I just completed another divorce mediation on Skype. One spouse was in New York and the other in Europe. Technology allows you to communicate over long distances, with both video and audio. We were able to speak and see the person as if they were right in the room with us – way better than speakerphone.
What was difficult about the mediation was that in this particular European country, the healthcare and educational systems are very different from systems in the United States.
For instance, after high school a student can immediately enter medical or law school. If you’re going to go into a trade, there is a 5 or 6 year apprenticeship program. I had to read up on the educational system in this country and gain an understanding of how it works. This information affected the length of time the children would need support as they pursued their education and training. So, child support ending at 21 didn’t work for them.
There are also differences in healthcare. While some European countries have what we refer to as “socialized medicine,” this government supplied or funded “free” healthcare isn’t free. It’s paid for by the employer and the employee. I saw the pay stubs, and the employee and the employer both contribute to the “free” healthcare. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The challenges in doing Skype mediations with one spouse in another country are often not just about the distance or the ability to communicate effectively. It’s about understanding and knowing about the educational systems, health insurance, child support and other issues that are involved. Saying, “I can do Skype mediations for international couples,” just says you may know how to use Skype. Big deal. Every 12-year-old can do it. It doesn’t qualify you as an expert on foreign mediations.
When hiring a mediator to assist you when one spouse is living in a foreign country, be sure they understand that other countries may differ as to:
What is socially acceptable;
The standard of living;
How long the children will require support while pursuing their education or vocational training;
When conducting a mediation for an international couple, be sure to do your homework. It takes a lot more than just knowing how to use the technology to have a successful mediation.