Mediation is alternative dispute resolution tool whereby parties meet with a neutral mediator to resolve disputed issues. Parties can participate in mediation with or without an attorney, and the mediation process can be used to address some or all of the contested issues. Mediation is a confidential settlement process, and communications made during a mediation are generally not admissible in court. Mediators cannot decide contested issues for parties. The mediator’s job is to facilitate resolution of the issues. Mediators are typically experienced family law attorneys who have completed mediation training. In Maryland, this includes completion of 80 hours of training. Mediation is an excellent alternative to the litigation process, which is long and expensive, and which generally is not tailored to address any particular family’s needs or issues.

Like mediation, arbitration is a process that involves a third party neutral, but the arbitrator is conceptually acting as a ‘private judge’ of sorts. Unlike a mediator, the arbitrator does decide contested issues, and the parties agree at the outset to be bound by the arbitrator’s decision. The parties and arbitrator set the rules of the arbitration process, including rules related to the sharing of information in advance of the actual arbitration, the rules of evidence, the time allotments for the process, the schedule, and the scope of the process. Arbitration is useful when other alternative dispute resolution tools are ineffective or where there are one or more issues that cannot be resolved without a neutral decision-maker. Arbitration allows parties to select their decision-maker, and the rules of the process, to fit their needs.


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