What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which a trained impartial person, called a mediator, helps people in a dispute communicate, understand each other, and reach agreement if possible. Mediation is voluntary, confidential, and lets the people in the dispute decide what works best for them.
- Mediation is a voluntary process. In all mediations, if the participants cannot come up with a solution that meets their needs, they cannot be forced to agree to anything. Agreements reached in mediation are only final when all of the participants are satisfied and willing to sign their names to the agreement. While a court may order parties to attend mediation, it cannot order them to reach an agreement. If the parties in court-ordered mediation do not reach an agreement, they can still proceed with their case in court. Mediators may not be called to testify about any mediation communications, and mediators are expected to keep information confidential.
- Mediation is a confidential process. A mediator must keep what was discussed in mediation confidential and cannot be used in court. There are a few exceptions when it comes to child abuse, imminent threats of harm to a person, or allegations of duress or fraud. Parties can decide if they, the parties must keep the discussion confidential and, even some agreements reached can be kept confidential.
- Mediation Lets You Decide. Mediation revolves around the principle of self-determination. That means that the participants with the dispute decide what solutions will work for them. The mediator does not act as a judge. The mediator remains impartial throughout the process and will not give legal advice or make decisions about the dispute.
Maryland Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office, Consumers’ Guide, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Services in Maryland, page 8 (5th Edition 2009, Online edition updated March 2011) www.marylandmacro.org.
Why Should I try It?
If your case is referred to mediation by the court, or if someone suggests that you try mediation instead of going to court, it may be because:
- Mediation may save you time and money.
- Mediation provides an opportunity for you to say what’s important to you and hear the other person’s perspectives.
- Mediation may help you figure out how to get your needs and the other person's needs met by reaching creative, customized solutions that work for everyone.
- You are in control and you know what your needs are better then any judge or jury.
- Many business disputes, family conflicts, neighborhood disputes, and one-on-one issues are most effectively resolved in mediation.
- Even some criminal and juvenile justice cases are better handled in mediation than in court. This is especially true if the people involved have an ongoing relationship.
- Mediation may help you preserve (or improve) a troubled business, family or neighborhood relationship.
When can Mediation happen?
Mediation can happen at any time: the moment a conflict arises, before and during a court case, and even during an appeal. Once a trial court has given a verdict, the issues for mediation change, but mediation is still an option. For more information regarding mediating during the appeal process, see the Court of Special Appeals Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs.
Who are these Mediators?
Mediators are people who have training in conflict resolution. They have experience helping people to communicate better with each other, even when it seems impossible for any agreement to be reached.
- Mediators come from all walks of life, with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
- Experience and training are important for becoming a good mediator.
- Mediators are good listeners, and they keep discussion going.
- Mediators are required to keep information confidential.
- You should be comfortable with your mediator and discuss your needs openly.
What is a large group dispute resolution facilitator?
Facilitation is often used when there are many interested parties or stakeholders and it differs from mediation. Mediation tends to focus on a single-issue dispute between a small number of people (2-4 or so). The large group dispute resolution facilitator helps a large number of people work out a dispute. In this Directory, we define a "large" group as 6 or more people. The facilitator is part of a joint effect to design and oversee the process of resolving a dispute. The facilitator will help to set up the ground rules for how the dispute will be resolved. The goals of the facilitator are to:
- help the parties to better exchange information;
- work with the parties to develop a proposed agreement; and
- help the parties to evaluate the agreement that might lead to a resolution of the problem, or
- help a group reach a goal or complete a task to the mutual satisfaction of participants.
Mediation is not about winning or losing. Mediation is about having an opportunity to find solutions that work for everyone.
- Agreements made in mediation come from the participants, not the mediator.
- You may choose to sign a written agreement which can be enforced as a contract.
- Mediation is risk free. If you do not reach an agreement, you can still have your case handled by the court or resolved in some other way.
- If you do not sign a written agreement in the mediation, and you decide to take your dispute to court, neither the mediator nor the participants can testify in court about what happened during the mediation.
- You can’t “lose” in mediation.
Why do Judges encourage mediation?
Maryland judges recognize that in appropriate cases people may achieve more satisfactory outcomes in a less time consuming and less expensive manner by using mediation than litigation. The courts solve problems, but judges realize that the underlying problems in many disputes cannot be resolved by the decision of a judge or jury. Mediation provides the public with an opportunity to resolve many disputes permanently and effectively. It also provides the courts with a mechanism to relieve overburdened dockets and help prevent disputes from escalating.
Find a Mediator
For a family issue that is already in the courts, contact a Family Court Coordinator.
For other types of cases or problems that are not part of a court case, or for more information about mediation or assistance in finding a mediator, you can contact the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office or look at the on-line Dispute Resolution Practicioners Directory.