Now more than fourteen months into the pandemic, we are weary. Parenting and family problems haven’t gone away. As we continue to navigate this crisis I am thrilled to have the privilege of contributing to a second book addressing the continuing strain on families who struggle with the consequences of the pandemic. In this book “Family Conflict During a Pandemic: Stories of Struggle and Hope,” more than 90 mediators and related professionals from around the globe joined together to create this book filled with advice, support, compassion and hope. It is available on Amazon, as an e-book or as a hard copy: https://www.amazon.com/Family-Conflict-During-Pandemic-Struggle/dp/B093MQP11B/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1620224715&sr=1-3
What follows is my contribution to this book:
A Window Into their World – Online Dispute Resolution
In my area the courts have been operating on some sort of reduced service since March 2020. I temporarily closed my physical office at about the same time due to social distancing concerns. I’ve been practicing ODR (On-line Dispute Resolution) via Zoom since April 2020 in an attempt to offer continuity of care to my existing clients and a viable alternative to new clients and for those who cannot receive court services.
I had never offered mediation on-line before and had lots of fears and expectations, but none lived up to my actual experiences. At that time the whole world was becoming Zoom-savvy. I would tell my clients that even my 78-year-old mother had managed to figure out how to take her Pilates classes on Zoom so I’m sure they could figure it out too! And slowly, mediation came to Zoom.
And that is when I got a glimpse into the resiliency of the families struggling with issues during this pandemic. And I was astounded by what I saw. For the first time as a mediator I was literally looking into the homes of the families I was serving. I mediated a mother crying in her daughter’s closet – because it was the only private place in the house she could get away from the children. I’ve had sessions interrupted by children who are being homeschooled and know mom or dad is right there in the next room. I’ve mediated scores of people sitting in their cars and it is the only quiet, private place they can find since their house is full of other people working or going to school. I’ve even mediated couples where one spouse is on a computer upstairs and the other spouse is on a computer in the basement. Just a few short months ago these scenarios would have seemed outrageous and would have been unnecessary. Today they are the norm. And of course everyone who has spent any time on Zoom can tell a story about an errant child or pet roaming through, or some terrible technology glitch. My particular favorite is the client who applied her full face of extensive make-up – false eye lashes and all – while we were mediating. Apparently she was headed right out to work.
All of these clients were motivated to find a way to work with their co-parent in any way possible. They did not allow the court closure or the inability to meet in person to delay their desire for dispute resolution. In fact, I am finding that ODR is working just as well as in-person mediation. Many of my clients actually prefer ODR to in-person mediation. Some of the reasons they cite are: no commuting or parking issues allowing for more flexible scheduling, not having to wear a mask, not having to see their co-parent in person (especially helpful in very contentious cases), feeling more comfortable in their own home. While I’ve had to adjust as the facilitator of these conversations, I too benefit from these changes and believe that ODR in some fashion is here to stay.
Buy both books here:
"Living Together, Separating, Divorcing: Surviving During a Pandemic" https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088MF1W3M
“Family Conflict During a Pandemic: Stories of Struggle and Hope”
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