How does online mediation work?

In recent years, online mediation has become increasingly common. It shares the same goal as traditional in-person mediation; to help disputing parties to work together and make decisions.

The main difference is that the mediation takes place through video conferencing, which is why it is also commonly known as ‘virtual mediation’ and ‘Zoom mediation’.

Online mediation generally follows the same steps as in-person mediation, although there are some slight differences to take note of due to the virtual nature of the process.

The main steps involved in online mediation are as follows:

  1. Virtual MIAM session
  2. Joint session
  3. Negotiation and option development
  4. Reaching a resolution

In this article, we'll dive deeper into how online mediation works, talking you through the process, and how to prepare.

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What is online mediation?

Online mediation is a process of resolving disputes or conflicts between parties with the assistance of a trained mediator, but it is conducted through an online video conferencing software platform such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams.

There are many benefits to online mediation, including ease of access, reduced travel expenses, and the absence of a need for physical contact.

How does online mediation work?

Let’s look at the steps in more detail to see how online mediation works.

1. Virtual MIAM

A virtual Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is conducted in the same way as an in-person MIAM, but it takes place online. Clients each meet with a mediator for separate MIAMs.

One of the benefits of a virtual MIAM is that it is more convenient for the parties, who can attend the meeting from their own homes or offices without the need to travel. This can save time and reduce the stress of attending a physical meeting.

During a virtual MIAM, the mediator will typically start the meeting by introducing themselves and explaining the purpose of the meeting, just as they would in an in-person meeting. They will then go on to provide an overview of the mediation process, explain the role of the mediator, and answer any questions that the parties may have.

The mediator will also assess whether the dispute is suitable for mediation. They will ask the parties to provide information about the dispute and any relevant circumstances, and may ask follow-up questions to clarify the situation.

In a virtual MIAM, the mediator will use the video conferencing software, such as Zoom, to conduct the meeting, and may share their screen to show the parties relevant documents or information. They may also use virtual whiteboards or other collaborative tools to help the parties understand the issues and work towards a resolution.

2. Joint session

A joint session is a meeting that takes place between the parties to a dispute and the mediator although, in some instances, this can be done in a way where people do not have to see or hear from each directly (known as ‘shuttle mediation’).

Throughout the joint session the mediator will act as a neutral third party and facilitate the discussion to help the parties to share information, understand each other's perspectives, and work towards a resolution.

One benefit of conducting a joint session online is that the parties can attend from their own homes or offices, without the need to travel to a physical location. This can make the process more convenient and reduce the stress of attending a meeting in person.

3. Negotiation and option development

Once the joint session has taken place and the parties have had the opportunity to understand each other's perspectives and, in the case of financial mediation, complete the process of financial disclosure, the next stage is the negotiation and option development phase. During this phase, the mediator will work with both individuals to help identify possible solutions to the dispute and negotiate a settlement that is acceptable for both parties.

Once a resolution is found, the mediator can draft a document(s) which detail the terms of the arrangements made within the mediation process.

4. Zoom mediation

Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing platforms used for online mediation.

To participate in a Zoom mediation, parties will need a computer or mobile device with a camera and microphone, as well as a stable internet connection. The mediator will typically send out a Zoom link to parties in advance of the mediation session via email. On the day of the mediation, the parties will click on the link to join the virtual meeting room.

Once both parties are connected, the mediator will facilitate the mediation process as usual, using Zoom's screen sharing features to share documents and communicate with the parties.

Who can it help?

Online mediation can be a helpful process for a variety of individuals and organisations who are looking to resolve a dispute or conflict. Some examples of the types of issues that can benefit from online mediation include:

  • Family disputes
  • Finance and property disputes
  • Civil and commercial disputes
  • Workplace disputes

Family disputes

Online family mediation can be particularly helpful for families who are dealing with emotionally charged issues related to arrangements for children. By providing a neutral and confidential forum for communication, online mediation can help families work together to find mutually acceptable solutions to their problems. Additionally, online mediation can be more convenient and less expensive than traditional in-person mediation or litigation.

Finance and property disputes

Virtual mediation can be helpful for resolving disputes related to finances and property, such as the division of finances following a separation and/or divorce. By facilitating communication and negotiation between parties, online mediation can help parties avoid costly and time-consuming legal battles and reach a mutually acceptable solution.

Civil and commercial disputes

Online mediation can be a cost-effective and efficient alternative to traditional litigation for resolving civil and commercial disputes. Mediation for these kinds of disputes tend to involve legal advisers and sometimes a number of parties. Online mediation makes getting everyone together much easier. Most civil mediation takes place with the participants in separate rooms, and consequently there are large amounts of time when the mediator is talking to the other party and legal adviser. Mediating from the comfort of their own home or office means that participants can get on with other tasks or take time to relax during these breaks, something which is less easy to do when in a face to face mediation in an office venue.

Workplace disputes

Online mediation can be useful for resolving a range of workplace disputes, including discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, and wage and hour disputes. Online mediation can be particularly helpful in cases where parties are located in different geographic locations, making it difficult or expensive to attend in-person mediation sessions. By providing a confidential and neutral forum for communication, online mediation can help parties resolve disputes and move forward in a positive manner.

Tips for successful online mediation

1. Choose a reliable online mediation video platform

Choose a reputable online mediation platform that is secure, user-friendly, and provides the necessary features for effective communication and document sharing. For example, at Mediation First we hold most of our online mediation sessions on Zoom, but can be flexible to suit your requirements.

2. Ensure a stable internet connection

A stable internet connection is crucial for successful online mediation.

Test your internet connection and ensure that your device is up-to-date with the necessary software and hardware requirements.

3. Choose a comfortable and private location

Choose a comfortable and private location for the mediation sessions, such as a quiet room with minimal distractions.

4. Prepare for the mediation

Prepare for the mediation sessions by reviewing any documents or information related to the dispute. Consider the goals you hope to achieve during mediation and be prepared to articulate your needs and interests. We have more information on tips for preparing for mediation.

What if we don’t reach an agreement?

If you don’t reach an agreement through mediation then you may have to go through the court process and leave the judges to decide. Most parties opt for mediation first, as the court process can be more expensive and time-consuming.

Online mediation services

If you're looking to resolve your dispute through online mediation, Mediation First offers a convenient and effective way to reach a settlement through virtual means. With the help of our experienced mediators, you can participate in a guided conversation with the other party to find a mutually agreeable solution.