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Mediation in the Time of COVID

Updated: Mar 8

This blog's title is, admittedly, a humor riff on a Gabriel Garcia-Marquez novel. Nevertheless, the topic, and the title, are pertinent and apt. While we cannot yet assess COVID-19's full impact, some ripple effects appear to be lasting. At least one silver lining has emerged from the worldwide pandemic and disaster: COVID-19 has provided a level playing field for many parties in disagreement, and has elevated mediation to a new plane of relevance and importance.

Technology Adoption

We all know that schools, businesses, and even acquaintances, in need of communication and connection, scrambled to identify and incorporate platforms that allowed real-time video and audio interaction. In December 2019, Zoom had about 10 million users. In June 2020, six months later, that figure was estimated at 300 million (https://www.businessofapps.com/data/zoom-statistics/). Online audio-visual communication is now a mainstream method of communication around the world.

Relevance

The onset of COVID-19 caused many courts to hibernate, which halted a large number of court-involved disputes. According to legal officials from coast to coast, the backlog of cases caused by COVID-19 will continue for several more years. Justice will be delayed even more if the courts are closed again for new variants (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/covid-court-backlog-justice-delayed/2021/12/18/212c16bc-5948-11ec-a219-9b4ae96da3b7_story.html). As a matter of fact, COVID-19 was only a brief blip in the proceedings for those using mediation as a dispute resolution method. With the rapid adoption of real-time communication platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, most mediators were able to continue working uninterrupted.


Advantages of Online Mediation

  • It is common for disputing parties not to desire face-to-face communication. Online mediation eliminates parking lot meetings and awkward waiting periods in an office lobby.

  • The online mediation process allows a mediator to accommodate parties who do not wish to interact. A mediator has the ability to separate disputing parties into separate "virtual rooms" so that the disputing parties need never see or hear each other. It is possible for the mediator to handle each aspect in serial fashion, first speaking with one party, then with the other, iteratively.

  • Domestic abuse victims or other individuals fearing for their safety may participate in a full mediation without being in the same room, or in the same building, or the same state.

  • Safety and social distancing are the most obvious and immediate advantages of online mediation. During the height of the pandemic, disputing parties were able to reach solutions safely and without risking their health. COVID fatigue has hit us all, but the continual emergence of variants still provokes uncertainty for court dates up to 6 or 8 months in the future.

  • Depending on the nature of the dispute (court-ordered or private), and the jurisdiction, the parties can usually choose from a wide range of mediators. Most private mediations, and even most court-ordered mediations, can be handled by either local mediators or mediators who are based in another state. Unsurprisingly, Your Voice Mediation, LLC recommends mediators that are Montana-based.

Contact us for a consultation if you have questions about whether online mediation is right for you. Your Voice Mediation, LLC can provide expert, timely, remote, and secure dispute resolution services from the comfort and safety of your home office or any private internet-connected location of your choice.

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