Divorce and Family Mediation on the Internet
With the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that many courts being closed or are operating
with limited schedules, many people are resorting to the Internet to resolve their marital or family differences. While a family court judge is still necessary for a divorce in Louisiana, all of the other issues that are involved with a separation and/or a divorce can be resolved in family mediation.
What Issues Can be Resolved in Family Mediation?
The following issues can be resolved in a family mediation:
Division of Community Property
Division of Liabilities
Post-Divorce Financial Plans
Distribution of Retirement Plans
Medical and Dental Coverage Issue
These are the typical issues that arise when couples separate and/or divorce.
How Does Mediation on the Internet Work?
The process is very similar to in-person mediations except that people are not physically present in the same room. After the parties have chosen their mediator and set the date for the mediation, the mediator will send an Internet link for the parties to click on at the designated date and time. The Agreement to Mediate, a document that is signed before a mediation begins, is usually sent to the parties by email so that they can sign the document electronically. Programs such as Eversign, Signrequest, or Docusign can be used to sign documents. Payment of the mediator’s fee is usually handled electronically with software programs or apps such as Google Pay, PayPal, or Square.
At the beginning of the Internet mediation, the mediator will share his contact information (phone number and email) with the parties in the event that the parties become disconnected. He will also obtain the contact information of the parties for the same purpose. The mediator will usually explain that the process is confidential and ask the parties to confirm that no one else is present with them in the virtual rooms except the parties themselves. This will help ensure confidentiality. It is also a good idea for the mediator to obtain the parties’ confirmations that the session is not being recorded.
When the process begins, the mediator will give an opening statement which explains the process, what will happen that day, and his experience and background. Then the parties will be allowed to give opening statements. Thereafter, the negotiations begin. Yes, that right, negotiations. Remember that a mediation is an organized negotiation and parties must come to the mediation prepared to engage in a give and take process in order to come to a resolution. The mediation process allows the parties to highlight and to understand the issues, to engage in negotiation, and to resolve the issues.
In family mediations, where the parties could have a continuing relationship because of children being involved, the mediator will attempt to keep the parties in the same virtual room. This is because parents, although they may be separating or divorcing, will need to learn to work together in co-parenting their children. On the other hand, if children are not an issue, the mediator might wish to negotiate with the parties in separate meetings known as the caucuses. A caucus is a private meeting between the mediator and one of the parties. On platforms such as Zoom, the mediator can create separate caucus rooms or “breakout rooms” where the mediator and one of the parties can meet privately and confidentially out of the view and sight of the other parties. Moreover, if the parties want to meet privately in a breakout room without the mediator, they can do so. For example, if the plaintiff, the party who is suing the other, wants to meet privately with her lawyer, without the mediator, she can ask the mediator to leave the private breakout room and return to the joint session room.
At the End of the Mediation
The goal of a family mediation is a settlement. If the parties arrive at the mediation with open minds, a willingness to be creative, and a desire to think outside the box, the case will likely result in a settlement. The vast majority of parties who attend a family mediation will leave with a settlement. If lawyers are present at the Internet mediation, they will draft a settlement agreement that will finalize the agreements reached in mediation. If the parties want the agreement signed on the day of the mediation, the settlement agreement can be signed electronically by the parties with Eversign, Signrequest, or Docusign. The settlement agreement is converted into a Consent Judgment to be filed with the court. If no lawyers participate in the mediation, the mediator will draft a settlement agreement that is known as the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) or the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOA or MOU can be converted into a Consent Judgment and filed with the appropriate court.
What If I Do Not Want to Mediate on the Internet?
Online mediation is simply an option. If parties do not want to mediate on the Internet, they can still mediate in person. Mediating on the Internet is an option that in gaining in popularity and should be considered as a viable way of resolving disputes.
Do I Have to Have a Mediator from My Parish or County?
No. Mediators are generally qualified on a state by state basis. Consequently, your mediator does not have to live in your city or town. The mediator should be qualified to conduct mediations in your state and have familiarity with the laws and rules that govern court procedures in your state.
CONTACT US TODAY!
If you are considering mediating your marital or relationship dispute, Conflict Free Resolutions can help. Contact Conflict Free Resolutions (504) 302-2462 for a free initial consultation. We will work around your schedule. New Orleans lawyers Conflict Free Resolutions has offices in Gretna and Downtown New Orleans by appointment only.
This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and
should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any specific situation under federal and/or Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you and/or your business.
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