COPING WITH COVID 19:
FAMILY MEDIATION DURING THE CRISIS - A MESSAGE TO SOLICITORS

The Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic is causing us, like everyone else, to review our ways of working.

Nevertheless, we will be continuing to provide a full service to those, such as your clients, who need help to resolve their conflicts.

There are two major issues:

#1
Given the restrictions now imposed by Central Government, but in any event necessary to ensure social distance, we are not able to offer meetings in our Mediation Suite or Outreach Locations

#2
The second issue is that, especially in cases involving detailed financial disclosure, there is a need to share documents in a secure manner so as not to leave Mediation Participants vulnerable to fraud.

Our solution to keeping services operating through this period involves using two technology products. You may be familiar with them or with similar resources.

The first is a video-conferencing platform called Webex Meeting Rooms. We have been using this for some time and have built up some experience in how to conduct mediation meetings online. The platform includes capacity for mediation in separate ‘rooms’ [sometimes called ‘shuttle mediation’] by which Mediation Participants do not need to see or hear each other during the mediation process.

The second is a case management system that we recently adopted, and which incorporates a secure document sharing portal. This will enable us to share material with your clients safely and them with us. This is the Clio system, and the portal is called Clio Connect. What is also reassuring is that it is approved by The Law Society for solicitors to use.

We are also recommending that Mediation Participants download a document scanning app to their mobile phones so that they can scan and upload documents. We recommend Tiny Scanner developed by Appxy.

Assisted by the technology, there is no reason why mediations should be held up.

We are not, however, normally permitted to conduct mediation work by voice only telephone calls. The family Mediation Standards Board (FMSB) has now given temporary approval for telephone Assessment Meetings where it is not possible to use video-conferencing, but with additional safeguards.

There is one final issue that I want to raise in this e-mail, and that concerns payment of our fees. We have always worked on the basis of ‘pay as you go’ and have never offered credit facilities. Given that many potential Mediation Participants will be facing additional financial stresses at this time, we are prepared to consider – on a case by case basis - the possibility of providing mediation sessions on the basis that payment will be deferred. We cannot afford to do this for everyone but will consider requests sympathetically.

We do, of course, hold a legal aid contract for family mediation and we are permitted to conduct legally aided mediations via video-conference (The Family Mediation Council/Standards Board have also permitted this for the past 18 months). The Legal Aid Agency has also relaxed its rules on how Legal Aid forms can be signed.

Certificates confirming attendance at Assessment Meetings for court application purposes can be issued in the usual way.

Any Questions?

If you have questions about how this might work for your clients, please do not hesitate to call or e-mail us. If we are not able to take your call, please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as we are able.

With warm regards
Paul Kemp and Kirsty Drew

Family Mediation Council Family Mediators Association College of Mediators Resolution College of Mediators Family Law Panel Sorting Out Seperation