Mediation is a joint cooperative problem-solving process and good faith negotiation, during which a neutral professional assists participants in clearly defining issues in dispute and reaching agreements that are in the best interests of both parties. The mediation process may not resolve all issues, but even partial agreements can help parties narrow the issues and limit the time and expense of going to court. Any issues that cannot be resolved completely in mediation can be returned to the court for resolution.
Cases Eligible for Mediation
The court currently refers the following cases for mediation:
- Most contract, personal injury and workers' compensation cases
- All medical malpractice cases
- All business and technology cases
- All cases involving custody and visitation issues, except in cases where there are allegations of abuse or the parties are not represented by counsel
Automobile accident and property cases are not referred to mediation unless requested by a party. At least one party on each side to the dispute must be represented by an attorney.
Typically, mediation only involves the parties to the case. However, on occasion the presence of others is warranted. This will only happen, however, if all parties agree to include such other persons and the mediator feels inclusion would be beneficial. All attorneys, claims adjusters and all parties with settlement authority are required to attend the mediation conference in person. The mediator has the discretion to allow a party to participate by phone if attendance will be a hardship on the party.
Children are almost never involved in mediation and will only be included if the mediator feels it is appropriate in a particular case.
Participants need not feel friendly toward each other, but should be willing to work together to find solutions that will be fair. Participants are always in control of the mediation process, in that they can end the mediation any time and there is no pressure from the mediator to reach an agreement.
The Role of the Mediator
All court-approved mediators must have 40 hours of approved mediation training prior to their appointment. All mediators also complete four hours of continuing training every calendar year after their appointment
A mediator is a neutral person who has been trained to:
- Help participants:
- Identify issues, create an orderly program for exploring interests, facilitate problem-solving and keep negotiation on track
- Resolve misunderstandings and communicate more clearly with each other
- Become informed about each other's needs and interests
- Gathers information that will be useful in developing agreements that are voluntary and designed to meet the goals and serve the interests of everyone involved
- Insists that the integrity of the mediation process is never violated
- Deters any abuse of the process that comes to the their attention
The mediator does not:
- Have authorization to bind parties to an agreement
- Make any decisions for others or judgments regarding the substance of the dispute or any possible resolution
- Give legal advice, the participants should consult their own counsel to assess the merits of legal or other issues
- Advocate for one side of the dispute
- Pressure a party or parties into reaching an agreement
About the Process
Learn more about the mediation process.
- Helps resolve differences in a constructive manner
- Allows you to control the decisions in resolving disputes or addressing problems that may have vital importance to you
- Takes less time than litigation
- Is provided at no cost
- Prevents conflict from escalating and causing harm to those not directly involved, such as children, extended family, friends and others forced to take sides in an intra-family dispute
- Is strictly confidential, allowing you to avoid public disclosure of the problem
- Promotes communication and cooperation
- Gives you experience in a constructive approach to problem-solving that can be applied in future disagreements
- Allows you to create solutions that are flexible and tailor-made and that no court or other authority would create
- Helps fully identify issues that might not be central to the immediate dispute, but that nonetheless need addressing, so that they can be dealt with in the context of a full examination of the parties' relationship and how it may change after mediation—ultimately resulting in a lasting agreement
- Agreements can be changed over time
- Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Section, Maryland State Bar Association
- Association for Conflict Resolution, Maryland Chapter
- Baltimore City Bar Association, ADR Section
- Baltimore City Civil Mediation Program
- Baltimore County Bar Association, ADR Section
- Baltimore County Civil Mediation Program
- Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO)
- Maryland Program for Mediator Excellence