Mediation is a way to work out legal problems outside of the courtroom. It's private, it can save you time, and it may help you and your spouse resolve conflicts and adjust to divorce. Here's what else you need to know.
There's a way to work out legal problems outside of the courtroom. It's called mediation. Sometimes, the Court will suggest it if there's a chance that you and your spouse can work together to find a solution. If you have kids, your case will be reviewed for mediation no matter what.
Keep in mind the benefits of mediation. Mediation can save you time and the stress of having to talk about your private life in a public courtroom.
What is a mediator?
If the Court sends you and your spouse to mediation, or if you ask for mediation and the Court agrees, you will work with a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party. That means they don’t work for you and they don’t work for your spouse. They work for the Court.
The Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court has trained mediators on staff. The Court may also send you to a private mediator, like a psychologist or lawyer. You may ask the court for mediation services by filing an “Agreed Order for Mediation” or requesting mediation services on your Temporary Orders.
You can find details about the Court's mediation process in the Local Rules of Court (Rule 4.36).
The mediator’s job is to:
- Manage the meeting. The mediator asks questions and listens to both of you, without judgment.
- Offer solutions. The purpose of mediation is to find common ground. It’s the mediator’s goal to get you there.
- Write up an agreement. Once you have found that common ground, the mediator will write up an agreement with all the things you agree to.
Mediators also screen for domestic violence and may help connect you to a lawyer or other support services if appropriate.
What happens in mediation?
Because mediation takes place outside of the courtroom, it’s more informal. Most likely, it will just be you, your spouse and the mediator sitting down at a table, or meeting online. The mediator also may meet with you and your spouse individually before meeting with you together.
You must attend any mediation sessions the Court schedules.
The mediator will explain the process and set the ground rules. It will be up to you to share your side of the story, listen to your spouse with an open mind and make decisions.
Mediation is not used as an alternative to decide on protection orders. See the Local Rules of Court (Rule 4.36) for more information about when mediation may or may not be used.
Mediation is not counseling, but it is an opportunity for you and your spouse to discuss family issues. If you are parents, mediation may help you make decisions about your children and what will happen after your divorce.
In mediation for divorce, you may discuss:
- Parent responsibilities
- Parenting time arrangements
You don't have to agree to everything in mediation, especially if you think something is unfair, you don't understand it or don't think you can do it.
Here's what can help you have a successful mediation:
- Documents and notes. Put together any receipts, documents or photographs that might help. Write some notes about what you want to make sure to say.
- Openness and honesty. Mediation offers you an opportunity to be open, honest and direct with the information you have to share. If you hold anything back or don’t tell the truth, you could end up wasting this valuable time.
- Patience. Mediation can be very quick or take multiple, hours-long meetings. It depends on how complex your situation is. The point is to keep at it, if it’s working. And be patient.
- An open mind. Mediation is not about winning. It’s about reaching a solution that works for you and your spouse. That might mean that you end up making some trade-offs.
In most cases, statements you make during mediation sessions are confidential.
You and your spouse may need several sessions to complete the mediation process. It’s also okay if you can’t reach an agreement. If that happens, the mediator will either schedule another session or end the mediation and tell the Court about the outcome.
Mediation doesn’t stop or delay your case, unless the Court orders it, and other Court orders will still be in effect while you’re in mediation.
What happens after mediation?
If you and your spouse reach a decision, the mediator will prepare an agreement describing the decisions you and your spouse have made. The mediator will give copies of the agreement to you, your spouse and the Court to review. The Court may turn the agreement into a Court Order.
If you and your spouse do not come to an agreement on any of the issues, then the mediator will send a “no agreement” notice to the Court.
If you and your spouse agree on some of the issues, you can ask the Court to include those parts in the Court decision.