As a rule of practice a Family Mediation is conducted in person with both Parties being present in the same room as the Mediator. This is no doubt the ideal way for a mediation to operate and the most utilized way of conducting a mediation. What is not always public knowledge is that a Family Mediation can in certain circumstances where necessity dictates take place via Telephone Conferencing or Video-Conferencing. This is particularly relevant in matters involving international parenting issues where the parents reside in different countries and/or are not able for whatsoever reason to be in the same location for purposes of the mediation.
Skype or Google Talk Video-Conferencing is generally utilised for the Online Mediation process. Parties to the mediation accordingly need to have access to a computer and a fast internet connection.
In order to ensure the smooth running of the mediation session in cyber-space, Parties are urged to -
- Timeously forward to the Mediator the Video-Conferencing address that they will use for the Mediation ;
- Make use of headsets ;
- Update their Skype or GoogleTalk running program to obtain optimal internet speed ; and
- Ensure that all cellphones, email notifications and Skype/Google notifications are turned off.
In line with the principle of Confidentiality and without prejudice settlement discussions Parties will be required to confirm that they are aware that the Mediation session may not be recorded by either of them for whatsoever reason and additionally that third parties will not be physically present or with hearing distance of either of the Parties while the Mediation is taking place (unless this has been specifically agreed upon to the contrary by the Parties to the Mediation).
It is imperative that the Family Mediation process does not take place in the presence of any child/children. The Party who has the care of the child/children will be required to confirm that arrangements have been made for the child/ children and that no child will be present during a Mediation session. The potential negative ramifications of a child running into a room where the Mediation is taking place alternatively overhearing the contents of the Parties discussions concerning them are far too great to outweigh a relaxation of this rule. Should it become necessary for a parent to talk to a child over Skype or Google Talk arrangements can be made for this to happen at a later stage outside of the formal mediation process.
An experienced Online Mediator will always have a series of backup plans available to fall back on should there be system failure, should the internet connection become too slow due to video-broadcasting, or should there be frequent interruptions and echoes on the line. With the new technology available these back-up plans are fortunately seldomly utilized.
In essence although face-to-face contact during the Family Mediation process permits greater scope for impromptu response and resolution, separation across continents or even different parts of a country should not act as a deterrent against a Family Mediation process taking place when and if this is the best route for disputing parties to embark upon in order to resolve their disputes.