Online Family Mediation
The mask mandate lifts in Ontario this week. It’s also the 2 year anniversary of moving Sanders Mediation from bricks and mortar offices to a fully virtual practice. Back in March of 2020 (it seems like so long ago now!) online divorce mediation wasn’t a thing. Like many small business owners in 2020, I started offering online mediation services as a temporary solution. I fully expected that within a few weeks we’d be back in the offices, shaking hands and seeing clients face to face. Of course those weeks turned into months, then years, and now Sanders Mediation is a fully virtual family mediation practice, offering services throughout Ontario.
Back in 2020 I thought that online divorce mediation was an imperfect substitute for in-person services. I expected that the preference would always be to meet in person. It’s turned out that virtual mediation services have served clients even better than in-person services ever could have. By offering virtual services Sanders Mediation has expanded to serve clients across Ontario, including remote areas that have no access to in-person mediators. I’ve been able to expand the business to include financial professionals that can join in virtual meetings to assist clients in more complicated files. In my view, online divorce mediation can also offer a much better client experience. The advantages include:
Mediation Sessions from your own private space
Mediation can be stressful! When mediation was in person it was extremely difficult for some clients to be in the same room as their ex. Sometimes they hadn’t seen each other for months, and just being in their presence again was enough to be very upsetting. Online divorce mediation allows clients to attend the meetings from a private space in which they feel most comfortable, far away from their ex. When we met in person I would have to stagger start times to allow each client time to arrange and check in with me before bringing them together in the same room. This was time consuming, and sometimes tense! Virtual services allows a much more relaxed, streamlined process.
Streamlined Financial Disclosure
Prior to offering online divorce mediation I had to darken the room and project my computer screen onto the wall so that clients could view their financials. I printed off countless versions of support calculations for them to view. With virtual services I can screen share so that clients can easily view statements and real-time changes to support calculations. Many also take screen shots as we go, and save them for their own files.
Better control over conflict
Being online means that as a mediator I can easily separate clients out into virtual “rooms” if conflict is high, or a client needs to speak to me privately. This “shuttle” or “caucus” mediation is much more difficult to facilitate in person. Attending online divorce mediation is also safer for high conflict clients, literally keeping them out of harm’s way should conflict escalate. Online services makes mediation possible for clients who have no-contact orders, because I can mediate between them without them ever communicating directly.
I have increased availability with online mediation compared to meeting in a physical office space. Meeting in-person always means increased time in between sessions, and increased travel time to get to and from the office space. All of this meant less time available to meet with clients. Online scheduling allows clients to get services quickly, rather than being put on the waitlist.
If you’re hesitant about using online divorce mediation, I was too! But, I see now that overall it’s been an exceptional service for clients.