As I have written about recently, the Courts are technically still open for emergency cases (if you think you may have an emergency or urgent case, please call us right away at 303-449-1873 for a complimentary consultation).
Aside from urgent cases, the Courts aren’t fully open in the way we are used to them being, although things do seem to slowly be getting back to normal. The Clerk’s office is coming in more often and some things are getting scheduled.
More and more frequently, cases are being scheduled virtually via a video conferencing program called WebEx. Since there is so much concern about public health due to COVID-19, the Courts are hearing cases remotely, and mediations are occurring remotely as well.
Let’s take a look at what that could mean for your divorce case, especially if you’re considering whether or not to move forward during this unusual period of time.
Through the years, I’ve had video mediations, as well as telephonic medications. With these modes of communication, the structure of the mediation is similar to how it would be handled in person.
Before COVID-19, the process of mediation was generally structured as such: the parties would set up in separate rooms with their attorneys present. The mediator would act as liaison, physically walking from room to room, communicating requests and counter-requests, until an agreement is reached. [Some mediators prefer to have everyone in the same room. I am not a fan. It either digresses to arguments or the parties are fearful of discussing matters openly for the fear of repercussions.]
The process is only slightly different when conducted virtually over video. Ideally, the client comes to my office (if that is possible), the other party meets at his or her attorney’s office, and the mediator conferences in from yet a third location. He or she is able to conduct the mediation by creating digital “rooms” that the mediator can move through without allowing the parties to interact with one another.
I have settled two cases this way. Though we were ultimately able to come to an agreement, it is my opinion that virtual mediation is not as effective as in-person mediation, simply because you cannot read the mediator’s body language as readily or accurately in the digital space.
Here’s what I mean:
Typically in an in-person mediation, you tell the mediator, “We’ll go as high as $500,000, but try to settle for $400,000.” This is just an example. You know that the other side has likely said something similar, so when the mediator comes in and lays out an offer from the other party, you try to interpret their body language. Is that offer really the bottom line or is there room for movement? You make your counter-offer based on whether you perceive the mediator is withholding information or being completely forthright.
There are many subtle, non-verbal indicators that affect the decisions I make as an attorney during mediation. The nature of video-conferencing obfuscates much of these small cues.
If you’re trying to decide whether to move forward with your case to get it over and done with, or wait longer to see if you can do everything in person, it’s worth having a conversation. Call our office at 303-449-1873 for a free consultation and together we’ll determine whether now is the best time to move forward for your particular situation.