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Mediating Your Divorce Online: From Home

Rachel Alexander May 28, 2020

{6 minutes to read}  The Challenges and Gifts of On-Line Divorce Mediation

Mediating from Home

Divorce is discomforting. Traversing divorce necessitates securing as much comfort as possible. In some important ways, divorcing through online mediation can offer that.

At home, with technology (not “at home with technology”)

Even in dealing with a new medium and unfamiliar technology, there are some undeniable benefits in mediating from home. What is foreign and stressful can be managed differently from the familiar resource of one’s own home. There can be a sense of ease and competence that is more difficult to experience while a client is in an attorney’s office.

Home is filled with reassuring objects that remind one of one’s self, not only in the current moment, but within the context of one’s life and ongoing connections to others. Photos, cherished objects, pets, favorite coffee mugs, coffee itself, lounge wear, and simple human comforts are all within immediate reach. This can prop us up when we are facing difficult conversations.

For clients who are provoked by being in the same physical space, mediating from separate locations can automatically mitigate emotional distress and increase a sense of safety and control. The better clients are able to regulate their emotions and maintain focus, the more they can keep to the substantive matters at hand, expediting the divorce mediation process.

Conversely, when clients are triggered, they can be hijacked by intolerable emotional states, rendering them unable to proceed productively. When this happens, attention shifts to restoring the client(s) to safety — to helping them find their feet before taking another step forward. When clients feel more grounded, as they often do when in the familiar setting of their own homes, they can bring their more thoughtful, integrated selves to the decision-making process.

To and from — reducing travel stressors

By meeting virtually, travel time, costs and attendant stressors are reduced. Negotiating leaving work (or the work day) early or arriving late, combatting rush-hour traffic, navigating to an unfamiliar place, watching the clock to ensure leaving to pick up kids on time — are all factors that can be eliminated or alleviated. When travel time is removed, scheduling meetings become more manageable, more easily coordinated, and less disruptive to clients’ regular schedules.

Finding a Private Space

Mediating from home requires finding a place in the home that is private. Let’s pause here. This may be no simple matter. Your sense of peace and privacy during the mediation will largely depend upon how well you manage the other members of the household in preparation for your session. Some advanced planning — and even introducing some new practices — can prepare your household for the special accommodation you will need: uninterrupted privacy for the duration of your mediation meeting.

Some practical advice for making a safe, private space from which to mediate in your home:

  1. Set up a designated place with a door. A bedroom, walk-in closet, with the car as a last resort (do not die of carbon monoxide poisoning on my watch, please).

  2. You need the best internet connection you have — so try for a spot in (or near) the house where the wifi connection is solid.

  3. Dress comfortably and in layers (so many things require layers, this is now apparently one of them) in case you are outside or in the car, and the weather is uncooperative.

  4. Have snacks, beverages, tissues, note paper and pen, and decent lighting, if possible. Have a pet or non-alive comfort object with you — it may sound silly, but do it anyway. It helps.

  5. Remember your reading glasses.

  6. Make arrangements for your kids and other third parties sheltering in [your] place. Let them know you are off-limits for the time designated for the meeting. You might try a test run a day or two before the mediation so you can learn of any obstacles and troubleshoot them in advance. (You might set something like this up anyway for non-mediation times when you need an hour or so to yourself.)

  7. For kids, activities should be things that do not require parental supervision and that your kids regard as a treat, such as watching a favorite show or movie. Let this be a time they will be soothed and content (don’t try to make this a time for homework, chores or mastering Mandarin). They will be less likely to require your assistance, deliver you progress reports, or seek your attention to relieve their own agitation. The goal is simply to create some down time where you can focus on your mediation and not be worried about what’s going on elsewhere in the house.

  8. Online meetings may be somewhat shorter, depending upon individual circumstances and preferences; this can be worked out with the flexibility and dexterity required of us all.

Divorcing by online mediation requires some adjustments. However, it may ultimately provide a new way of reducing some of the stress inherent both in our current environment and in divorce — and do so while strengthening the skills needed to pilot both.