never in the same virtual room at the same time. Additionally, our mediator made us aware of a feature that allows either party to change their physical background so that the other party can not identify where he or she is located.
Towards the end of mediation, we started to reach an impasse. I was hopeful that if I could talk in private with the opposing attorney, who is an experienced and reasonable family law attorney, we would be able to reach an agreement. The mediator created a room for just the attorneys and with the help of the mediator, we reached an agreement to present to our respective clients that we felt they both would find acceptable. Through experiencing this process, I realize that if a client and attorney are participating from the same location, it is important to have a separate physical room so the attorney has the option of speaking with the opposing counsel outside the presence of the client in order to try to move the case forward.
Because this was my first mediation using Zoom, I carefully selected a seasoned mediator with a strong track record of successful resolutions and a client who was both patient and easy to work with. In the end, we successfully mediated 100% of the issues in this divorce case!
I am grateful to Mediator Julie Ernst, for making this process secure and easy for both me and my client; and I am looking forward to my next scheduled mediation with experienced mediator, Joanne Berry.
For more information about mediation using zoom and divorce mediation to resolve family law cases, visit our website at SharonJacksonAttorney.com. Call Attorney Sharon Jackson at (678) 661-6969 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an initial consultation.
Attorney Sharon Jackson LLC
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Phone: (678) 909-4100
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