Remote Mediation: a Viable Alternative During the COVID-19 Crisis
If you have a court hearing scheduled in the next few weeks, most likely you've been told it's postponed. While some hearings will be scheduled telephonically and by video conference, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely causing significant delays in obtaining a hearing and an order or judgment. This is understandable as the court and the bar figure out how to adjust to this crisis. (For updates on the Massachusetts court's current status check here.) Regardless of how understandable these delays are, though, the experience for individuals going through conflict must be frustrating, disappointing, and in some cases devastating.
Now is the time to consider your alternatives to court.
Remote online mediation is an option for those looking to resolve their issues without further delay. Many mediators already have experience using videoconferencing to meet with clients and for us, our business has continued almost uninterrupted. It's not the same as being in person, but for many individuals it's better than waiting to address their pressing issues until court reopens.
So, if you are frustrated by the necessary delays in the court process, consider learning more about mediation. If you're looking for family conflict mediators you can find a list of professionals on this website here. If you are concerned about being able to afford a private mediator, many of our members list their rates in their online profiles. In addition, you may want to consider the many community mediation services in Massachusetts that provide services on a sliding fee scale basis - all listed on the Resolution Massachusetts website.
Finally, this crisis is also an opportunity to think about how you plan to deal with conflict in the future. You can continue business as usual when this crisis has passed (which it will), or you can reflect on whether this crisis has highlighted a better way to approach conflict. Take these steps to be better prepared the next time an emergency situation occurs:
- Get to know a mediator or co-parenting coordinator who can be a resource for your family in times of crisis. Don't assume your lawyer or the court is going to be there to help, or that they should be your first call when there is a conflict;
- For professionals, get trained in mediation so you can provide additional service options to your clients; and
- Encourage the Massachusetts Bar Association (or your local bar association) to add mediation as a service option in their lawyer referral directory. This has been proposed before to the Mass Bar and rejected, but it seems like it may finally be time to recognize how important it is to have alternatives to the court, and that the professionals who offer those alternatives offer a vital service.
Amended from a post originally published on the Skylark Blog.