Town Hall Series: COVID-19 Won’t Stop Family Mediators

Part 2: Mediating Family Issues Related to COVID-19

TOWN HALL #2 CHAT

 

Teletha McJunkin: Trick: move your Zoom window up close to your camera, put it on speaker view, and when you are looking at their video it is more like looking into their eyes.

Josh Kraus: There’s no great solution to making eye contact while looking at the screen, but you can put a small camera on a tripod in front of a large monitor and line the face up with the camera.

[email protected]: If you are using a laptop, you can lift the whole unit so the camera is more at eye level. You may need a separate keyboard so it can remain at an ergonomically good level.

Stacey Langenbahn: You can upload a picture of your choice for background or choose one of the Zoom backgrounds. There is a lovely Zoom background with ocean waves and palm trees blowing in the wind.

john fiske: I have another aesthetic suggestion too, if I figure out how to get screen time and, if so, when is the right time to interrupt? Always a mediator’s question, when to interrupt when the clients are talking and maybe even getting somewhere.

GPM: How do you regulate privacy? Unknown visitors in room, etc.

Halee Burg: You need to be cautious with the virtual backgrounds and uploaded image. With both, when you move, it can really distort you and do some weird stuff with hair/ heads….

Stacey Langenbahn: We can also do break out rooms to allow the clients to talk among themselves when they are in different places and they don’t want the mediator to hear them.

Glenn Davis: I am interested in knowing how many people use a virtual background during mediation? Any disadvantages?

eva defranco: There have been some very serious criticisms of the security and privacy concerns of the Zoom platform; Zoom-bombing aside. Can this be addressed? Thank you.

Josh Kraus: You can lock the URL so no one else can join after your clients come in.

[email protected]: Also, if you are going to ask parties to show that there is no one in the room, then it is best if you can demonstrate that yourself. A background will prevent that.

Lisa Kent: How can you lock the URL?

Anju Jessani, MBA, APM: I have an older PC that does not work well with the screens in Zoom; looks very distorted.

Teletha McJunkin: I’m trying out BlueJeans as an alternative to Zoom.

Chuck Hill: Don’t know if you can really “regulate” privacy but one thing you can do is create an addendum to your agreement to mediate that defines the difference between confidentiality and privacy and seek their commitment to privacy.

Josh Kraus: @Lisa https://support.Zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/214629443-Zoom-webclient#h_a5c46b83-fda0-447a-bb5f-5c0d13e4830c

Anne: It depends on the type of Zoom account one has. There are three levels—Free, which is limited to 40 minute sessions; Pro, with no time limits but limited privacy; and HIPAA-compliant level, which the government considers to be sufficient to protect medical privacy.

Lori Frank: I use a specific agreement for online mediations that addresses recording, broadcasting etc.

Stacey Langenbahn: For security, you can use a password and individual meeting numbers.  Also, use waiting room for the host to admit the persons in. Then lock the meeting so no one else can get in.

Oran Kaufman: I have language in my mediation agreements that addresses that there are no other people in earshot or in the room and that they agree not to record.

Lana M. Shearer: Yes, written agreement with clear agreement for no recording, no third parties, etc.

Ellen Morfei: I have it in my contract that you need to be the only one in the room when you mediate on-line. Of course, now we might need to make accommodations for kids at home, etc.

Stacey Langenbahn: The host can make it so that no one but the host can record the Zoom session.

Anne Sawyer: Have a separate online mediation agreement – super important.

Oran Kaufman: Can people share what language they use in their agreements to mediate?

Verlyn Francis: Would you be willing to share your mediation agreement, Oran or anyone else? I am trying to make sure that I cover the confidentiality and privacy area.

GPM: Instead of “in the room” I would use “Is anyone within earshot”?

Josh Kraus: G Suite has hangouts, which can be configured as HIPPA-compliant, and their encryption might be more trustworthy than Zoom (I don’t have personal expertise, but I’ve read criticisms of their encryption).

Vicki Shemin: Second, once this is behind us, it is interesting to think about how to handle clients who might be resistant to returning to the old normal – and, to complicate it further, what if one wants to only do Zoom and the other wants to be “live” and in-person?

Jenniferkresge: Do you charge the same amount for your services whether online or in-person (in your office)?

Stacey Langenbahn: Here’s what I use in my rules of mediation and in the invitation to Zoom:  Special Rules for Online Mediation By agreeing to do a consultation or mediation online, you agree to the following: 1.  No recording. If the consultation, mediation, or part of the mediation is carried out by online video conference, email, telephone, or any other electronic communication, neither party shall record the consultation, mediation, joint or private sessions, either in part or full with the use of recording software, recording equipment, screen shots, text chat, or file transfer whether done directly or indirectly. ANY RECORDING WHATSOEVER shall constitute a violation of this agreement. 2. Privacy. The parties agree that only the parties to the dispute shall be present in the room where a consultation or mediation is carried out by online video conference, email, telephone or any other electronic communication and no third party shall be present. The parties further agree no third party shall be within viewing distance of the screen or hearing distance of the location of the room where that party will be conducting his or her virtual or online consultation or mediation. When you want to have a private session with the mediator, the mediator will temporarily end the other’s party’s access to the meeting. To join the party back in, the mediator will send him or her another email invitation. 3. HIPAA. Videoconferencing during a consultation or mediation may involve a discussion of or the electronic exchange of health information which is protected under HIPAA law. The parties individually and as parents of minor children authorize the mediators to review and (rest was missing from chat).

Anju Jessani: 1. Only people who have been agreed upon by both clients will be able to participate in a mediation session. If a client intends to invite their attorney or another advisor to attend a session, they will notify the mediator in advance, so that the other client may invite their attorney or advisor. All parties attending a mediation session will sign the Agreement to Mediate. 2. Video or audio recordings of mediation sessions are not permitted, whether in-person, online or by telephone. Photographs may only be taken only with my permission. 3. For video and telephone mediation sessions, all permitted participants will be identified at any time they are participating, viewing or hearing a session. The parties will endeavor to hold online and telephonic meetings in a location where non-participants cannot hear or view the session. In the event that a non-participant observes or hears any party of a session, they will immediately notify those on the session of that occurrence. For video sessions, in the event of a technical difficulty, such as one person not having access to video function, the parties will switch to a telephone conference format.

Oran Kaufman: Mediation via video or telephone: If the mediation session is being conducted via an online platform, such a Zoom or some other online platform or via telephone, we understand that the Mediator will continue to comply with the parameters for confidentiality set forth in #3 above, but that the Mediator has no control over any access that may be available to the administrators of the on-line platform. We further agree that we will make arrangements to  participate in the mediation in a location where there are no other persons present who can hear or overhear what is being discussed during the mediation and we agree to fully disclose to the mediator and other mediation participant(s) if there is anyone who is present (visually or audibly) at the meeting, or who is able to overhear or watch the meeting, and we will not record the meeting using  any recording device. All confidentiality provisions referred to in #3 above shall apply to mediations conducted via video or telephone.

Miriam: Lori Frank, can you please attach your special online agreement wording?

Vicki Shemin: Single greatest opportunity: continuity and flexibility.

Renata Valree: I am just starting to explore online services. I know Zoom offers a Pro package. Does this include the breakout rooms? Or is this an add on service? What package might you all suggest?

Anne Sawyer: It does.

Stacey Langenbahn: Zoom has a whole bunch of security suggestions on the website. There are numerous articles out there on how to protect the security. It is not hard and is definitely doable. I’ve used Zoom for years and young techies and older clients in their 60s to 70s are okay with it too.

Verlyn Francis: Zoom Enterprise allows breakout rooms and locking of the meeting once all the parties are on-line.

MW:  Has anyone here tried Vectera as a meeting platform?

Stacey Langenbahn: Zoom security articles:
https://www.cnet.com/google-amp/news/13-Zoom-video-chat-tips-tricksand-hidden-features/;
https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/7-tipsfor-using-Zoom-video-conferencing-with-remote-teams.html; https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/27/trolls-Zoomprivacy-settings-covid-19-lockdown;
https://www.cnet.com/news/nowthat-everyones-using-Zoom-here-are-some-privacy-risks-you-need-towatch-out-for/;
https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/hackers-are-tryingto-get-into-your-Zoom-meetings-here-are-5-ways-to-stop-them.html

[email protected]: For more on Zoom training:  https://support.Zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360029527911

DT: I think, with limited access to the court system, folks may really turn to alternatives such as online mediation.

Barry Davis: “A healthy divorce is only a click away.”

Josh Kraus: Woody are you suggesting that mediation can move more towards the “wellness” industry and away from the “legal” industry?

Stacey Langenbahn: The courts in Texas are going to Zoom for hearings/trials. That technology and shift allows mediators to help pro se clients who are used to Zoom to also Zoom with the judge or court coordinators to do agreed divorces online without being in the…

john fiske: “Push, pull, click, click; change blades that quick.” Was Gillette (razor company) thinking about divorce?

Anne Sawyer: Yes, bring in Susan Guthrie – she is great.

Carl Viniar: I heard that we do have to look at new ways of doing things. I think I heard Michael suggest that we may have to relook at the facilitative nature of our process. I hope not. As Woody just said it — we are still facilitators.

Miriam: One of the issues I am seeing is that everything is in flux and unknown, so it is more difficult to value homes, retirement, because there are great swings, even figuring out whether people will have their jobs,

April Rando: I think we will see an increase in special education mediations. Since most schools are closed, children with IEPs and 504 plans who need OT, PT, and other services are not necessarily receiving them. This is going to set children back significantly.

Stacey Langenbahn: Texas Supreme Court has said that the Parenting Order controls, and they can’t withhold the child from the other parent. Good hygiene/social distancing still applies.

Angela Mojica: Analyze in mediation, which would be the best interest of the child???

GPM: Reasonableness of the parents in time of emergency will be under review by the judges when the parties are next before the court.

David E. Perry: What about the converse of that where one parent and child has symptoms but insists on following the order and putting the child with the healthy parent?

MW: “Parenting is not a competitive sport” – Karen Bonnell

Stacey Langenbahn: The problem is that some parents will take advantage of this to try to withhold the child. Unfortunately.

Marcia Gorham: Can’t parents compromise and add time to the other parent once the quarantine is over?

Oran Kaufman: I have a case where one parent is immune-compromised and extremely vigilant about washing, cleaning etc. and other parent is also very careful but not to the same level- what has been helpful is coming up with a baseline of steps that they both agree to- other thoughts?

GPM: So long as you avoid the practice of law if you are not an attorney mediator.

Lisa Kent: Are CDC guidelines even reliable, now?

Chastity Lawrence: The uncertainty is the thing. We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last.

Bill Eddy: Alienation grows when a child is isolated with an emotionally upset parent. The key is keeping contact somehow (even virtual) and also each parent managing their emotions and their comments about the other parent.

Miriam: A doctor in NY Weil Cornell who is in the frontlines has said that this may go on for six- months to a year.

Jim Melamed: Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Divorce/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the COVID19 Pandemic – https://www.mediate.com/articles/CoParentingDuringCovid-19.cfm

Verlyn Francis: Pandemic will be the new weapon of one parent keeping a child on the basis that the other parent will expose the child to the virus. You have to ask probing questions to make clear whether both parents might not be exposed.

Chastity Lawrence: Wow. Our Center has shared coping strategies for our clients.

Lisa Kent: No doubt; we should rely on science and focus our clients on that knowledge. But, the science is evolving! But, we know for sure that the added conflict between the parents attributable to COVID issues IS harmful, emotionally to children.

Halee Burg: Instead of jumping right into giving them information about CDC guidelines, perhaps instead of giving the information, we can ask each of them what their respective understandings of the guidelines are and identify whether or not there is a disagreement about that piece.  We could also talk to them about how to gather that information, and/or ask them whether they would find it helpful for us to share the information with them.

Stacey Langenbahn: Yes, of course, why wouldn’t we provide that info on COVID safety? One neutral way to do that is to share your screen over Zoom with clients for the CDC websites and great parenting suggestions on co-parenting during this crisis. Then they can discuss the suggestion themselves without the mediator seeming to be biased or overstepping.

Ellen Morfei: And, we don’t have an obligation to provide information. We have an ethical obligation to support informed decision-making. They are not exactly the same thing and it’s a very different duty for the mediator.

Carl Viniar: I have spent the last two weeks on webinars for chaplains. I will agree with Woody, the needs for people to have someone to talk to about their fear and anxiety are huge. But, just because we are trained as mediators, does not mean we are all competent to do that.

Stephen Sulmeyer: From what I’m seeing, it’s parenting issues that are coming up the most—e.g., what do I do with my kids home from school all the time, when I have to work?  How do I deal with my kids’ desire to be on screens all day?  What do I do when my ex- isn’t on the same page with me about parenting, under these circumstances?

Laurie Amaya: We can also help them come to agreements on method– how will they figure out how to find information and reach agreements on sources of information– CDC, Pediatrician, teachers etc.?

Renata Valree: I had a similar case two weeks ago and the father was adamant that the child fly to Ohio. Mother explained her right to protect the child, she communicated the risk of a teenager being asymptomatic, and possible exposure while traveling. The child’s life could be at risk. Mom’s attorney suggested no travel, but she informed mother of a possible contempt hearing, which is what the father threatened. If the Judges aren’t clear on how to respond to this issue, what can we effectively do to bring a level of peace to all concerned?

GPM: Out of state relocation is a no-no in most states.

Stephen Sulmeyer: Co-parenting issues are also high on my radar, particularly when separating parents are still living under the same roof.

GPM: Without parental agreement.

Harry Manasewich: Love the insight from my colleagues all over the country; seems different “norms” depending on where you practice.

Chastity Lawrence: Our borders are closed in North Carolina.

GPM: Big problem now is Easter and Passover and how to celebrate.

Carolan Hardy: I’ve seen the issue of one parent at home working and one not. How to deal with that.

Chastity Lawrence: I had a co-worker who has a parent and grandparent in another state.

Mitsu Rajda: Parenting problems are exacerbated by narcissistic or irrational parents who refuse to accept that the pandemic is bigger than their need to control others. Sending the kids to the other parent becomes their prerogative, notwithstanding what CDC or the local government says.

Chastity Lawrence: So, I know of a few parents co-parenting across state lines.

Harry Manasewich: Whose to decide on “the right thing”?

Stacey Langenbahn: I believe there is a business opportunity over Zoom for mediators to assist with limited issues as to all kinds of issues that are outside of divorce or custody.

April Rando: I think parents must be very concerned about their school-aged children. How can parents work together to make sure their children do lose everything they gained when school was in session? How are parents coping with providing for their special need’s children?

Ellen Morfei: Yep. Safety matters more than who has the weekend.

Bill Eddy: Parents should be required to mediate their exchange-conflicts rather than looking to the courts.

Miriam: In Massachusetts we are all at home. To anyone in a state that has not reached this point, PLEASE understand- no play dates, keep safe distances, it’s only a matter of time and physical distancing and washing hands is the best way to stay safe.

Mitsu Rajda: I agree with Don. One parent has a 75-year old mother in law living with them who has been tested positive. This parent wants the kids in their house for spring break and the other parent is petrified.

MW: Let’s be careful not to let our own anxieties have us go to coping mechanisms that are not helpful to our clients. It is easy to become a judge, when clients have asked for a mediator.

Melissa Povoski-Smith: The parties have to hopefully have a conversation to decide the right thing.  I do Conflict Coaching as well, with just one parent. It alleviates their stress to a degree then they can decide rationally how they want to proceed or how they want to present information to the other parent.

Sara Figal: This is simply reality-testing, but in a context that both witnesses competing versions of reality AND has life-and-death consequences.

Chastity Lawrence: Facetime and Skype have been some of the ways parents have coped with the state border issue.

Josh Kraus: They’re actually still allowed to congregate in church in Florida, so can’t just rely on laws to keep people safe.

john fiske: Yes, this is fantastic; 232 mediators talking to each other without leaving home. What a rich experience and opportunities for all of us.

Verlyn Francis: It helps with the message you are getting from the governments. I am in Toronto, Canada, and nobody is allowed to go between houses unless they are essential service providers. You can’t even visit your parents in a nursing home.

Chastity Lawrence: We have to stay positive.

GPM: The judges in NJ are starting to use divorce mediation as a way to clear their own desks.  It seems to be working.

Ellen Morfei: I agree with Sara that this is reality testing; YOU have the solutions, not WE have the solutions!

Mediator L Randy Drew: Note: My (dependency court) parents will often use any excuse to gatekeep from the other parent.

john fiske: Part of this Brave New World is the courts are closed. Closed. So, parents have to make their own decisions, and we can help them if they want. But they can’t look to the “inoperative” courts, as Jim says.

Stacey Langenbahn: I think it is important not to “screw the protocols” because there are still HIPAA and legal, and ethical requirements for mediators. We still can help people decide and still meet our obligations.

MW: Agree w Stacey. We can reality test and provide some neutral information for the clients to take into consideration, though.

Bill Eddy: Can we mediate across state lines? Can anyone answer that?

MW: Why can’t we mediate across state lines?

Chastity Lawrence: I have been hearing that Zoom is under investigation from the FBI. WE are not allowed to use it.

Stephen Sulmeyer: Who is WE?

Laurie Amaya: Why couldn’t you mediate across state lines?

larbeitman: FYI, Chief Justice of Mass. Probate Courts has issued an open letter saying all parenting orders are in effect.

Honey: NH Courts are acting on ex-parte motions. In a local case where parent A refused to make the transfer set out in the parenting plan, the judge ruled that the PP trumped parent’s concerns. Further, the police should assist if a problem persisted.

Chastity Lawrence: You can, if you qualify and are under the certification of the other states.

Bill Eddy: Most states don’t have certification of mediators.

Laurie Amaya: Maybe co-mediation with a mediator from each state if there is a state certification requirement?

Chastity Lawrence: NC does. We have to be under a network.

Stacey Langenbahn: This crisis will change the courts in so many positive ways for people. In Texas we are finally seeing new standing orders to reduce need for temporary orders, and courts trying to keep their dockets moving and hearing agreed divorces and custody matters over Zoom. I love that. Force the courts into technology!!!!

MW: Mediation is not practicing law.

Jean Fraysse: VA does.

Mediator L Randy Drew: I have three mediation teams completing their “pre-mediation conversations” just now. Thankfully, I am hearing that parents are being more flexible and cooperative than usual. They are appreciative.

Carl Viniar: Sorry to say this, it scares me when we start talking about ignoring protocols and acting as priest or Rabbi or therapist or lawyer or judge. We are not trained to do those, and can do damage if we do them poorly.

Laurie Amaya: APFM– it would be great if we could have a continuing conversation- like a listserve!  This is great!

besssteiger: What about child support if one parent has the child more or full time, due to the pandemic?

Stacey Langenbahn: There is an APFM Facebook group.

AZHN: Laurie, love your idea of creating a listserv for mediator!

Oran Kaufman: Listserv is a great idea!  I just set one up for my town and it has been an amazing resource and been a great community builder!

Laurie Amaya: True, but it would be great if we could do without Facebook.

herbertkroon: If COVID agreement is not to be admissible, it also means that it is not enforceable by the court.

Bill Eddy: APFM should promote Family Mediation for all of these issues during the COVID-19 crisis to the public. Maybe get a public service announcement out.

Harry Manasewich: Careful on the listserv! I am on a few and the VOLUME of email is staggering.

Ellen Morfei: This is the link to the APFM FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/606162469770575/

April Rando: I think it also depends if there has been a Family Court order in place. For example, if a parent has physical custody in NY with a court order in NYS, and the other parent resides in Pennsylvania, any modification of that order would need to be done from the court in NYS. At least, that’s my understanding.

Oran Kaufman: There are sites that you can do a listserv that does not have ads or gather data.  IO groups for instance.

Harry Manasewich: Listserves work best when the “posting” is limited to “x” number of lines.

Josh Kraus: APFM is working on a Listserv as well, its “pending.”

MW: I won’t do FB (too many problems with that company) but would subscribe to a listserv.

randy: compensation for lost time/money does not have to be day-for-day, or dollar-for-dollar, but merely acknowledge something to make up for the losses.

Joanna Roth: It’s also hard for parents to work from home full-time while caring for small children, in a pandemic. I think we’re talking about parents sharing a burden.

Stacey Langenbahn: There are things parents can agree to between themselves, and other things that have to be changed by modification of court order, like child support, of course, and parenting plans, to make their agreements legally enforceable in the courts if what they are doing is substantially different than what was in the original order.

Sara Figal: Ken: there are too many people outside of the big hotspots who do not perceive a reality of “people dying all over.”

April Rando: I’m reluctant to even do a temporary modification of a parenting plan, because it may violate the order. In the courts that I work in, I believe they would not approve a mediated parenting plan modification.

Mediator L Randy Drew: Are courts paralyzed?

Sara Figal: April: even if it were predicated with a “during the stay-at-home period in the X state” or some such?

April Rando: If it’s an original parenting plan or if the parents have never been involved with Family Court, I would consider it.

besssteiger: The courts are closed.

Honey Hastings: Here is some language I use on a form for short-term agreements. It could be adapted for this situation: “We agree to these terms on condition that they are effective only from today to the next mediation session or court order, whichever is first. We do not agree to these terms for any longer period. As this agreement is short term/temporary, we agree that it is signed without prejudice to either party. Either may take a different position in future negotiations or at trial.”

April Rando: At least in Upstate NY, the Family Courts are not accepting petitions unless they are emergency situations—OOPs, child abuse and neglect, etc.

Chastity Lawrence: Basically. They are saying no new cases are being presented.

Mediator L Randy Drew: Yes, but the courts have to decide on a path forward.  They are meeting almost daily.

Stacey Langenbahn: Really? In your state, is a valid, legal mediated settlement agreement binding when signed? Texas says parents should decide, and a mediated agreement is the best way to do that.

April Rando: The courts are going to be completely overwhelmed when they finally reopen.

Mediator L Randy Drew: The world will never be quite the same.

Chastity Lawrence: And, there are going to be charges and changes.

MW: The courts tend to be dysfunctional even in the best of times. Especially for family issues.

Lisa Kent: Good point about the geographic differences in COVID issues!

Margaret: Ask the parents if they love the children MORE than they hate the other parent.

Melissa Povoski-Smith: In Western NY, mediated plans would most likely be accepted by the courts as they are now.

Bill Eddy: High conflict couples often do worse in a crisis, not better, and often prefer court to mediation. Courts should require them to mediate.

Oran Kaufman: What about when one parent, who already has a history of “controlling,” is using the crisis to keep the child(ren) from the other parent?

Mediator L Randy Drew: At the dependency court, “best interest of the child” seems to be open to interpretation by the parents. They are being better than usual, actually.

Mitsu Rajda: Oran, I am seeing a lot of such cases.

Stacey Langenbahn: I see almost exclusively pro se mediation participants. I am calling the courts individually to ask how to get the courts to approve these agreements to reduce their loads when the courts do come back into this.

April Rando: In NY, every county’s Family Court does things a bit differently. It really depends on the judge. But, right now, parenting plan modification petitions are temporarily suspended.

Stacey Langenbahn: It makes sense that NY would have to close down modifications right now in light of the COVID situation there.

john fiske: The different ballgame still seeks acknowledgement, whether facilitative or directive is the mediator’s own preference.

Bill Eddy: In California we modify parenting plans all the time. It’s routine and courts prefer it. Unless the court order says it’s not modifiable, it is.

GPM: Judge Sunshine recently had an open letter printed in the NY Law Journal.

Mediator L Randy Drew: CA is in lock-down, “essential services” only, TROs & detention hearings.

Chastity Lawrence: Ex-partes and Protective orders here.

Melissa Povoski-Smith: Judge Sunshine letter is what I forward to people.

Carl Viniar: Telling people to put the children first is not directive. It is mediation 101.

Chastity Lawrence: Effective in the toolbox.

Stacey Langenbahn: In Texas, mediators are often hired to offer their opinions on the legal issues. The mediator cannot offer legal advice – can’t tell the participants what to do.

jenniferkresge: I agree with Marilyn & Jim, relationship and authenticity is essential to a truly successful mediation.

Bill Eddy: The line regarding unauthorized practice of law (UPL) in most states is whether you are “directive” or “not directive” about what the parties should do. It’s a fine line, but mediators can carefully word their suggestions to be helpful yet not directive.

Chastity Lawrence: Looks like we are going to have to refine protocol.

Stacey Langenbahn: Sometimes I ask parents to put themselves in the place of children and ask them how they would feel if they saw the parents doing what they are doing.

jenniferkresge: Strategic Intervention and practice and learn.

Harry Manasewich: Don, Marilyn; how to prevent a mediator’s “bias” in “doing what works, what they feel is right”?

Ellen Morfei: On my website, I include that I provide “the tough love of a trusted friend” along with my other credentials and perspectives. Sometimes that is needed, and I think this is one of those times.

Stacey Langenbahn: Yes, Marilyn and Don nailed it. Use your skills – as Woody says, have a toolbox that you can count on when needed.

Honey: Perhaps the safest place for the child during the emergency is with the “less-time” parent under the plan. For example, more-time parent or his/her spouse is a front-line doctor.

Carl Viniar: I remember being in a training with Ken, as he described how the very questions you ask move the clients in a direction. That is always true. My intention is the transformation of the parties’ relationship. Is that directive? Facilitative? As Don et al. said faster than I can type-it, is inside a relationship, and a strategic push into the future.

GPM: FUTURE TAX issues, if any, and resultant decline in parental income.

Angela Mojica: Present situation: How it will impact also Child, and Spousal Support. We will also get cases that need to visit these matters.

MW: “Child support,” as commonly framed, is a solution. I have found that bringing the conversation back to what the solution is intended to address, and approaching that question anew, can give rise to approaches that otherwise may not be considered.

Stacey Langenbahn: A court coordinator just left me a message that she will figure out how to get the judge to do an uncontested divorce prove up for my pro se mediation clients.  LOVE THAT.  Hopefully, this is a way to get the judges freed up to do the work that needs a judge’s personal attention in court, and not take up their time with largely administrative things like agreed divorces.

Oran Kaufman: Sometimes, people have trouble seeing the forest from the trees around parenting. This crisis, which is so much bigger than anything any of us have ever dealt with, might actually help people focus on children, when, in “normal” times, they have a hard time doing so.

Bill Eddy: In CA, we can file mediated divorces and modifications without ever involving a judge. Saves tons of their time.

jenniferkresge: How do you manage that concept (creating a budget for the child’s needs) if one parent is disabled and cannot work and for various reasons does not receive SSI, etc., thus is totally dependent on what he/she receives from the other. How do you then get away from C.S formula’s?   Other than using a set # for C.S. and deciding what more may need to be included for various additional circumstances?  I’ve come up with various creative solutions..I am interested in hearing yours.

MW: Every crisis affords the possibility of considering this question: What can this situation teach us?

GPM: I expect issues to arise regarding the stimulus packet, and who gets the monies, when it will most likely be deposited into one spouses account…the primary on the last tax return.

Stacey Langenbahn: CA has been ahead of the curve on that for a long time.

jenniferkresge: Creativity is essential!

Susan: Yes, good thought to bring in financial experts to help mediate support issues in some situations.

Suzanne Edwards: I have used Steve and Marilyn’s Child Support Account with some of my most competitive couples. In the end, they were thrilled and found they were able to communicate much easier going forward because neither one had to pay the other directly.

Harry Manasewich: Filing mediated agreements directly with the courts: by mediators, parties, or lawyers?

Bill Eddy: Yes, lawyers, parties, or mediators can file Marital Settlement Agreements with some other court forms, and it all gets accepted 99% of the time by the courts. The judge’s clerk stamps it approved.

Stacey Langenbahn: I started my mediation practice during the past recession. One piece in the tool box is to help clients understand a structure to evaluate how to pay debts from best to worst (Best – pay them off; worst – one pays the debts of the other – which doesn’t affect the creditors’ rights).

Harry Manasewich: Bill, thanks. Does it need to be reviewed, signed by a lawyer?

jenniferkresge: What Jim is suggesting is something I always include in mediations, that includes the consideration of children’s best interests.

Bill Eddy: Lawyer review of Marital Settlement Agreements is not required. But the judge’s clerk has a checklist that must be followed. If that’s all done properly, it’s rare they are rejected. Out of about 2000 mediated cases, only one ended up being brought to court. The judge told me after that he wouldn’t do that in the future.

Harry Manasewich: I’m in MA; only lawyers can write a Separation Agreement.

Stacey Langenbahn: Texas does not require a lawyer to sign off or to review an MSA that meets the legal standards of validity.  I ask my clients to file the MSA so the judge can see that the terms of the MSA match the decree (we can incorporate the MSA into the decree in Texas).

GPM: In NJ, MSA goes to review attorneys, to be presented in a divorce action.  However, some parties file the MSA with a Pro Se, uncontested divorce. Correction MOU goes to review attorney to draft MSA.

Stacey Langenbahn: How do MSA review attorneys not turn into representing attorneys?

Debra Williams: in Washington the state Bar has an opinion that each client’s attorney must review the MSA if the attorney mediator drafts.

Ellen Morfei: My overhead doesn’t change if I do SOME mediation online.

Josh Kraus: Bill are you referring to a 4 or 5-point checklist, or more like 20-30, and is that standardized throughout your state?

Laurie Amaya:  Overhead hasn’t.

Bill Eddy:  The checklist has 20-30 requirements that must be met.

Chuck Hill: I shy away from discounting online, for fear that doing so implies a lesser value experience.

Anju Jessani: I agree with Ken. Reaching out to old clients does sound like ambulance-chasing.  Looking for business.

Stacey Langenbahn: Please know the new Paycheck Protection Program (application opens today) seems to be available to cover mediators’ pay losses during this crisis.

Emily De Falla: How can we get the child support account tool? Is it in a publication? [In a book about to be released: The Child Support Solution: Unhooking Custody from Support, by Erickson, McKnight & Saposnek].

janemcwilliams: We have to speak up because so many people don’t even know Mediation services are available. Getting the word out that we are here to help is crucial.

Mediator L Randy Drew: I would like to see mediators be more extroverted about what we have to offer society.

Carl Viniar: The lack of a consistent national response by our government to the pandemic has to me been a disaster. Likewise, the conversations in the chat have shown me that state by state control of the divorce mediation process is difficult at best. Hopefully the APFM will continue to take a role in the national conversation.

Stacey Langenbahn: Reaching out to current/former clients with valuable information on parenting and other info like Amanda Singer sends out is not ambulance-chasing, and is good business.

Lisa Kent: I agree with Stacey– contacting former clients, checking in with them, asking them, “How are you holding up?” is NOT ambulance-chasing; it’s showing empathy and trying to keep connection.

Amy Robertson: My concern with reaching out to previous clients with information is, what if they were doing fine – then read 7 guidelines info and one party now wants to change and I have inadvertently caused a problem… thoughts… am I over thinking?

Lisa Kent: ….and Estate Planning attorneys send out letters every few years asking if your estate planning documents need to be updated!

Halee Burg: Agree with Stacey re: outreach – I think many clients might appreciate that, especially coupled with information on parenting or other relevant and timely topics.

Stacey Langenbahn: There is a difference between soliciting business as a cold call and connecting with current/former clients.  You can also put ideas out like on Mediate.com.

Chuck Hill: Yeah, but my dentist also pointed out that the year’s amount was coming to an end and I resented that.

Justin Kelsey – Mediator & Collaborative Attorney: Your intake form should ask clients and potential clients if they want to receive your newsletter…. let them opt-in to ongoing info from the beginning.

Sara Figal: Community Mediation Centers are already doing this “crisis mediation” offering; see Nashville Conflict Resolution Center: http://nashvilleconflict.org/

Lisa Sundquist: I sent email to former parenting clients and offered some links to co-parenting resources and just checked in with them and let them know I’m here.  It was well received, and I got lots of nice responses thanking me for checking in, and a few phone calls with questions.  They are glad to know I’m a resource.

cynthiamoore: Lisa, were the co-parenting resources related to this crisis specifically, and would you kindly share?

Amy Robertson: I have had positive responses from sharing information with current clients – just have not done this with past clients. I worry people are experiencing information overload and I am not wanting to be a part of that unless I have been invited to be a part of that…

Jann Bate Catto: If you are approaching previous clients how do you approach both? Email together? May not have current addresses?

Emily De Falla: Ambulance-chasing is when attorneys try to take advantage of people they don’t have a relationship with, and who are in crisis. Checking in with former clients bears no resemblance. I have a practice of just sending a “hello” email to former clients once a year or so — because I care about them and how they are doing. It has the side effect of reminding them I am out there if they need me, but that is not why I do it. Recognizing that I am a reminder of a time in their life that was likely very difficult, I make it a very gentle check in, with no follow up so that they can ignore it if they wish.

Anthony Matrumalo: Annual medical and dental appointments are considered maintenance, and people expect that. I do not believe clients who believe they have reached the end of a process and “resolved” relevant issues would expect it, and probably at least one would not appreciate us raising the possibility that perhaps they did not really reach a resolution.

Lisa Sundquist: My local court system published guidelines, plus I include guidelines provided by AFCC.

Lisa Zonder: I have a newsletter with educational blogs. MailChimp allows an opt-in and unsubscribe feature. This is a way to reach out without ambulance-chasing. If professional doesn’t want to be on the list, they unsubscribe.

Josh Kraus: To be fair, I think Ken’s point was the public perception of ambulance-chasing, not that it was an actual parallel.

Anthony Matrumalo: At least not a lasting resolution.

Max Markin: I second Justin’s suggestion that the burden is on us to establish these expectations at the outset of our professional relationships. Unsolicited “outreach” to an audience that has not opted-in to such communications feels spammy to me.

cynthiamoore: We do have a real role, as stated by Forrest and Jim. We are driven by our desire to help support critically important conversations between parents.

Anthony Matrumalo: I think it might be fine as an element of an ongoing newsletter, as that would be viewed as information and not a solicitation.

Jocelyn “Jocie” Wurzburg: terrific conversation. thanks, friends.

Chastity Lawrence: Less invasive.  They decide to follow.

Stacey Langenbahn: On a very positive note, I had a couple reconcile yesterday!!!  Made my day!!! They said mediation was the motivator to get them talking and they thanked me so much and offered to write a positive review online for the way they used mediation to come together in this difficult time. This is why I keep doing this job.  Because, it is one of the hardest jobs in the world.

Susan: Thank you Michael for facilitating this discussion. I also have liked your 5- day COVID response.

Harry Manasewich: Yes, thanks to Michael and the panel…and all of you!

Anthony Matrumalo: Thanks so much to everyone!

jenniferkresge: Thank you for facilitating this collaborative conversation.

DT: Thanks to the panelists and to the whole group. Information has been excellent.

herbertkroon: Thanks to the panelists: Excellent discussion. Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Bill Eddy: Thanks Michael, panelists and all! Great discussions (verbal and written).

John J Harper: In this time of national emergency, the Academy and its members should provide the public a list of talking points and community resources for them to consult and to help them get through this difficult time. We deal with people in crisis and stress, and now is the time to rise to the occasion and help others.

lisajacobs: Thanks to Everyone, especially to the panelists and to Michael, for facilitating these important conversations.  Aloha!

Anju Jessani, MBA, APM: If you click the three dots to right of Zoom chat, you can save chat conversations.

Stacey Langenbahn: Fantastic discussion. Love you all!  What an incredible community of professionals, and I am honored to be a part!

Lisa Zonder: APFM is a premier organization. Really appreciate the Zoom Town hall meeting. Feels like a strong community.

Heather Akehurst-Krause: Thank you for this excellent and insightful information.

Kim Whelan: When I am in this chat box, I am able to click on the three dots to the right of where I am typing, and it gives me the “save chat” option and then “locate in finder.”

Stacey Langenbahn: Tools to manage conflict – Don, do you have a list?

Bill Eddy: We have a lot of free articles about managing conflict on our website: www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

Penny: Managing conflict is a first priority strategy. Conflict resolution is a goal.

Harry Manasewich: “Save Chat” – to the right of “Everyone”, Right click / “Select All” / “Ctrl + C” / paste it into a doc.

Angela Mojica: Making ourselves available to assist and help parties.

jenniferkresge: Jim, great idea, please write about this on Mediate.com. The development of a business plan for online conversations/mediations.

harrietslive: Super forum, thank you everyone! Stay safe and healthy all!

Josh Kraus: What to do about the proliferation of attorneys who now think they’re online mediators? They are doing it, even if they shouldn’t.

Stacey Langenbahn: Mediators are great “think-outside-the-box” folks. I disagree that we are behind.  This is a wonderful opportunity to innovate and show our stuff. No worries about on-line mediation.  It is totally here!!!!

April Rando: This has been a great panel discussion. Thank you!

Halee Burg: Wonderful conversations – thanks to each of the panelists and attendees for the rich, thoughtful, and informative discussion.  Stay safe, everyone!

Wayne Olsen: Thanks for an educational two hours.

Jim Melamed: Do see our 20- hour online mediation training for family and divorce mediation: https://www.mediate.com/products/pg1358.cfm.

Julie King: Thank you for this incredible panel, such an informative community. Grateful for this, from Ohio.

herbertkroon: Hooray for the APFM!!

Josh Kraus: https://www.facebook.com/groups/606162469770575 APFM FB Group.

Margaret: Thank you for both Town Halls, as they have raised many thoughts that we can share and work together.

Justin Kelsey – Mediator & Collaborative Attorney: Facebook page to like: https://www.facebook.com/APFM.ProfessionalFamilyMediators/

John J Harper: Thanks for a helpful and informative session.

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