What You Need to Know About Mediation
Mediation is not therapy.
Although a person with counseling credentials (a social worker, psychologist or other professional) may also work as a mediator, mediation does not substitute for therapy. The goal of mediation is to help parties focus on a mutual problem, talk about it, discuss possible solutions, and if they choose, agree upon a solution. Mediators encourage parties to come to an agreement on how to solve a mutual problem. People who resolve problems through mediation often report that they feel better after having solved it themselves without someone else making the decision. Therapy may help you gain some emotional distance and be better able to handle the conflict but it is a different process. You may decide to seek therapy before, during or after mediation. The role of a counselor, like that of a therapist, is very different than that of a mediator.
Mediation is not practicing law.
Some mediators are also attorneys. However, when an attorney acts as a mediator he/she cannot provide individual legal advice or representation to one of the parties to the mediation. An attorney represents you. A mediator is a neutral third party.
If an agreement comes out of your mediation and you wish to have it entered as part of a court order in an ongoing case or if you wish to have it enforced by a court, you should consider hiring an independent attorney to review the agreement on your behalf.
Mediation is not only for court cases.
Although many courts refer parties in a case (especially family law matters) to mediation, you may also use a mediator as an alternative to going to court.
If a dispute involves a business, you may also want to check with the Better Business Bureau which provides an arbitration and mediation program for cases involving it's members.
If a dispute involves others in your neighborhood or community, consider contacting one of Maryland's Community Mediation Centers.
Mediation is confidential.
Mediation is a private matter. Everything that is said in mediation is confidential. Court is a formal system in which most of what is filed or said in court is part of the public record. Unlike court cases, the process and issues in mediation are between the parties and the mediator. A mediator and the parties present at mediation are bound not to reveal what they have said in mediation except in a few limited situations. The exceptions are:
- Where there is an existing law that required the mediator to report certain information, such as child abuse or elder abuse;
- Where the mediator believes it necessary to reveal information to prevent serious bodily injury, or death;
- Where the mediator’s conduct is at question;
- When an agreement arising out of a mediation is the result of fraud, duress, or misrepresentation.
Read the Rule: Maryland Rule 17-109
Mediation is informal.
Unlike court, the atmosphere of mediation is informal. The parties and the mediator often meet around a table. There is no additional person recording the session or outsiders witnessing the discussion. Parties can wear whatever feels comfortable. There are no formal court rules. General rules are established at the beginning of a mediation session.
Mediation is relatively quick.
In many cases, the parties are able to reach an agreement more quickly than if the matter was decided in a formal court proceedings. Unlike a crowded court calendar, the only calendar you need to consider is a convenient time for you, the other party or parties, and the mediator. In addition, aspects of litigation, such as the filing of complaints, and motions or discovery requests (formal fact finding by each side), are not a part of the mediation process. You and the other party define the issues and the terms of the agreement.
Mediation is cost effective.
Some services are free. Others are on a sliding scale. In other instances, the parties split the cost of a mediator. Since cost is largely a function of time, the quicker pace of mediation often means that the cost is less than if the case went to court.