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Mediating Your Divorce Online: Tackling Technology

Mediating Your Divorce Online: Tackling Technology
May 20, 2020 Rachel Alexander, Esq.
Nervous wide-eye Caucasian woman in front of a computer keyboard

{5 minutes to read}

The Challenges and Gifts of Online Divorce Mediation

Technology

Using new technology can elicit anxiety for most of us. Regardless of our varying levels of experience using Zoom or other virtual conferencing platforms, we are collectively entering a new reliance upon them. The virtual medium has become one of the few ways we can connect with one another and accomplish things. This improvised reliance on video meeting technology — something most people haven’t had to acquaint themselves with until now — can feel pressured and unnatural. We didn’t get much of a dress rehearsal!

To meet this challenge, a few things are helpful:

• Adopt a patient, gentle attitude with one’s self and all others on the video call.

• Humor helps. Try to lighten your grip on having to use a new system flawlessly.

• Know that your aptitude for Zoom does not epitomize your aptitude in general.

• Remember we are in this together.

Utilizing new technology can bring up feelings of incompetence, inadequacy and even shame. When one party is more practiced than the other (having, for example, experience using Zoom for work), there can be a sense of imbalance and competitiveness, a fear of being disadvantaged and left behind.

By befriending technology rather than rejecting it, the mediator encourages clients to practice skills required not merely for mediating online but for improved relations going forward.

It’s the mediator’s job to be aware of all of this, acknowledge that the technology is a real part of the mediation experience, and that it can, in fact, be a vehicle in finding new ways forward. By befriending technology rather than rejecting it, the mediator encourages clients to practice skills required not merely for mediating online but for improved relations going forward.

Adapting to new technology requires tolerance for the unfamiliar and uncomfortable, cultivating self-compassion, practicing patience with one another, and respecting our commonality and distinctions. After all, each person is experiencing not only the technology, but also their divorce, differently. All of these skills are integral for adjusting not merely to a new online venue, but for divorcing as well!

Sharing the experience of being in a new, virtual space together is a fresh way to practice being together in ways required for successful post-divorce interactions.

Being online can serve as an equalizer. There are many humbling aspects that put both parties and mediators in the same boat; when connections drop mid-sentence, everyone scrambles to reconnect with the same clumsiness. This can give us a sense of getting through something together, cooperating as a team, and can elicit camaraderie and kindness as we are reminded of the limitations and shared determination to work within them.

The technology of online mediation presents us with an opportunity for sharing screens, reviewing documents together, working at once intimately and privately (from our separate screens in separate locations, while viewing the same documents at the same time), sharing information and leading conversations where everyone’s expertise and preparation can be utilized, the clients’ and the mediator’s alike.

The online mediation medium can also provide new opportunities for empowerment. Parties can participate as co-leaders, for example, by sharing a spreadsheet that they created or a document that has a list of the questions they want to address during the meetings. There can be a real collaboration with the mediator, and albeit occurring in a virtual plane, we gain a novel nimbleness that can facilitate the process.

Video conferencing has the benefit of breakout rooms so the mediator can caucus with each party, if needed, more elegantly, virtually and immediately; moving between private “rooms.” Gone is the need to get up from a conference table, collect your belongings, and move to a different office, while juggling your phone, calculator, key, and spilling your coffee.

As we address becoming more at home with at-home technology, our next article will examine some of the ups, downs and workarounds while you are literally at home using technology to mediate your divorce.

Rachel Alexander

Rachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group

(908) 310-3397‬

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