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Online dispute resolution for separation and divorce

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By Cathryn Paul

Advances in technology have brought huge opportunities for family mediation. Video and audio conferencing, and shared document and calendar programs provide options to separating couples that help them come to agreement and minimize conflict.

In negotiating separation agreements, it is usually best to have the parties together in the same room, as the subtleties of communication are more apparent, and there are fewer barriers to coming to resolution.

However, with the many demands on our time, including work and travel, sometimes being able to sit in the same room at the same time is just not possible, or would lead to unnecessary delays. When this is the case, options such as video or audio conferencing should be considered. Recent technological advances have made these options much more accessible. A person with an internet connection and computer or tablet can use Skype, GoToMeeting, or a similar platform, and be in the same room as the other party and the mediator for no additional cost to the participant.

Other online options, such as sharing disclosure documents through services such as Support Information Exchange, looking at joint calendars through services such as Google Calendar, Our Family Wizard, or Two Happy Homes, should be considered in appropriate cases. These, or similar services can help reduce conflict by providing some structure and a layer of accountability.

Online dispute resolution was a major topic at the recent annual conference for the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts in Los Angeles. The number of products available has increased dramatically over the past several years, and innovation in this area continues.

With mediation, we need to be creative both in designing the process to be followed as well as in generating possible outcomes. The solution must fit the family. Fortunately, the options are expanding.

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