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Maryland divorce options: Mediation

In the last blog post, we discussed what to do if you want a simple, quick and less-expensive divorce. However, uncontested divorce is not for everyone. If you and your spouse do not agree on all of the issues but you believe you may be able to come to an agreement with the help of someone outside of the conflict, divorce mediation may be a better option.

During divorce mediation, a trained neutral, called the "mediator," meets with the parties in an effort to come to a mutually-beneficial agreement. The mediator's role as a neutral allows him or her to help the parties communicate and better understand each other's position on certain divorce issues.

Mediation is:

  • Voluntary: Mediation is a choice that parties make together. They do not need to come to an agreement in mediation. If the parties reach an agreement, it is not final until all parties sign it. If the parties do not reach an agreement, they can take their case to court.
  • Confidential: Mediation is confidential. Anything discussed in mediation cannot be used against another party in court unless it involves abuse, threats or fraud. Mediators must also agree to keep information confidential during and after the mediation.
  • Less costly than court: Mediation is a quicker, and therefore usually less costly, process than the traditional courtroom divorce.

Perhaps the largest benefit to mediation is that it lets you and your spouse decide what to do regarding most aspects of your divorce. In the traditional courtroom process, the judge will decide based on specific statutory (legal) requirements and what he or she views to be the facts of the case. Judges rarely make decisions based on what the parties want. In mediation, you are in control of the process. The mediator will not make decisions for you - he or she will help you make those decisions.

Divorcing spouses who use mediation often are less stressed and generally report that they are more content with the outcome of their divorce than those who go through a Maryland courtroom divorce.

Because mediation is a collaborative process, however, it is not for everyone. For example, if there is evidence of domestic violence or abuse in the divorce, it is probably better to have your case heard by the court. Fear of retaliation or unbalanced power between spouses can also be reasons to avoid mediation. Finally, if you don't believe you and your spouse can work together to find divorce solutions because of the tension between you, the traditional divorce process may be a better option.

Source: MACRO, "Consumer's Guide: Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Services in Maryland," 2007.

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