Top 10 Tips to Have a Successful First Virtual Divorce Mediation Session | Your Peaceful Resolution

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Top 10 Tips to Have a Successful First Virtual Divorce Mediation Session

February, 2021

By Tonya Alexander @ www.YourPeacefulResolution.com  .Tonya is a collaborative divorce attorney and mediator licensed in Oregon with an office located in Washington County, Hillsboro, Oregon.

  1. Location –  It’s important to find a private, quiet space where you can focus and hear without too much distraction.  Sometimes, it’s the car, and other times, a den or patio works well.  Try to think about best areas for reception, good lighting, as well as privacy.   Decide whether you’d like to be in the same room as your spouse or partner or participating separately.  There are pros and cons to each approach and it’s best to talk through logistics ahead of time so everyone feels comfortable.
  2. Test your equipment –  Whether trying to Zoom in on your smartphone, laptop, or office desktop, it’s important to feel comfortable with your equipment and have the latest internet browser or apps downloaded in advance.   Ask your host for a practice Zoom or virtual meeting if you are unfamiliar with the platform they are using. At our office, we are happy to do a practice session at no charge with you to test it out.   Remember to test your camera, your audio (microphone and speaker) as well as internet bandwidth.  If your bandwidth is low, you may need to practice calling into the virtual meeting with your phone in lieu of computer wi-fi for the audio.
  3. Meeting Invite: Copy and paste your meeting invite into your calendar or notes so it’s easy to click on or access at “go time.”  If your host hasn’t sent one ahead of time, it’s ok to ask or let them know you haven’t seen it as there may be confusion or messages landing in SPAM.
  4. Food and Water:  Grab your favorite snack and beverage ahead of the meeting as you may find yourself needing hydration or energy and immersed in a longer meeting than planned.  You can always ask for a “bio break” during the meeting, but it will feel great to have food and water at your fingertips as well.
  5. Background:   It may sound silly, but test out your camera in the background to make sure lighting is sufficient and there is nothing too personal or private in the camera’s view.  You may even play with virtual backgrounds if you have a newer computer and this feature is enabled. Older computers tend to have distracting “ghosting” around our heads.  There are “light rings” you can purchase if you find lighting isn’t sufficient where you hold your virtual meetings.
  6. Microphone:   Remember to mute yourself when you’re not speaking during the meeting so that keystrokes, pen tapping, and other background noises are limited and you can feel comfortable making sounds without distracting the meeting.
  7. Breakout Rooms:  If you think you might need to have a separate/ private virtual room apart from another participant (during a high conflict divorce for example ), ask your host if he or she can enable that feature ahead of time. They may need to adjust settings on their end or upgrade their service and test it out so it goes smoothly during your meeting. 
  8. Screen Sharing/ Multiple Screens:   It helps for a productive meeting to have a second screen if possible (one for document viewing and one for seeing live faces in the meeting).   It will also help if you open any important documents ahead of the meeting and have those windows open to be able to share them with meeting participants if needed.  The host may need to enable your screen sharing.
  9. Recording:   If you are unsure of whether the meeting is being recorded, it’s important to ask as some types of meetings (mediation for example) are supposed to be confidential and not advisable to be recorded.  If there are concerns about desiring or not wanting to have a recording, it’s best to go over these protocols in advance of the meeting so there are no misunderstandings.
  10. Timing:  Let your host and other participant(s) know whether you have a “hard stop” on the time of the meeting to adjourn so your agenda can be carefully prioritized and your most time sensitive questions or concerns are addressed.  Creating an agenda is also important in the event of connectivity issues during the meeting so that the most pressing issues can be addressed first.

Please reach out to anyone at our office if you have questions about other aspects of virtual mediation and how to help it be successful for your family.  We are here to help and want to make it less stressful for everyone involved as it’s already a difficult time for most meeting participants. 

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