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Distance Family Mediation by Susanna Jani
The Agreement to Mediate – every professional mediator uses one. And, if what I’ve seen is any indication, the one they use is likely pretty similar to the Agreement to Mediate document that their mediator colleagues use.
If you are a mediator who uses one of these “typical” Agreements to Mediate, there’s a good chance that you haven’t (yet) addressed in it the types of unique issues that distance mediation can present – for example, how the Agreement to Mediate itself will be signed when all of the participants in the mediation are in different locations, or how confidentiality will be managed when parties are in their own home where there could be Someone Else lurking in the background during the mediation session. Or, my personal favorite, how participants will deal with process disruptions in the event the technology decides it’s going to have a bad day.
Is it important to address these special issues in your Agreement to Mediate, in cases where you are conducting the mediation from a distance and using technology? We think so. In fact, our project’s distance mediation team members have applied their considerable expertise in family mediation and law, and their experiences with communication technologies, to look at how the differences between distance mediation and traditional in-person mediation should be reflected in the Agreement to Mediate document we use in our service.
Here, shown as italicized clauses, is what our team* came up with. These clauses are, of course, mixed into the rest of our Agreement to Mediate – which is, in other ways, pretty similar to the “typical” document I’ve seen used by many family mediators here in British Columbia.
And now for a confession:
You may be reading this only because you are wondering how such a scrumptious-looking strawberry dessert could possibly be connected to the Agreement to Mediate.
The answer, I have to confess, is that there is no connection. In response to an earlier posting, Reason #3 to use distance mediation, a reader sent me her theory about how blogs would attract more readers if they had food pictures. I became completely convinced she had a valid point when I saw that mesmerizing strawberry dessert photo. After all, the alternative - if I was going to post a picture that actually related to today’s blog - would have been a photo of a few sheets of paper. Need I say more? (Thanks for the tip, L.T.!)
* In addition to the input from our private practice mediation team members, these clauses have benefitted from the work of Shelina Neallani, Acting Child Protection Program Manager and Education Coordinator for Mediate BC Society. Thanks also to team member, Jane Henderson Q.C., who truly went “above and beyond” in her work on our Agreement to Mediate.Photo credit: “Strawberry shortcake” by shok (CC license)
For a decade, Susanna Jani was Roster Administrator for the B.C. Mediator Roster Society*, managing its day-to-day operations, activities and projects, including the initial research phase of the Distance Family Mediation Project. In 2009, she followed her passion for this environmentally-friendly project and became Project Coordinator for its second, pilot phase which tested the delivery of distance family mediation services in remote, non-urban areas of British Columbia. She remains Project Coordinator for the current, province-wide test phase of the Distance Family Mediation Project. Prior to her work for the Society, Susanna worked as an independent researcher, conducting field research and providing data analysis and interpretation for evaluations and projects relating to justice, employment, social and family services.
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