Mediation is a process in which a trained, impartial person (the "mediator") helps people in a dispute communicate, understand each other, and reach agreement if possible. Learn more about mediation.
Family mediation is the mediation of disputes in actions for divorce, annulment, paternity, child custody or visitation, child support, or alimony. Mediation can be used to resolve the entire range of family disputes either court proceedings or after (e.g., continuing disputes from a custody agreement).
A family may include a wide range of interpersonal relationships, including, but not limited to:
- Two parents (married or not) and one or more children;
- A childless married couple;
- A single parent and one or more children;
- A parent and a foster child; or
- A household including a group of people such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
No matter how your particular family is structured, family mediation will focus on finding win/win solutions and allowing parties to go forward with more understanding of each other's points of view than they had previously. It may mean mediation between people who are divorcing or who are in a custody fight. It also may mean mediation between other family members such as a parent and a teenager or between parents and grandparents who wish to work out conflicts and improve their communication.
Divorce Mediation may help you resolve your case so you can have an uncontested divorce. It can save you money and promote positive dispute resolution. Learn more about divorce mediation.
Court referred family mediation. Circuit courts have developed mediation programs to assist parties in resolving custody or visitation issues. Court may mandate mediation in custody and/or visitation cases. Generally, cases that involve contested custody or visitation matters are referred to mediation, provided the parties are represented by an attorney, and there is no allegation of domestic abuse. Mediation provides an opportunity for you to focus on the needs of the children and avoid the often highly adversarial atmosphere of the courtroom. Mediation is particularly useful in situations involving children because it is in the interests of the children that their parents "get along."
If the court orders mediation for child access cases, the issues are restricted to custody and visitation unless both parties agree to include other issues. A history of abuse or allegations of abuse may mean that mediation is not appropriate. The court will designate a mediator from a list of qualified mediators. The court may require the parties to attend a maximum of four hours of mediation in not more than two sessions. However, the mediator may recommend to the court to order an additional four hours if necessary.
Read the Rule: Maryland Rule 9-205
What are the advantages of mediation over litigation? Studies show that families who mediate their differences have a substantially better after-divorce relationship than families who litigate their differences. Also, mediation is confidential. The emotional and perhaps embarrassing issues that are raised in divorce and child custody situations will be kept private, as opposed to a trial where all of the proceedings are part of the public record. They are also confidential. This is especially important when the mediation concerns children. The adversarial nature of a divorce trial can severely strain the ability of parents to communicate with each other and their children. Dealing with custody, visitation, and child support in mediation can often reduce much of the bitterness and support positive family interaction. This can really help the children who usually want a close bond with both their mother and father. Learn more about the benefits of mediation.
Who does family mediation? There are private mediators who earn their living by providing mediation for divorcing couples. These mediators can be invaluable in helping couples resolve property and support issues as well as with regard to custody and visitation. Divorce attorneys and family counselors can often refer families to family mediators. Learn more about selecting a mediator.
Should I have an attorney? It is helpful for parties to have an attorney, whether or not the attorney participates in the mediation sessions. Parties will be advised by the mediator to seek advice from their attorneys and it is recommended that an attorney review the final settlement agreement. Mediators may not give legal advice to the parties.
What happens if we can't agree? If you don't reach agreement, you can still go to court. You do not give up your right to litigate your dispute. What occurred in mediation is confidential and is not admissible in court or through discovery. In a court-ordered mediation, the case will return to the court for a decision by the magistrate or judge if the two parties cannot reach an agreement.
Is the agreement binding? A mediated agreement which is signed by the parties is a contract, and as such, is binding. Some mediated agreements are incorporated as part of the parties court order.