Each year we, at CMDR, look back at our client population seeking to uncover patterns, changes, and even trends. Clearly 2020 was a year like no other, a year that we hope never to replicate in its assault on individuals, families, businesses, and indeed the very social fabric of our nation.
As a mediation firm, we went remote on March 16th and have stayed remote throughout the year, offering zoom and teleconferencing options in place of in-person mediation. We miss seeing, really seeing, our clients; we miss all the many advantages of being able to be with, and work with, clients in person. However, admittedly with the onslaught of so many unimaginable developments affecting the way we live and do business, remote mediation offered an opportunity, even in a closed down world, to continue our mission of helping clients to devise creative approaches and reach settlements. We applaud the tenacity and inspired thinking of our 2020 clients, a clientele that in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty turned to a collaborative and rationale vehicle to reach agreement.
In 2020, we observed the following trends:
From Our Business Clients:
An increased number of small business owners working together to restructure the operation of their business and their individual roles;
An increased number of business owners dealing with restructuring compensation packages for their employees and themselves;
An increased number of business partners devising plans for voluntary termination of employment by business principals;
An increased number of business owners confronting terms for closure of their business; and
An increased number of business rethinking the way they do business, including reducing rental space and expanding remote employee participation.
In summary, given the developments occurring in 2020, it is perhaps not surprising that business owners increasingly began to grapple with decisions surrounding the termination of a principal’s involvement with the business, due to retirement and death, as well as to confront the need for major changes in the structure and /or nature of the business enterprise, including modification of business models and modes of operation.
From Our Separating, Divorcing and Divorced Clients:
An increased number of couples having to revise their parenting plans to incorporate oversight of children’s remote and hybrid education as well as parenting schedules due to Covid-19 restrictions;
An increased number of couples struggling to reduce expenses, modify support payments, and adjust to loss of employment or termination of employment due to the need to provide oversight for children and /or care of sick relatives;
An increased number of couples whose move to divorce was accelerated by the claustrophobic living situation imposed by the Pandemic;
An increased number of couples, living separately, who wished to institute divorce proceedings; and
An increased number of retired couples who decided to divorce.
In summary, the Pandemic seemed to awaken in couples the need for action, particularly action that they had been delaying. In this way, separated couples now decided to divorce; couples living together and thinking of separation, now decided to separate or divorce. Perhaps, life suddenly seemed too short or too tenuous to delay unrealized plans or ambitions.
From Our Family Mediation Clients:
An increased number of siblings entering mediation to resolve lack of clarify in the wills of deceased parents;
An increased number of siblings struggling to resolve what they view as inequities in the will provisions of deceased parents;
An increased number of siblings having difficulty sharing vacation homes left to them by deceased parents; and
An increased number of families having difficulty with overseeing aging parents during the Pandemic.
In summary, some of the same issues that we have witnessed over the years continued to persist: will provisions that provided increased protection for one child were met with confusion, disappointment, and even anger of siblings; inheritances that required collaborative usage or decision making engendered disagreements and tension; and the care of aging parents raised questions of inequities in responsibility and “payment.” The Pandemic may have exacerbated disagreement and/or imposed new restrictions on movement and ability to pay, but the core issues remained essentially unchanged.
Whether in person or remotely, mediation offers all participants the opportunity to express their needs, concerns and priorities in a safe and confidential environment. Working together to listen to each other and to think creatively and rationally of ways to solve old issues and prevent new ones from developing lies at the core of the process. With the facilitation of a skilled and knowledgeable mediator, the end result should be fair and workable for all involved parties.