NOTICE: None of these questions and answers constitute legal advice. To obtain legal advice, consult with an attorney. This is especially important in divorce and family law matters, in which outcomes are often peculiar to the particular facts and circumstances of the case.

What is mediation?

Mediation is an informal process for problem-solving. A neutral person — a mediator — helps parties to discuss, negotiate and reach an agreement to resolve a conflict or dispute.

What are the advantages of mediation?

Mediation allows parties to control outcomes in ways that courts are unable to do. Mediation provides a calm, reflective setting for settling personal matters. Mediation provides a means for private and confidential exchange of information. Mediation is less costly than litigation, both financially and emotionally. Finally, successful mediation can create positive momentum between parties as they move on with their lives.

How does mediation work?

In a series of meetings, a mediator helps each party voice his or her own needs and interests, understand the concerns of the other party, and together develop options and alternatives, as the parties move toward an agreement.

Who makes decisions in mediation?

The parties make decisions. Unlike an arbitrator or a judge, a mediator has no power to make any decisions. In mediation, the parties control the outcome.

How long does mediation take?

A mediation session is typically scheduled for two or three hours. The number of sessions required to reach an agreement depends on a variety of factors, including the number and complexity of issues to be resolved, and the ability of parties to identify and discuss options for settlement.

How much does mediation cost? Who pays?

Parties are charged for mediation on an hourly basis. Hourly rates vary from mediator to mediator. The parties themselves decide how to divide the costs.

Does the mediator act as a lawyer for either party — or both parties?

No. The mediator is a neutral person, skilled at helping parties resolve conflict. The mediator does not act as a lawyer for either party — or for both parties. Parties should consult their own attorneys for legal advice.

Do lawyers come to mediation?

Sometimes. You can agree to mediate with or without lawyers present. You are encouraged to consult your own attorney about issues being discussed.

If a lawsuit has already been filed, is it too late to go to mediation?

No. You can choose to mediate your dispute at any time — before or after litigation is under way. Mediation can be a cost-effective alternative to continued litigation.

Am I required to go to mediation?

Mediation is usually voluntary, but in Maryland a court can order parties to attend mediation and settlement conferences concerning custody, property and support.

Can what is said in mediation be used against me in court?

Discussions in mediation are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in any court, arbitration or administrative hearing. No information obtained during mediation will be given to any outside person unless both parties agree.

What issues can be mediated?

Any issue that can be included in a separation or parenting agreement can be mediated. In Maryland, parents are encouraged to reach agreement concerning custody and visitation, and child support. A husband and wife may make a valid and enforceable agreement that relates to alimony, support, property rights or personal rights. Provisions regarding debts, pets, cars, household furnishings, health insurance, life insurance, retirement and survivor benefits, business interests, bank accounts and investments, college costs, and attorney fees may also be included in a mediated separation agreement.

Can a mediated agreement include terms that a court could not order?

Yes. Parties often include provisions in a mediated agreement, which are beyond a court’s power to order. However, once included in a mediated agreement, such terms can be enforced by court order.

What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?

In mediation, a neutral person — a mediator — helps parties to discuss, negotiate and reach an agreement to resolve a conflict or dispute. In arbitration, parties submit their dispute to a neutral person — an arbitrator — who decides the outcome of the dispute. In mediation, the parties decide the outcome; in arbitration, the arbitrator decides.

How does mediation end?

When the parties reach agreement, the mediator will produce a list of the terms for review by both parties. Then, if the parties request, the mediator may draft a formal separation and property settlement agreement.

If I reach a mediated agreement do I still have to go to court?

Yes, but the court proceedings are usually brief and uncontested. In Maryland, instead of a two-day or three-day custody or divorce trial, if an agreement is reached in mediation, a 10-minute hearing is usually all that is needed.

What do I need to bring with me to the first mediation session?

You do not have to bring anything with you, except for your willingness to participate. However, parties in mediation often find it helpful to bring financial records or other papers that might help everyone reach an agreement.

Can mediation be used to resolve ongoing parenting issues?

Mediation can be used to resolve a variety of ongoing parenting disputes or to assist parents in routine co-parenting decisions.