Mediation and the Problem of COVID-19, 2020 RIBJ, RIBJ, 69 RI Bar J., No. 3, Pg. 13

PositionVol. 69 3 Pg. 13

Mediation and the Problem of COVID-19

No. Vol. 69 No. 3 Pg. 13

Rhode Island Bar Journal

December, 2020

November, 2020

Tricia R Martland, Esq.

Professor of Legal Studies and Mediator, Roger Williams University

Lori J. Giarrusso, Esq.

Director, Rhode Island Family Court Mediation

"Necessity is the mother of invention" according to an old English proverb. As a result of COVID-19, we have all experienced the challenge of finding new ways to adapt in a very different world. The same is true for families in crisis who, even more so today, need help navigating conflict in their lives. To meet these needs in a pandemic world, welcome the arrival of on-line mediation services.

Mediation has long been used as a successful method of alternate dispute resolution to resolve differences and promote better communication. The process has been used by different cultures as a method of resolving differences for the past 3,000 years. One of the reasons the mediation process works is because it is easy to understand. Mediators or third-party neutrals work with clients to identify viable solutions to problems, encourage and model good communication between parties and support the drafting of resolutions designed by the parties.

In Rhode Island, family and divorce mediation services are offered by our Family Court as well as by private mediators to support self-determination and innovative solutions to family conflict. Since 1998, the Family Court has supported mediation to resolve family-related disputes as an alternative to litigation. With the onset of COVID-19, family mediators have adapted to meet the needs of families in crisis by using on-line platforms to deliver their services. Whether parties choose to retain a private mediator or access the Court based mediation program one thing that remains clear in both options is access to in-person > services have become more challenging i as people attempt to navigate avoiding exposure to a deadly virus.

Solution: Can I get that online?

When discussing the purchase of an important item or service, a popular refrain is often "Can I get that online?" If you had asked earlier this year about mediating family disputes online the answer would have unequivocally been that it would not work - too impersonal, not confidential, people will be distracted, many people will not have the technology required to participate and the list goes on. Then came COVID-19. Family conflict does not stop in the face of a Pandemic and some may argue it is exacerbated by it. So, "Can I get that online?" Yes! You absolutely can! Today, to connect with families in crisis and meet these needs, Rhode Island family and divorce mediators are now using a number of different online platforms to deliver mediation services. There are many advantages to offering virtual mediation including convenience, availability, and, one of the most important considerations in today's economy, cost savings. So to those who sa> online is not the same - you are correct. Online mediation is not the same as in-person, it just might be even better. Here is why...

Technology with How to Access Online Platforms


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