Technology and Divorce Mediation

Technology has revolutionized the way lawyers practice law.
I recall my first year of running a law practice: People came into the office to sign a fee agreement, brought a check that had to manually deposited into the bank, , and, I recall I still was using a dot matrix printer.
Court process has also been revolutionized. Back in the day, if you wanted to see a court file, you had to trek to the records department at the courthouse, stand in line, and request the file during court hours. Now, I can access any court file from my computer any time. To file documents, I upload documents directly to the court. Back in the day, you would mail your documents along with confirmation cards to ensure that your documents were actually received and filed.
Now, I have a significantly better printer, but I do not use it. I aspire to keep my law practice paper free. Documents are created, converted to a .pdf and emailed or uploaded. They are not stored in paper files. They are stored in the cloud in a professional grade, encrypted server. Documents which are sent to me are scanned and uploaded to the cloud, and not saved in a physical file. I sent documents out for e-signature and collect fees via payment links. There is no question in my mind that the careful, thoughtful use of technology has made my practice of law more efficient.
Technology impacts how I conduct mediations as well.
I rarely have face to face mediations any more. Face to face mediations are still an option and appropriate in some situations. However, almost all my mediations now are conducted over Zoom. Participants do not need to be in the same room. I separate both parties into breakout room and “shuffle” back and forth between them. This has the distinct advantage that people are in an environment they are comfortable in, and they do not need to come into an office.
In my practice, the biggest technology innovation is seen at the stage of gathering information. One bedrock principle of mediation for me is that both parties have access to the same set of facts, and that the “facts” are agreed to prior to the mediation. I do not want to be in a mediation and questioning how much money is in a retirement account or how much debt one party owes. It’s imperative that these be known PRIOR to the actual mediation.
To gather this information, I developed online questionnaires. The questionnaires solicit client specific information. For example, if a couple owns a house, the questionnaires will ask about home ownership, the amounts owing, whether the house has been subject to a lien, whose name is on the deed and mortgage, whether anyone else has an interest in the home. Both parties get the same set of questions, and then the responses are shared. We then meet to iron out and resolve the differences. If the couple does not own a house, they do not see this questionnaire.
The information the parties provide then forms the basis for the mediation discussions. The questionnaires make it possible to account for all the assets and liabilities. It helps the parties focus on differences, and the actual items which will be disputed. When all of the assets and liabilities are disclosed, it helps the parties think about a workable resolution.
This technology also allows me to complete court documents very quickly. My turn-around time is usually a day or two. I can send out drafts of court documents and get e-signatures. Once the documents are signed and back in my office, it allows me to get the General Judgment of Dissolution filed quickly. And, the courts will notify me by email as soon as the judgment is signed.
There is no question that the careful, deliberate use of new technologies have made my mediation practice stronger, more efficient and less expensive. With the widespread advent of AI, I will be curious to see how the practice of law and mediation evolves. The change is inevitable.

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