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Online Family Mediation: How to Put Your Best Foot Forward, Part 1-Focus on the Alternative

Navigating family transitions can sometimes feel like drudging through a list of uncomfortable steps that must be taken. It is easy to fall into a mindset, “What do I have to do to prepare for my mediation." If you find this sentiment relatable, let’s start by acknowledging that your sense about your role in the process is completely understandable. However, instead of feeling that sense of exhausting work ahead, remember that online mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, and therefore should be approached with a different mindset.

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. This statement sounds straight forward enough. However, for many who enter a session of mediation, the word “alternative” is lost. To put it plainly, engaging in alternative dispute resolution will mean attempting to resolve a conflict outside of the courtroom. “Great,” you might think, “so the courtroom is not involved in mediation.” To the contrary, dear reader. It is because the courtroom looms as the “alternative,” that it can influence greatly what parties are willing to concede during mediation, and how far they will bend to come to an agreement. This is true in all instances, but particularly so when the parties are represented by counsel.

Keep in mind that whether mediation is required or not, any issues that the parties cannot agree upon will be settled by the court. A judge will look at your circumstances and decide for you if you cannot decide for yourselves. Regardless of how wonderful and enlightened your assigned judge may be, a judge’s ruling is often less flexible and less creative than one you may come up with yourselves. Thus, in some scenarios a judge's ruling can end up being significantly less agreeable to both parties. For these reasons, even when parties are far apart on issues, they may be motivated to compromise when they focus on the alternative.

You may be thinking, “Yes, but at what point will I do better by not compromising and just going to court?” It is that particular thought that drives a party to decide whether to compromise and agree— or not. And that is precisely why it is wise to focus on the following: Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution; and therefore, it is an alternative to letting the judge decide. In other words, perception about how an issue would be resolved in court will affect the parties’ willingness to agree during mediation.

Let your mindset be: “I want to put my best foot forward in Online Family Mediation in order to achieve what is best for my family and myself.” As the parties and attorneys are sizing up the situation during mediation, they’ll get a feeling for the impression that each party would make on the judge if the issues are decided in court. There are many aspects of yourself that you may not have much ability to control going into a courtroom, such as what job you have and the hours, your type of work, your family history, and your income. Nonetheless, there are ways to control the impression you’ll make during mediation. If you come across as professional, cooperative and genuinely seeking a fair agreement, you’ll give yourself the best advantage.

In past articles we’ve discussed the advantages of online mediation and how to prepare and set up good spaces for online family mediation. In the next article, we’ll tackle some of the DOs and DON'Ts to help you navigate online family mediation.

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