Everyone knows that legal help costs a lot of money. Most of the time it is money well spent. But due to the high cost of litigation, some disputes go unresolved, which can cause even more problems in the long run. Mediation has arisen as an option to help people resolve their legal disputes for a more reasonable cost.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. In mediation, parties choose to come together in front of a neutral third party (usually a collaborative law attorney) and attempt to work out their differences without the time and expense of going to court. This approach is designed to settle disputes with as little cost, time, and bad feelings as possible.
Civil proceeding such as contract disputes, landlord/tenant issues, divorce settlements and small claims are good candidates for mediation. In a mediation scenario, both parties agree on a mediator who will hear both sides of the case, and then work with the parties to arrive at an agreeable solution. The result will be an agreement that both parties then have the option to accept and be bound to.
Mediation is different from arbitration. In arbitration, parties have agreed to be bound by the arbitrator’s decision. In mediation, the parties still have the option to go to court if an agreeable resolution cannot be found.
A typical mediation will occur for a half or full day, at the mediator’s office. The structure is similar to a court proceeding, with opening arguments from both sides, then discussions with the mediator (individually and together). Parties are generally not represented by lawyers (thus the cost savings). The mediator will then announce his or her decision. The final decision may result in a written agreement signed and agreed to by the parties, or a report that each party can take to their own lawyer for review. Neither party is bound by the mediator’s decision, but the mediator may prepare a report to go to the judge (in the case of court-ordered mediation).
One of the advantages of mediation is that, unlike civil court where the judge may not be an expert on the matter at issue, you can pick your mediator. Most mediators are attorneys who have been practicing alternative dispute resolution and collaborative law in their own practice. You have the ability to find a mediator who has subject-matter experience directly relating to your dispute, which can help guide the process to a more acceptable conclusion.
When picking a mediator in Maryland, you would use the same methods that are used to find an attorney. Search for an experienced mediator who has received the proper training, and has subject matter experience. When you find one, determine how long he or she feels that the mediation process should take, and decide on a fee. Then prepare your case as best you can, considering all possible arguments and solutions. The more work you do beforehand will help make the process go smoothly.