How to Use Mediation to Address Changed Circumstances Due to the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has caused significant changes in the lives of nearly every American. The effects of these changes have been amplified for families with young children who have gone through (or are currently going through) the divorce process. This is a particularly challenging time for co-parenting arrangements between divorced parents who may not share the same views on how to parent in light of the changes brought on by the pandemic.
Fortunately, there is a tool available to help parents navigate these challenging times to help them work together to determine the best way to continue to raise their children. This tool is called mediation. Mediation is an interactive process in which a neutral third person, called a mediator, helps both parties discuss and resolve a dispute.

The Benefits of Mediation
Attending a mediation session with your former spouse can be beneficial in many ways. First, it can be helpful for both parties to have their views heard by a third-party mediator who is neutral and who can be completely objective.
Mediation is a great tool to use for parents who cannot agree on one or more disputed issues related to raising their children. Often, there are multiple ways to resolve an issue that take each party’s concerns into account and offer a compromise that is the best resolution for the child and is in their best interests.
A mediator can help both individuals work toward a solution to the dispute in a way that they both feel heard and understood and are agreeable to the outcome. The goal of mediation is to achieve an amicable agreement and arrangement to resolve the dispute which serves each party equally. Ideally, both parties will walk away from the mediation session feeling as though they found some common ground and can move forward in a way that works for everyone involved.
Other benefits of mediation include the fact that it is often less expensive than each party hiring an attorney and fighting over the dispute in court, and in most cases, it is also much less time-consuming. Mediation sessions also tend to be more flexible and less stressful for all involved than having disputes resolved in court.

Changes in Circumstances Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Mediation can be a useful tool to find solutions to unexpected issues that pop up while co-parenting. The coronavirus pandemic brought about many unanticipated challenges and issues for everyone—in particular, divorced parents co-parenting and raising their children in separate homes.
During the initial stages of the pandemic, many states issued shelter-in-place orders and other types of orders designed to keep residents inside as much as possible to protect them from acquiring and transmitting the virus. With many parenting plans involving court orders requiring the transfer of children for parenting time, these stay-at-home orders left many parents unsure how to proceed.
In some cases, parents immediately took to the court system to enforce or to go before a judge to get permission to refuse to enforce current parenting time court orders out of fear of the rapidly spreading virus. While each case has a unique set of circumstances and different states have different laws, the general consensus with courts all across the country was that existing court orders must continue to be followed unless there was a compelling reason to deviate from the order. Generally, this meant that co-parents could not simply ignore the court orders and refuse to transfer the children to the other parent solely out of fear of the coronavirus.

Mediation Can Be a Helpful Tool for Parents to Resolve Common Disputes Regarding Recent Changes Brought on By the Pandemic
As time went on and the virus continued to spread, new issues began popping up, such as disputes between parents regarding whether to choose in-person education or remote schooling, how to address quarantines if a child or other family member did become infected with the virus, vaccinations, and other related issues. Currently, as some schools prepare to go back to in-person classrooms and other schools in other areas of the country plan to remain remote or adopt a hybrid schedule, parents are still trying to determine what is best for their children.
Unfortunately, parents do not always agree on the schooling issue, and many parents have faced contentious disputes over this topic. Through the use of mediation, co-parents may be able to find compromises and ways to resolve these issues in the best interests of their children without having to go through the court system.

Resolving Issues Regarding Changed Circumstances Due to the Pandemic Through Mediation
One of the best ways for co-parents to resolve disputes related to raising their children is through mediation. Mediation is even more beneficial during this time while we continue to navigate the changes to our society and everyday life brought on by the pandemic.
In many cases, mediation can be done virtually, which is helpful in stopping the spread of the virus itself. Virtual mediation sessions tend to also be more convenient for both parties.
Mediators can help parents find creative solutions to all different types of parenting issues that arise as they raise their children. While the country is working to bounce back from this pandemic, it is even more worthwhile to consider mediation and unique and creative solutions to resolve disputes.

The Use of Mediation Prior to a Final Divorce Court Order
Attending a mediation session can also be helpful and beneficial for couples who have begun the process of obtaining a divorce but have not finalized the divorce yet. A neutral third-party mediator can help you, and your soon-to-be ex-spouse, find common ground on parenting issues and newly arising disputes.
With the help of a mediator, both parties might be able to resolve several different matters currently in dispute in their divorce, leading to a faster and more amicable final divorce and custody agreement. Mediation used in this way can certainly help reduce court costs, make the process less stressful, and allow both parties to finalize their divorce and move on with their lives.


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