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The benefits of mediation during Covid-19

The Family Courts have been extremely busy during lockdown and adapting to a new system of telephone/online hearings along with illness from the pandemic itself has meant that they have had to prioritise certain hearings over others. Proceeding with a family-based application through the Court can, therefore, be somewhat of an uncertain journey at present in relation to just how long matters will take to move through the Court. With the possibility of further delays even as lockdown restrictions are eased, now – more than ever – may be the time to consider the benefits of mediation  during Covid-19 as an effective way to resolve disputes swiftly and achieve a smooth and timely resolution.

What is mediation?

A family mediator is an independent and neutral professional who can assist a couple in exploring issues arising from their separation, commonly in relation to children and/or matrimonial finances.

One of the glories of mediation is that it helps to keep good communication alive and, by talking about fears and concerns, the mediator can help both parties to understand the other’s point of view. This, in turn, can assist in reaching an amicable resolution.

Most mediators adapted their practice in the early months of the pandemic, so they are able to offer mediation remotely, using Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Skype, which means that mediation can happen quickly and efficiently. Solicitors do not attend mediation meetings, but each person should have their own solicitor to advise them in the background, so they know the reasonable parameters within which to explore an agreement.

What are the benefits of mediation during Covid-19?

The benefits of remote mediation are:

  1. Mediation can take place during any lockdown restrictions, thereby mitigating any potential delay;
  2. You get to decide where you want to be during mediation – in your own home, a home office, the garden – which means you are in comfortable and familiar surroundings, which may help alleviate any additional stress. Similarly, if you have mobility issues, then you don’t need to worry about access;
  3. If you feel that you need a break or you want to go any talk to someone in your household about the discussions taking place during mediation, you can easily switch off the camera and mute the microphone;
  4. There is no need to travel, eliminating any stress or costs that may come with travelling to an agreed venue and possibly having to find somewhere to park.

The mediation process is still structured, and the mediator will hold joint sessions as well as speaking to each party individually. If the matter is particularly contentious and the parties don’t want to see each other, then it is possible for the mediator to carry out shuttle mediation by having separate ‘breakout rooms’ online so that neither party has to come face to face with the other.

Are there any alternatives to mediation?

Other alternatives to court to consider include ‘a collaborative law approach whereby each partner instructs a collaborative solicitor and discussions and negotiations take place by way of 4-way meetings with the two solicitors and the couple. Many of our lawyers are collaboratively trained. These meetings were traditionally held around a table but can be conducted online instead. Arbitration can all be considered where a definitive decision is needed by a Judge.

If you would like to discuss the benefits of mediation during Covid-19, or any other alternative dispute resolution method, then please contact us.

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