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Understanding Online Mediation & MIAMs in 2020 [Your Free Guide]

Mar 26, 2020 | News

Welcome to the guide for online family mediation!

Life has moved online and in the last five years, we have started to do so many things via our phones. We carry out our weekly shop, banking, watch movies and even see our GP online when we are not feeling well. The world is now digital. The family courts have introduced online divorces and applications for court and there is the proposal to take this one step further and introduce a digital family court. Family mediation is already online and has been used successfully for a number of years.

As a family mediator, I think online mediation has many benefits and allows people to access mediation quickly and safely from where ever they are. Over the last few years I have been asked many questions about online mediation and so I have decided to put together this guide. If your question isn’t here, please get in touch, and we will do our best to answer you.

Top 20+ Frequently Asked Questions about Online Mediation & MIAMs

Do I need to download a special app or computer program to do online mediation?

Different mediators use different applications and programs. The most popular are Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Google Hangouts. I personally use WhatsApp, as it is encrypted and most mobiles have it pre-installed on them. Another bonus is that most people use WhatsApp nearly every day and are familiar with the app, unlike Zoom. What many people don’t know about WhatsApp is that you can have conference calls with more than one person. This is perfect for online face-to-face family mediation. If you are unsure about it, one of our admin team would be happy to do a trial run with you.

Is online any different from in person?

This is probably one of the most frequent questions that is asked. In short, the answer is no. As a mediator, I will take you through the same mediation process and I will ask the same questions. Naturally, body language is more difficult to observe, but mediators are more vigilant when conducting online mediation and will be asking you how you feel during the process to make up for this. The one thing I can’t do is make it make you a coffee and offer you a biscuit, but I generally advise clients to have a drink with them during the session, but not gin!

What happens if my internet connection is not good?

This can sometimes be a problem. If you are concerned, you can always get in touch with our office and they can do a test video call with you. If your connection is not strong enough, then we advise that you may wish to speak to a friend or family member who has a better connection. However, you will have to let them know that when you are having your mediation session, you will need to be alone in the room. Another option, is contacting our office and asking for a face-to-face session. This might take a little more time to arrange with a mediator.

How can you do face-to-face mediation online?

It is very easy and there is nothing to worry about. All you need to do is answer the call and the mediator will add your ex-partner if your mediation is using WhatsApp. If you want to keep your number private, please make sure your mediator knows, so that another program can be used. In these circumstances, Zoom would be used. If you have not used it before, it is quite easy, but if you are worried your mediator can send you an online tutorial explaining how it works. You can use Zoom on your mobile and also on your computer.

Is online as successful as doing mediation in person?

This is probably the second most asked question and the answer from my experience as a family mediator is yes. In addition, there is no research to show that online mediation is less successful. Online mediation definitely gives better accessibility, especially for people who have mobility issues. Also, many people feel more confident and relaxed in their own homes and this helps. Going to a place that you don’t know can be daunting, but sat in your favourite chair with a hot chocolate can make the process much easier. Nobody has ever said to me that mediation broke down because it was online. Generally, issues of communication are much deeper rooted.

I am worried that my ex will not be alone when he has online mediation?

This concerns many people. What happens if my ex has their new partner in the room, but just out of camera shot? The mediator explains at the beginning of the session that only they are allowed in the room they are calling from. He or she will ask each person to show the room that they are in and this can be done at any time during the mediation. The mediator will be monitoring eye movement. This very often shows if someone else is in the room. If the mediator suspects that someone has entered either person’s room, the mediation will be paused or stopped.

Will you call me or will I call you?

The mediator or the admin team will send you an email with a time for your appointment. Please be ready to start, as mediators can have back to back appointments. Your mediator will call you, but be patient as previous appointments can overrun sometimes. If 15 minutes pass and there has been no call, it is recommended that you contact the main office asking for an update.

Is online mediation safe?

For people who have been a victim of domestic abuse or violence, online mediation is a good option. It allows you to keep your address private and the risk of intimidation is less. You are always in control and can finish the call with a press of a button (it is much easier than walking out of a room). Where there are non-molestation orders and restraining orders in place, online mediation is a better choice. On a technological level, we only use digital platforms that are encrypted, which ensures your safety. 

How do you do shuttle mediation online?

It is simple! There is no complex technology involved, as many people think. With WhatsApp video, I make a call to one person, talk with them (normally for about 15 minutes) during which I make notes of proposals and topics for discussion. I then ask them to have a break of about 15 minutes while I speak to the other person. This is then repeated during the mediation session. The only thing we ask is that during your break you don’t go off and leave your phone on the table (the break may be shorter) or discuss the case. Mediation is a confidential process.

Can I record the mediation on my phone?

No, no, no, no, no! Many people ask this, because they don’t want to forget what is happening. However, the mediator will be taking notes throughout the session, which you will receive a few days after. The Agreement to Mediate, which will be sent to you for reading, clearly states that you cannot record the session in anyway. Your mediator will ask you to sign this agreement. If you are found to be recording it, the mediator will terminate the session immediately and will issue the mediation certificate. All discussions in mediation are legally privileged, so no one can refer to anything said in mediation during a court case.

How quickly can I get an online mediation appointment?

Online appointments are much quicker than an appointment at one of our venues. We have over 80 accredited mediators in our network and as a result, we can give you an appointment generally on the same day that you call. Our office is open Monday to Friday from 08:30 until 17:30 and appointments are available from 07:00 until 19:00. If you want your online appointment at a weekend, these are also available, but at a higher price.

How will I receive my session record?

Your mediation session record will be sent by email only. The email provider we use is Gmail. Gmail uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) to automatically encrypt incoming and outgoing emails. This is how we ensure the security of the documents we send. The document is normally sent in Word. If you do not have Word, please let your mediator know and they will ensure that a PDF is sent instead. If there are any errors in your record, please do not email your mediator, but bring them up at the beginning of your next mediation session. If you do not have another session, please email the office with the correction of any errors.

Will you make sure that my ex does not see my email address?

Yes, we will always ensure that your email addresses are not disclosed. The mediator and our admin team will generally email both of you at the same time, but you will be blind copied into the email, so there is no risk of your email address being disclosed by accident. You will also be asked in your Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) if you wish to keep your contact details confidential.  

How much does online mediation cost?

Online mediation is the same cost as mediation in person. Many people ask why this is. In short, the mediator will spend the same amount of time online as they would in person. The same questions will be asked online as they would be in person. Our admin team also gives you the same level of support in arranging your appointment.

I don’t have a computer or mobile phone that supports video calls?

This can make online appointments a bit difficult. You may wish to speak to family or friends about using their computer or mobile. However, remember that when making the call you will need to be alone. If you do decide to do this, make sure you can use the equipment. Another alternative is to have an appointment in person. If you call our admin team, they will tell you where the nearest mediation venue is. In total, we have over 230 venues throughout England and Wales.

Do I need headphones with a microphone to do online mediation?

When you buy a mobile phone, it usually comes with a headphone set, which includes a microphone. However, if this is lost somewhere in your home, don’t worry, as phones all have a build in microphone. When doing online mediation, it is best to do it in a quiet place, as microphones have a tendency of picking up background noise, which can make it difficult for other people to hear you when you speak. Headsets with microphones can be bought easily in the high street for less than £10.

How do I sign documents such as the Agreement to Mediate online?

This is done through a program called HelloSign. If you have an email address, the admin team or the mediator will send you an email. It has very easy to follow instructions and takes only a minute to complete. If you don’t have an email address, we can send a link to your mobile phone (as long as you can access the Internet) and you can also complete there. If you don’t have access to either of these, we can send it to you in the post. The document will contain a stamped addressed envelope for you to post it back to our office.

Where should I be when I have the online mediation?

This is your choice. However, it needs to be somewhere private, where you can speak without being overheard. You also need to be alone. In a house full of children, some parents have locked themselves in their bedroom, or even the car. If you are going to have the mediation from your car (not a great environment), your vehicle must be stationery and your engine turned off. The mediator will not go ahead with the call if you are in transit – mediation needs your full attention.

Can my children be with me when I am doing online mediation?

If you are a full-time parent, it can be difficult to have an hour free to do your mediation. We generally ask parents to try and find a friend, neighbour, or family member to be with the children. This allows you to concentrate on trying to find a solution to the problems that you and your ex are facing. If your children are old enough to be in a room by themselves, it is important to make sure that they can’t over hear your conversations. Mediation is for adults only and the subject content is not suitable for children. By ensuring that your children cannot hear, you are protecting them emotionally.  

How can I share financial documents in mediation?

This question particularly applies to financial cases where there usually has to be an exchange of documents i.e. bank statements, credit card bills, pension statements etc. The mediator usually asks you to send documents before the meeting, so they can also familiarise themselves with them as well. It is best to scan documents, but if you don’t have a scanner, you can use the camera on your phone to take photos. However, do make sure that the photos are clear. In addition to this, if you have a smart phone, you can download a scanner. There are a number of free applications.

Can I book my appointment online?

At Direct Mediation Services you can book your appointment via our website. There is a large button saying “Book Now” at the top right of the site. It will take you to our booking system, Calendly, which is easy to use. You will choose the service you want, the date and time of your appointment and be invited to make payment by credit or debit card. After this, you will be sent a receipt and confirmation of your appointment by email. Naturally, you can call our helpline and book your appointment if you don’t have access to the internet or don’t like making credit card payments online.

Can’t I just do mediation by telephone?

In short, you can do your initial meeting, Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) by telephone if you are a private client; however, for the actual mediation session with your ex, this has to be done by video link if online. This is stipulated by the Family Mediation Council. If you are funded by the Legal Aid Agency all appointments have to be via video conferencing or in person.

What shall I wear to my mediation session?

Online mediation is not court, so you don’t need to put on your best suit. However, do be dressed appropriately – the mediator won’t be wearing his pyjamas or his onesie, so please don’t you!  

Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly can I get an online appointment?

If you are a private client, we try to give you your MIAM appointment within the hour, but the maximum time would be one working day. If you are funded by the Legal Aid Agency there needs to be an eligibility assessment before, which adds some time, but we will work as quickly as we can.

Are online mediation appointments allowed?

Yes, the Family Mediation Council has said that mediation can be conducted via a video call. This change was brought in a number of years ago. It is important to ensure that the video call is encrypted. Your mediator will be able to explain how it complies with the GDPR.

Is online mediation safe?

Online mediation is a better choice when there are issues of harassment, domestic abuse and when there is a high conflict situation. Online mediation allows you to keep your location and address private, reducing risk.

How much does an online mediation appointment cost?

The price for online mediation varies, but usually it starts at £120. Always make sure that the charges include VAT and also the issuing of the mediation certificate (if necessary). Prices for online and face-to-face may sometimes be different.

Summary

Sadly, many couples in the UK who face divorce or separation do not consider family mediation, but immediately make an appointment to go and see a family lawyer. However, in many countries, this is not the case and the mediator is the person you sit down with first. The aim of the mediator is to de-escalate the situation and see if the issues can be resolved without the need for engaging lawyers. The other benefits are that you could save thousands of pounds, reduce the time you spend sorting out problems and ultimately make the decisions yourselves, instead of handing them over to a court, who does not know you and the needs of your family.

Direct Mediation Services are an award-winning family mediation firm with a team of experienced mediators, accredited by the Family Mediation Council.

The family mediation process starts with a first meeting called a MIAM (Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting), which costs £120 (including VAT). This price also includes the issuing of the mediation certificate if necessary. You attend the MIAM by yourself and the mediator will explain the situation and ask you questions about the issues you and your ex are having. The cost per hour per person is the same if you go on to mediation with your ex-partner.

The feedback from our mediation clients has been positive. We are so confident that you will find family mediation a good starting point with regards to finding a way forward for you and your family.

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