Difficult as the decision was to make, you and your spouse have determined that your marriage is over and it is time to move on with your lives. Whether this is an amicable breakup or one of you is feeling devastated, you may hope to avoid making the situation even worse by going through a long, contentious court battle.
Fortunately, this is not always necessary. With various forms of alternative dispute resolution becoming more popular among divorcing couples, you may find that you and your spouse can reach agreeable terms without going to court. One method of alternative dispute resolution is mediation, which has many advantages for couples who can make it work.
What mediation is and is not
Mediation occurs when you and your spouse, with your respective attorneys, meet privately with a neutral third party who mediates your negotiations. The mediator does not hand down decisions or resolve conflicts between you and your spouse. Instead, he or she keeps you focused on the issues, offers suggestions for fresh ways of thinking about difficult topics and guides you in finding solutions to your disputes. Through mediation, you and your spouse will address the same issues that the court would address if you were litigating your divorce:
- Property division
- Child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
Many couples find that working through these issues with a mediator is helpful for opening lines of communication with each other, which may be important if you and your spouse have children you will be co-parenting. Mediation is often faster and cheaper than a litigated divorce. You may also appreciate the confidentiality mediation offers, since the entire proceedings take place in private without a court reporter or any official record of the process.
Weigh the pros and cons
If you and your spouse desire to maintain a certain amount of control over the end of your marriage, you may wish to investigate the benefits of mediation and decide whether it is right for you. While you will have an attorney to counsel you, mediation does not allow for the process of discovery, which means you must trust that your spouse is making an honest disclosure of assets and income. Mediation is not a good idea if you are in a relationship that is abusive or controlling.
You will want to be sure your Maryland attorney has experience in divorce through mediation since it is quite different from divorce in a courtroom. Your attorney can guide you through the process and help ensure your final settlement is appropriate for your current and future needs.