FAQ: Everything You Want to Know About Divorce or Custody Mediation in Maryland
Do you have questions about divorce or custody mediation in Maryland, or are you preparing for your mediation? At Wasserman Family Law, Laurie Wasserman and Steffi Langston are trained to serve as family law mediators to help resolve disputes, including disagreements regarding custody and visitation, child support, alimony, financial assets, and division of property.
In this blog, we walk you through everything you want—and need—to know about divorce or custody mediation in Maryland.
What is mediation?
Mediation is the legal process by which the parties attempt to resolve the case themselves, without litigation (meaning, outside of the courtroom). The goal is for parties to work with a trained facilitator (the mediator) to reach an agreement on some or all the issues in your divorce or custody case.
Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process. The mediator will facilitate a discussion to help reach a solution that meets the family's needs. If an agreement is reached, it will be reduced to writing and reviewed by each party and his or her attorney before it is signed.
Who is the mediator?
A mediator is a neutral, unbiased third party. A mediator cannot choose sides or tell someone they are right or wrong. A mediator cannot give legal advice to any party. In court-ordered mediation, the court mediators are either part of the Court’s staff or volunteer family law attorneys who have been trained in mediation. In private mediation, there are a variety of options available to the parties. Many family law attorneys and retired judges offer mediation services.
Do I get to decide if I want to go to mediation?
Mediation is always an option if both parties are interested in reaching an agreement on some or all issues. Regardless, if you are involved with a contested divorce or custody case, the Court will most likely refer you to mediation whether you wish to participate or not. This varies by jurisdiction but stands true for most courts in Maryland. If your case involves domestic violence, the Court will screen the case to see if it is appropriate for mediation.
Who attends mediation?
In some cases, just the parties and the mediator attend sessions. In other cases, each party’s attorney will attend the session with the parties. In many jurisdictions, court-ordered mediation is usually just the parties, and attorneys are not usually involved.
How do I prepare for my mediation?
To prepare for mediation, talk to your attorney about the strengths and weaknesses of your positions. Ask them about the reasonableness of your requests and expectations.
You should spend time identifying what is most important to you. Start by focusing on what matters the most to you, then decide which issues on which you are willing to compromise. Take a moment and reflect on the “why” behind your requests. This will help facilitate more creative solutions, rather than being anchored and unmoved from your position. The other party may be more willing to compromise if they better understand your reasoning. You should also be prepared to make concessions in mediation. In these situations, the goal is to find compromises that work for the family.
What is the meditation process?
Mediation can last for one or multiple sessions. The mediator will usually set the time frame, but the sessions are usually two hours in length. It may take more than one session to reach an agreement.
If agreements are made in mediation, the mediator will usually draft the agreed-upon terms into a written document, which will then be provided to each party’s attorney. After the terms are provided to the attorneys, each party will discuss the terms with their attorney, and be advised on their legal implications, and answer any questions the party may have. This is the time to make any changes to the agreement if needed. Depending on the case and the mediation, the parties can enter into an agreement that fully resolves the case, such as a Marital Settlement Agreement, or a temporary agreement, such as a temporary custody agreement, or a partial agreement.
Why should I choose mediation?
Mediation gives you a say in the outcome in your divorce or custody case. There is a significant amount of risk in taking a case to trial and ultimately the decision is left up to the Judge.
Mediation can also resolve a divorce or custody case faster than litigation—especially at the time of writing this blog post. Courts are backlogged due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent closure of the courts. If you have a mediated agreement, you can close out the case quicker than waiting for trial.
Mediation can also be less expensive than litigation. If the parties are in agreement to fully disclose information as part of the mediation process, it will save money because the attorneys will not have to try to get information from someone unwilling to provide it.
Do you have specific questions about divorce or custody mediation in Maryland? Contact Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-842-1070. The legal team at Wasserman Family Law is here to help guide and advocate for you.
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