Why You Should Be Mediating Virtually
Dori Shwirtz, Esq., has been a divorce mediator and coach in Florida since 2018. She runs divorceHarmony in Miami Beach, Florida. Dori has helped divorcing and separating couples resolve conflicts concerning all aspects of divorce, by providing virtual mediation and coaching whereby her clients can divorce from the comfort of their own homes. Dori’s goals are to provide her clients with approachable and affordable services to get divorced. In this article, Dori shares reasons why virtual mediation is advantageous during this covid-19 crisis and beyond.
Why did you transition into a virtual mediation practice?
I actually started my practice as exclusively virtual. I’ve done a few mediations here and there for local clients that prefer in person but 99.9% of my clients are online. Before I even took my certification course, I knew that I wanted to have an online business as it gives me more flexibility and also access to more customers I otherwise couldn’t reach. Being a mom of 4 and having other responsibilities I wanted a way to have a business where I could have complete control over the schedule and still be present for my other priorities.
What are some advantages to a virtual mediation practice versus a traditional mediation practice?
There are so many advantages to a virtual mediation practice that allow for more freedom and creativity. First, since I have almost no overhead, I can offer extremely competitive pricing allowing my practice to grow. Next, the customer’s schedule and daily life don’t have to be interrupted by the mediation, meaning we can mediate evenings and weekends and the need for a babysitter or other inconvenient arrangements are moot. In many situations one of the parties may not feel safe being in the same room as their ex. The virtual mediation solves this sense of insecurity and protects all parties, including the mediator, from volatile personalities. Last, with virtual mediation your pool of available clients grows because you can serve beyond the local population. Oftentimes one of my clients is here in Florida while their ex is out of state or even out of the country.
What platforms/software/techniques do you use to streamline your practice?
I use google hangouts which lets you have all parties connected to each other. It’s very easy to use even for the most tech challenged.
What are some benefits to clients in using your virtual mediation practice?
Throughout my practice, my clients have expressed to me many of the benefits they see to mediating virtually. I’ll go over the most common that I continually hear.
First, they really appreciate not having to miss work or other obligations that would surely occur if they had to go to an in-person mediation. Also, the pricing for virtual mediations tends to be less expensive including not having to make special arrangements for babysitters or missing work. And this price difference also includes the priceless currency of time, which virtual mediation gives them more of by not having to sit in traffic and their mediations usually settle quicker.
Additionally, they appreciate being able to mediate from their safe place. The stress of having to be in the same room or picking out the perfect outfit doesn’t exist. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you are going through probably the most stressful time in your life, the shedding of any additional stressors can make a world of a difference.
Last, in person mediation just may not be an option for some parties. There may be a health concern where one of the parties cannot travel or one of the parties may live abroad or be incarcerated. And of course, now in the Corona age online is the only option.
What was an unexpected challenge that you have encountered in your virtual practice?
It’s not so much an unexpected challenge but that I have to be extremely mindful of my clients and be extra vigilant in maintaining contact since we don’t have that in person relationship. I kind of have to pop out of the screen and make myself known. To be larger than life. I want my clients to feel like I’m there for them so I make sure to always be on call, answering them as soon as possible when they have a question, etc. Also, if we don’t finish the mediation in the first session, I have developed a system to make sure we follow through. Unlike an in-person mediation, sometimes it’s harder to get their attention to finish things up so I have to be persistent.
Even before our current crisis, virtual mediation was slowly becoming a more accepted mode of delivery. It’s just the direction our society was going in general in many different aspects of life. I truly believe this trend will last long after the need to maintain physical distance ends. Once mediators and their clients realize the advantages to going online, I don’t think there is any turning back.