Hon. Helaine L. Berger, (Ret.), senior mediator and arbitrator at ADR Systems, recently participated in a panel discussion on Best Practices for the Future of Family Law Mediation.
Judge Berger was joined on the panel by fellow family law mediators Ketan Soni, Esq., of Soni Brendle, PLLC, and J. Alex Jacobson, Esq., of Jacobson Mediation Group. The panel was organized by OurFamilyWizard, a family law technology company.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected co-parenting schedules now that multiple parents are working remotely and extra-curricular activities at school are cancelled,” said Judge Berger. “In these mediations, we have to be as creative as possible to find reasonable solutions to current issues while reminding parties that they will need a post-pandemic plan as well.”
The panel discussion focused on working with clients remotely and what the mediators had learned since the start of the pandemic.
“Remote mediation offers flexibility and allows parties to resolve issues quickly without waiting. In a remote setting, parties do not have to take time off work or find childcare to solve a small issue that will only take an hour,” said Judge Berger. “Privacy is always a concern in mediation, but there are mechanisms that allow for confidentiality in a remote setting. For example, the mute button and breakout rooms are powerful tools that keep conversations private and protect parties in domestic abuse cases.”
Judge Berger also spoke about the importance of active listening and recognizing non-verbal cues during a remote session.
“One of the important things I have learned is how essential it is for the neutral to be even more engaged with the participants in a remote setting. You can’t have your head buried in a notebook the whole conversation,” said Judge Berger. “I recommend meeting with the parties before the session to build rapport and begin to recognize their non-verbal cues to see when a party is uncomfortable or disengaged.”
ADR Systems offers many remote family law mediation services, including a fast track option to resolve urgent matters. Learn more here.
Hon. Helaine L. Berger, (Ret.) is an experienced civil litigator who tried cases in Criminal, Chancery, Law and Domestic Relations before serving as a judge in Cook County’s Domestic Relations Division for 19 years. Judge Berger has been active in the legal community, including Chair of the CBA’s Fee Committee and President of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. She is now a senior mediator and arbitrator at ADR Systems where she concentrates in family law. Judge Berger is flexible and creative in her approach to mediation and has helped ADR Systems launch an innovative fast track mediation program for family law cases.
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