Frequently Asked Questions About
Family Mediation and Divorce Mediation in Maryland
WHAT IS DIVORCE MEDIATION / FAMILY MEDIATION IN MARYLAND?
Divorce Mediation ( also called Family Mediation, for example, where parties are unmarried but share children) refers to negotiations between parties, which negotiations are managed by a neutral divorce mediator / family mediator in a confidential and private setting. This neutral divorce mediator / family mediator does not judge the parties, does not offer legal advice to the parties and does not bring personal opinions or biases to the negotiations. The divorce mediator / family mediator provides the structure for addressing relevant issues, assures that each party is heard, helps the parties generate useful and creative options for agreement and may assist the parties in reducing their agreements into writing. The process is voluntary. Parties must disclose information requested by the mediator and/or the other party. The divorce mediator / family mediator cannot reveal the substance of the negotiations and must keep all communications confidential, subject to a few exceptions by law.
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HOW DOES THE PROCESS OF DIVORCE MEDIATION / FAMILY MEDIATION IN MARYLAND BEGIN?
Either one both parties contact the divorce mediator / family mediator by telephone, 410-296-2190 or by email, MediateDivorce1@gmail.com to schedule a consultation. Both parties must participate in the mediation sessions. The consultation is usually in person however, where hardship exists, telephone consultation and/or Skype consultation can be arrranged..
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WHAT TAKES PLACE AT THE INITIAL CONSULTATION FOR DIVORCE MEDIATION / FAMILY MEDIATION AND HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?
The initial intake consultation with the divorce mediator / family mediator is part of the first mediation session, which lasts for about two hours. During the initial session, the parties will learn about the process of divorce mediation / family mediation. The divorce mediator / family mediator will gather an overview of the parties' factual and procedural situations and the scope of the divorce mediation / family mediation issues. The divorce mediator / family mediator will explain the rules relating to fees prior to the session. Prior to the mediation, you will be emailed the "Orientation and Fee Agreement to Participate in Mediation" form for our joint review and signature prior to the commencement of the initial divorce mediation / family mediation. The divorce mediator / family mediator will suggest additional preparation for the substance of the negotiations. The parties usually address the most pressing issues in the first session after the intake, which often address how the parties will separate (if not separated) or issues relating to the children, if any and child support.
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WHAT PREPARATION IS NECESSARY FOR DIVORCE MEDIATION / FAMILY MEDIATION?
Usually parties begin to tackle issues at the first session directly after the divorce mediator / family mediator conducts the intake consultation. When scheduling the first session, the divorce mediator / family mediator will provide you with a specific guide to preparation in advance of that meeting, usually by email. At the initial consultation the mediator will provide additional guidance for preparation for divorce mediation / family mediation.
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SHOULD I HIRE AN ATTORNEY / LAWYER IF I CHOOSE DIVORCE MEDIATION / FAMILY MEDIATION?
Divorce Mediation / Family Mediation, with or without attorney consultation is a fraction of the cost of litigation or attorney-driven negotiations. It is recommended that each party consult with an independent lawyer if it is affordable. It is required that each party have an attorney review of any formal Separation Agreement / Property Settlement Agreement drafted by the Divorce Mediator / Family Mediator which is to be filed with the Court. Very often, so long as there is no emergency, the parties will consult attorneys after mediation begins, because it is at that time that each party begins to understand what the other party is offering or demanding. In that way (mediation prior to attorney consultation) the attorney consultation is very cost-effective since the guidance being sought is very specific.
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WHAT IS THE APPROPRIATE SCOPE OF DIVORCE MEDIATION / FAMILY MEDIATION?
Divorce Mediation / Family Mediation can address any family dispute, most often issues relating to separation or divorce in Maryland. Divorce Mediation / Family Mediation usually covers all topics relating to separation or divorce, but it may also be limited to specific topics such as custody & visitation, alimony or personal property division, debt allocation and tax filings. The appropriate scope of mediation is defined by the complexity of the case, the desires of the parties and/or the scope of a court order.
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HOW DO ISSUES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AFFECT DIVORCE MEDIATION / FAMILY MEDIATION?
As a general rule, mediation is not the proper forum where issues of domestic violence exist. In a family situation where domestic violence issues have been raised, the mediator must evaluate whether mediation is appropriate. The focus of such evaluation is whether the victim of domestic violence can negotiate without the burden of fear or disparity of interpersonal power. In almost all domestic violence situations, the victim of the domestic violence must have legal representation to mediate and that attorney must participate in the mediation, obviously driving up the costs. Where there are allegations of domestic violence against children, mediation should ONLY take place only by court order and under its supervision. However, just because a situation is in an escalated, argumentative state, does not render mediation inappropriate. Quite the contrary, the more anger-fueled the situation, (short of domestic violence) the more mediation is badly needed. Attorney-led negotiations and court filing driven hearings tend to escalate the situation, not calm it down.
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HOW IS MEDIATION UTILIZED IN A LARGE OR COMPLEX FINANCIAL SITUATION IN DIVORCE MEDIATION / FAMILY MEDIATION?
In a matter where the finances of the parties are complex or where there are several assets involved, mediation is effective so long as there is full financial disclosure to the mutual satisfaction of the parties and the mediator. Whether the full financial disclosure is made in the course of formal discovery or informally between the parties is not important. Parties may condition the validity of their negotiated agreement upon the truthfulness and completeness of the financial disclosure. There are exceptions to full financial disclosure which may be agreed upon by the parties, and so long as each party has consulted with an attorney to the mediator's satisfaction, these cases are appropriate for mediation. In addition, the parties may consult financial professionals, hire business valuation experts, mediate with the assistance of counsel (still often far less expensive than allowing counsel to negotiate it for you). In the initial session, the mediator will assess the situation and make a recommendation about the appropriateness of mediation as a forum. In some cases, it may be that the parties will utilize the mediation to settle their child custody and child support issues, and defer other issues to attorney-attended mediation sessions.
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HOW IS DIVORCE MEDIATION / FAMILY MEDIATION COST-EFFECTIVE WHERE THE PARTIES HAVE ALREADY RETAINED ATTORNEYS, FILED SUIT, AND COMPLETED FULL DISCOVERY?
Mediation is cost-effective and can be extremely efficient at this stage of the proceedings. With formal preparation complete, and presumably a trial date on the horizon, the parties negotiation of an agreement under the management of their mediator, is far more direct than the back and forth phone calls between attorneys, joint settlement conferences with attorneys, all at their combined hourly rate. The parties, soon facing an expensive trial, with all issues crystallized, and each having had the benefit of legal counsel throughout the process, are in the ideal situation to approach mediation.
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HOW MUCH WILL MEDIATION COST?
Mediation at Nancy Caplan Mediation is charged at the rate of $250 per hour per couple (not each party) privately, or at the rate provided by law if the mediation is ordered by the court. The same hourly fee applies to time spent drafting your agreements into written format by the mediator. The total cost of mediation depends on the amount of mediation session hours necessary which is depends upon the complexities of the issues and the motivation of the parties.
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WHY MEDIATE INSTEAD OF LITIGATING?
Litigation is an adversarial process where final decisions are made by the judge in open court. The public exposure of private matters often adds to the emotional trauma of the divorce and often involves the adverse involvement by friends and extended families. Conversely, mediation provides a private forum for discussing, exploring and making jointly negotiated decisions for the parties and/or their children. In litigation, the outcome is unknown and may result in unhappy surprise to one or both parties, relating to one or more of the issues. In mediation, the parties stay in control of their needs and obligations, and therefore will not be unhappily surprised. Parties of successful mediation are more likely to comply with the agreements they have personally negotiated. At the end of litigation, parties, as "winners" and "losers" may continue in personal conflict over some or all of those issues and are more likely to end in a future dispute over matters litigated to one party's extreme dissatisfaction. In other words, in family law matters, litigation often breeds more litigation. Within recent years, mediation has been required by law in child custody and visitation cases in Maryland, and many believe that mediation is the trend of the future for most family law disputes. The nature of the issues and emotions involved in family law require a serious consideration of a more peaceful approach to resolving those disputes. Mediation with a skilled mediator trained to resolve disputes, rather than litigation with skilled attorneys poised to win at all costs, is likely to conclude in a resolution acceptable to both parties. Litigation is far more costly than mediation, diverting family funds to lawyers' and experts' fees. Why NOT mediate instead of litigating?