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Barbara R. Trader, P.A.


Mediation is one of the many forms of alternative dispute resolution processes that is currently being used extensively by the courts in an effort to lessen the burden of civil litigation on the judicial system. In many counties of Maryland, parties who are involved in cases relating to child custody or visitation and cases involving the division of martial property are court ordered to attend one or more mediation sessions before the case will be set for trial. The purpose of requiring litigants to attend mediation is to determine whether the dispute can be resolved by non-judicial means.

In many instances, the parties to a domestic dispute have never had the opportunity to meet face to face to discuss their dispute in a neutral and non-threatening setting. Participation in mediation gives litigants an opportunity to do so. A mediator is a person who is trained in conflict resolution, and whose role is to facilitate communications between the parties with the goal of helping the parties reach a solution. Mediators may or may not be attorneys. A mediator is not a judge, but is a neutral person who is not connected in any way to the parties or to the dispute itself. A mediator's job is not to take sides, but to listen to both sides of the dispute and assist the parties in communications and, ultimately, the negotiation of a settlement.

Mediation is a confidential process. The process is designed to encourage people to be open and honest about the issues that are in dispute and the possible solutions to the conflict. Mediators have a commitment to keep confidential any information that may come out during mediation discussions, with the exception of issues relating to child abuse. Prior to beginning a mediation session, most mediators require the parties to sign an agreement that they will not subpoena the mediator to testify in court abut anything which may be disclosed during a mediation session.

Mediation is rapidly gaining popularity, especially in the area of family law, for the following reasons. Going to court is costly, in both financial and emotional aspects. If a controversy can be resolved privately it saves money and much of the emotional turmoil that families often experience during domestic disputes. Mediation gives parties an opportunity to communicate with each other face to face. Occasionally, having an understanding of the opposing party's point of view can help parties reach a compromise. Resolving disputes through the judicial process is time consuming. Most cases take many months to years to resolve through the court system. The most important advantage to mediation is that both parties keep some measure of control over the resolution of the dispute. The parties themselves own the solution, and can craft a settlement that may satisfy both party's needs. Going to court is like rolling the dice. Seldom does everyone get what they want. Approaching mediation with an open mind and a commitment to devote time to the process can result in an outcome, the rewards of which may far outweigh the remedies traditionally available through the judicial system.

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