Mediation Techniques Used in Maryland
April 28th, 2022
Mediation can be a great tool for resolving disputes. It can help keep co-parents out of court, and help divorcing spouses resolve their cases quickly, and without the trouble of trial. Understanding what mediation is, and the different mediation techniques used in Maryland can help you make wise decisions in resolving your divorce or custody dispute.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution technique used instead of, or in addition to court proceedings. In all its various forms, mediation allows the parties to come to a resolution on tough issues while still maintaining control over their own circumstances. Parties (with or without attorneys) can work with a neutral third-party mediator to explore their options and negotiate a separation agreement or custody and parenting time schedule that honors both parties’ needs and interests. Within the family law setting, mediation can be used for:
- Child custody
- Parenting time
- Financial issues (Child Support, Alimony, Attorney’s Fees or Individual Expense Disputes)
- Modification of Custody, Child Support, or Alimony
- Property division
Many Maryland families prefer mediation to traditional divorce litigation because it is confidential, cooperative, and cost-effective. In many cases, resolving your divorce through a mediator is also faster than having your case heard by a judge. Maryland’s Mutual Consent Divorce requires that parties have a written settlement agreement that resolves all issues, and mediation is a terrific way to accomplish that task.
Mediation Techniques Used in Maryland
There are 4 general types of mediation techniques used in Maryland:
- Facilitative (or Traditional) Mediation
- Analytical Mediation
- Inclusive Mediation
- Transformative Mediation
Different attorneys and mediators may use one or more of these techniques in any given case. Often, a mediator will combine mediation techniques during the same session, so you may not even realize you have transitioned from one to another.
Facilitative Mediation (Traditional Mediation)
In facilitative mediation, the mediator facilitates a conversation between the parties (and sometimes their attorneys too). They may set the ground rules for how each question will be addressed, or how the parties will communicate, but they are generally there to help the parties reach their own solutions. In true facilitative mediation, the facilitator does not offer any opinions or suggestions. They simply make it easier for the parties to communicate. This works best in low-conflict situations, including in preparation for a mutual consent divorce.
In analytical mediation, the mediator advises the parties on the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s suggested solutions. They may also suggest their own solutions. Unlike in some other mediation techniques, an analytical mediator may meet with just one party at a time. However, unlike in arbitration, an analytical mediator does not have the final say; the parties do. The goal here is to get to a resolution or compromise. It can be useful when two parties have different priorities in a divorce, or when one party’s initial proposal is contrary to Maryland law.
Inclusive mediation focuses on facilitating communication between parties who have trouble talking to one another. It uses a structured process to relay information between participants.
- Each party presents and explains their preferred outcome
- The mediators listen for the parties’ values, feelings, and topics to understand what is important to them
- The mediators help the parties identify topics to be resolved
- The parties brainstorm options to solve each topic
- The parties consider whether the options that come out of the brainstorm meet their goals
- The mediator helps finalize any agreement
Often inclusive mediation will use more than one mediator. These co-mediators will go between the parties and their attorneys, if any, to relay information. This makes inclusive mediation a useful mediation technique in high-conflict situations, such as child custody disputes.
Transformative mediation acknowledges the emotional aspects of conflict: that it can make people feel weak or self-absorbed. These emotional responses can get in the way of resolving the actual dispute. Unlike in other mediation techniques, the parties set the ground rules for the conversation. The moderator listens to their conversation and may intervene to help them acknowledge another conflict viewpoint (“recognition”) and handle that conflict in a productive manner (“empowerment”). Essentially, the moderator is there to help the parties talk about what is most important to them. The moderator will not offer solutions or opinions about the parties’ positions. Transformative mediation is most effective when parties will have ongoing dialogue after the immediate dispute is over, as co-parents, for example, and need to be equipped to appreciate the other’s viewpoints.
Is Collaborative Law a Mediation Technique?
You may have heard of Collaborative Law or Collaborative Divorce as another alternative to traditional family law litigation. Collaborative divorce, like mediation, is a process that helps spouses and co-parents resolve their family law disputes outside of court. While collaborative law uses many mediation techniques and requires that professionals be mediation trained, it is not considered mediation. Should you and your spouse or co-parent opt into a collaborative model, you may choose to work with a mediator, divorce coach, or other neutral facilitator to help you communicate effectively and resolve your dispute.
At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, our Maryland divorce lawyers are trained in collaborative divorce, mediation, and litigation strategies. We understand the different mediation techniques used in Maryland, and can help you choose a process that is right for you and your family. To talk to a collaborative divorce attorney or schedule a mediation, contact us today.