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Mediation is a productive conversation in which two people in a family law context meet with their attorneys and a neutral third party, called the mediator. Mediators are typically family law attorneys and they will help to try and resolve some or all issues in the case. One mediation session (usually 2-3 hours) can help you and your spouse reach an agreement on some issues, all issues, or nothing. However, the goal is to try and resolve your case without court intervention.
Almost all parties in family law cases in Maryland are ordered to attend at least one session of mediation. Typically, families are required to attend custody mediation but mediation concerning settling your property and monetary disputes is also an option as well. Even if you think there is no point or hope in settling your case, there is no harm in attending mediation to try and resolve your case. Mediation can be a productive way to get an agreement, or more importantly, to obtain information about your case that can help you later at trial.
When attending mediation, an important question to ask your spouse is "why." Such as: "why are you asking for this" or "why are you opposed to that"? If you can get your spouse to tell you the answer to your "why" then you already have an advantage in Court, if you cannot resolve your case. For example, if a spouse asks, "why can't I have overnights during the week?" and the other spouse says it is because you cannot get the kids to bed on time, or you only let the kids play video games, or you do not have a nighttime routine with the kids, then you already know what your spouse is going to argue against you at trial. You can use mediation to prepare for trial and use the information to defend against any unfounded ideas or fix any problems the other side points out.
All mediation and settlement negotiations are confidential. Courts want families to settle their cases and issues without litigation because that is usually what is best for the family. Courts make it very easy for you to have honest and candid settlement discussions. Settlement negotiations and what is said at mediation are inadmissible, meaning a Judge will not hear the substance of what was discussed at mediation. This applies to both formal mediation, with a mediator present, or informal mediation, with just attorneys at clients in a conference room.
Many people believe that mediation can be an added cost which is the downside people think of the most. However, it is worth it to try mediation because in Maryland it is a mandatory cost (although sometimes the cost is paid by the Court).
Another downside is oversharing information that is not helpful to your case which is why you should bring an experienced attorney with you to your mediation, whether formal or informal.
Dana Whitten represents clients in Maryland counties, helping them mediate and litigate cases involving divorce, child support, child custody, and other matters. Our Rockville office is conveniently located near the Montgomery County courthouse. We invite you to contact us through our online contact form, or give us a call at (301) 762-2528 to schedule a consultation. We look forward to working with you on your case.