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A Mediation a Day for Three Months: Insights on Family Law During a Pandemic

Over the past decade, Fischel Kahn’s David Inlander built a reputation as one of the most skilled mediators for family law issues. He had a rule for himself to try not to schedule more than three mediations in a week because of how taxing and time consuming they can be.

When the courts closed in March, he found himself in even more demand, and that rule – like many other pre-COVID plans – fell to the wayside. Since mid-March, he has averaged nearly a mediation a day.

This pace has given him new insight on mediation and divorce during a pandemic, including how divorce itself has evolved over the past few months.

Mediations have come a long way since March

In the early days of the shutdown, couples thought the world would go back to normal in a month, and often did not come to the table looking for a solution.

That has changed dramatically in the past three months.

For divorcing parties, mediation has become the one thing in their lives where they are seeing measurable progress. With much of everyday life at a standstill, many now view mediation as the way to get unstuck and start a new chapter.

Embracing uncertainty to find resolution

The elephant in nearly every mediation right now is financial security. Economic variabilities such as business closures and layoffs bring additional stress and uncertainty. Will family-owned businesses rebound to pre-March levels? What will happen to their retirement plans, stock options and ability to position their business for a profitable acquisition? Have dreams been crushed, or just delayed?

Fiscally driven concerns must be addressed in mediation with no certain indication of how the pandemic will pan out but people now realize that waiting for a level of certainty in uncertain times is unproductive, and they have begun taking chances with the unknown.

It is the mediator’s role to move a couple from a state of paralysis to resolution, address fears of the unknown and keep focused on making meaningful changes that will improve everyone’s lives. Experience has demonstrated mediations are more successful if parties are transparent in disclosure of their assets and concerns, and yet willing to take a leap of faith to get a resolution.

Through mediation the parties are able to come up with solutions that anticipate contingencies, expectations and probabilities to move their case to conclusion.

Mediation’s new challenges

Successful mediators always take the time to make parties comfortable with the room and people involved, and this new reality heightens that necessity. People often need more time and space to vent and feel heard as they have been separated from their support network of family and colleagues.  Patience and the willingness to listen have taken on new importance.

As the pandemic continues to unfold and court closures have been extended, mediation has proven to be a successful method for couples to find resolve. Like David Inlander, Fischel Kahn’s divorce attorneys have been involved in countless virtual mediations since mid-March with more on the docket as stay-at-home orders continue.

David Inlander is one of Chicago’s most sought-after mediators who focuses his practice on complex matrimonial mediation and collaborative and cooperative resolution processes for divorce clients.