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Maryland Pro SE • Washington DC Pro SE

 

What is Mediation and why are so many people choosing it to resolve their family and divorce issues?

 

The following information is intended to inform the public and not serve as legal advice.

NOTICE: None of this educational material, questions, and answers constitutes legal advice. To obtain legal advice, consult with an attorney. Since we specialize in dispute and family matters, it is important to recognize that Maryland/D.C. law is specific to Maryland/D.C. dispute issues. Outcomes governed by facts and situations reflect on individual case circumstance. No two cases are alike.

If you are currently under contract with an attorney or any other professional please disregard this information. Refer to the professional you have contracted with for legal and/or professional advice. It is not our intent to solicit your business away from your contracted advisor.

Welcome, regardless, if today you are looking for ways to mediate your case without going to court or are ready to file or have filed your court case this website is here for you. Maryland/D.C. Mediation Group will give you information on how to mediate your entire dispute. Prior to spending money on a lawsuit, and finding yourself either defending your actions or pursuing your case in a courtroom you might want to look at the hottest way to handle disputes. The method is called dispute resolution.

The good news, most dispute issues can be mediated. What's more, it could save you a lot of money. Mediation may also protect and restructure your relationship with the other party. Particularly important if the person you are upset with is an employer, family member or good friend. It is always good to be able to protect that bond you might have with the other party. Maintaining your relationship, working to keep the connection intact is one benefit you may receive from mediation. Simply by having a conversation, it is well documented that once people face each other in a neutral setting, they start talking. From experience our mediation group has seen persons come to our offices who have not spoken to one another in years. Yet even in conflict opening the line of communication, reaching out to inform the other person what their issues are, finding answers, protects or re-establishes the relationship. Where at one time two parties simply could not agree, there is now hope.

The number one question we hear when people are ready to file their dispute is should I mediate, litigate, or go Pro se. Below is information on working within or without the court system. If you are giving notice to mediate, filing or responding to a lawsuit, you must decide how you will be represented. The following provides basic information to explain all three methods to help you decide how you would like to proceed.

What is Mediation? Is it right for me?

If we could define mediation in one sentence, it would be "where our clients are afforded the opportunity to find solutions rather than having solutions imposed on them". Mediation is designed to allow the parties to craft a resolution outside of the strict rules of the legal system. A proper mediation process is conducted in an informal, flexible and collaborative environment. The process requires parties to choose the areas of agreement and/or disagreement, rather than turning over the decision to an outside decision-maker such as a judge. This turns the responsibility for the outcome onto the parties themselves.

When looking at disputed issues concerning mediation, what is the difference between mediating with a Mediator and litigation with an Attorney?

Mediation is an alternative method of dispute resolution available to parties undergoing all forms of disputes. In the past, the primary method of dispute resolution has been litigation, in which the disputing parties are adversaries (challenger, enemy or opposition). When the parties can not come up with an agreement, the judge or master makes the decisions for the parties. Mediation is different because the parties work together to decide between themselves what is best for them and their family or profession. The mediator is not a judge, but helps the parties decide on their own how to resolve their differences.

As a matter of fact the courts in Maryland/D.C. depend quite heavily on mediation when it comes to civil and family court. Dispute resolution can be used successfully with all types of disputes from child custody battles to property disagreements.

The facts show over 97% of mediation agreements are settled by mediation between parties. Starting today you may decide to mediate your entire issue. It saves time, money and is very convenient. Going with an attorney is one way to accomplish your goals, however if you do go with an attorney a judge will most likely still ask you to mediate your case.

If you are mediating your dispute prior to filing a case in court, good for you. You have made an excellent decision to resolve your differences without filing a lawsuit. Other than deciding how to write up the final agreement, most likely your mediation will follow the same procedure and format as if you were going to mediation for a court hearing. Should you choose mediation without filing a lawsuit you will be handed when finished, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). An MOA lays out the ground rules of a positive cooperative effort.

This is where all parties agree to the terms and conditions of the settlement agreement. They also agree to abide by the terms of the MOA. Make sure all parties (when agreed upon) have signed and dated all agreements. All principles in the dispute must have issued to them a copy of the agreement signed and dated.

When representing yourself or using an attorney if the parties have filed a lawsuit and wish to have the agreement recorded or brought to the court, your mediator will do a MOA. Should you have an attorney, this would be the time for you to take the MOA back to your attorney for review. To make the judge aware of your wishes to have your case closed to the public (where the file is not open to the public for review), another agreement will be required. The judge, if agreed will sign the order that disallows your case to remain open to the public.

It is always better to have several eyes reading over your document for accuracy. Consider when possible to seek legal advice. It should not cost a lot of money to ask an attorney as a consultant to look over your final agreement (MOA).

Pro se Representation (Representing oneself), is it Right for Me?

Pro se legal representation means advocating (representing) on one's own behalf before a court, rather than being represented by a lawyer. This may occur in any court proceeding. Whether one is the defendant or plaintiff in civil or domestic family case, the courts see more and more cases where persons are representing themselves. Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning "for oneself" or "on one's own behalf". The good news is going Pro se allows you the opportunity to file your own case, and then work with a mediator to work out the terms of your agreement. Once the Settlement Agreement is finished you turn the Agreement into the court for final order, and you are on your way to finishing up your case. This is a very acceptable and less expensive way to handle your dispute. First, the mediator, at a very nominal charge, makes sure you have covered all of your bases. Second, the courts of Maryland/D.C. have written all of the required forms to help you represent yourself to obtain your final order for Memorandum of Agreement. Just follow the court's directions, fill in the forms, hire your mediator and from there you may mediate your entire case. Maryland/D.C. Mediation Group looks at this procedure as: "No attorney, no excessive cost, no fighting, only a settlement with dignity".

The right of a party to a legal action to represent his or her own cause has long been recognized in the United States, and even predates the Ratification of the Constitution.

In the United States, many state court systems and the federal courts are experiencing a steady increase in persons representing themselves. The University of Maryland Law School, reported a study done in 1996 which shows 57% of Pro se said they could not afford a lawyer, 18% said they did not wish to spend the money and 21% said they believed that their case was simple and therefore they did not need an attorney. Also, the "American Bar Association (ABA) Legal Needs Study" shows that 45% of Pro se believes that, "Lawyers are more concerned with their own self promotion than their client's best interest." One must ask, if you see these types of percentages of persons representing themselves in the year 1996, do you believe today, the percentage is higher or lower for people representing themselves using mediation as a choice instead of litigation?

One last thing if you are going Pro se, the court demands first and foremost respect for the process. You will be required to know and follow all administrative guidelines. First you must know how the system works and what procedure the courts follow. It is not easy going Pro se. The judge will still suggest that you choose mediation to work out issues like custody, child support and civil matters. Call Maryland/D.C. Mediation Group today and let's talk about how we can help you with your dispute issues.

Using an attorney (lawyer); is it right for me?

Many lawyers charge by the hour depending on what issues they are litigating. Most likely your attorney will charge by the hour, not by the case or on a contingency basis. Most will want a retainer. Once you contract with your attorney they will charge you for every phone call, copies, paralegal time for research, and cost. Some charge for mileage and the time it takes to go to court. Check and ask your attorney for a list of his costs, as well as his hourly expense and what he charges for investigation/deposition. If you choose to go with an attorney, they will find the best course of action for your particular case. You owe it to yourself to ask questions and to decide during the free consultation, if both of you are compatible working together. Lawyer's rates usually depend on the difficulty of the case and the lawyer's experience. Some lawyers may also take a case on a flat fee basis. Many are open to fee negotiation.

Help your lawyer gather evidence to interview witnesses. Your attorney may want to file the case right away or they may look at the evidence first and investigate the case for its strengths and weaknesses. You are the most important resource of your case. Your story is your defense. Even with a lawyer on hand, you remain the most important part of your case. Give your attorney a list of documents needed and any and all witnesses that can clarify or strengthen your defense. Some of these documents may be tax records, medical records, bank records, correspondence, agreements etc. After investigation, the second phase of the process begins. Remember the clock has been ticking through all of the gathering of evidence process. Make sure your attorney knows your budget. Ask for an invoice every two weeks to see how your retainer is being spent.

Once you file your case the process most likely will continue. The defendant will have time to respond. Depending on the case type once that happens, your attorney will advise you on options to proceed. All cases are unique.

Second Phase, sit down with your lawyer and discuss the costs and time of litigating the case (going to court). Do you go forward or try to settle? Your attorney will proceed, perhaps by asking the other side to go to deposition.

What is a Deposition?

A deposition is an information-gathering tool used by lawyers during the "discovery" phase of a case. At a deposition, the deponent (Person being deposed) is place under oath and asked to give truthful responses to questions asked by the attorney conducting the deposition. The questions and answers will be recorded and sometimes videotaped, and later transcribed, by a court reporter.

How long will it take?

Your notice of deposition will state what time your deposition will begin, but there is usually no time limit for completing your deposition. The length of a deposition depends on a variety of factors, but generally, your deposition will take two to three hours. Your attorney is in the best position to give you a time estimate for your deposition.

Why am I being deposed?

There are a number of reasons why an attorney might want to take your deposition, some are listed as follows:

  1. To obtain information about the case.
  2. To find out what you know and don't know.
  3. To assess your demeanor to determine what type of witness you will be.
  4. To preserve testimony for trial if you are unable to testify at trial.
  5. To confront a party deponent with damaging information about the case.
  6. To catch you in a lie.

As your case is being prepared for court, be thorough and flexible. You don't want to drive your opponent into the ground just to prove a point. Winning in court is not always the best result for everyone.

The best lawyers can win without setting a foot in court. You can succeed at the negotiation table by the use of mediation. This is a good time for you and your attorney to call Maryland/D.C. Mediation Group. Try diplomacy. In fact the majority of the cases, because of diplomacy and mediation, never get tried in court. They settle. Saving time and money should always be your goals.

The final step is going to court. We find most cases that are civil or domestic, the judge requests that you court-mediate. This process is done with or without your attorney. Usually your attorney is at mediation, however it is your case and the mediator wants it to be your mediation. Your attorney may be present and may participate somewhat in the proceeding. If the mediator finalizes the dispute or family court procedure, an order is written up. If you and the mediator can not reach a settlement the court might ask you to try mediation again or your case will be tried and decided by a judge. Once you get to this stage, your case and any options you had is out of your hands and in the hands of the judge.

You might ask yourself, "Why can't my attorney mediate my case?"

Attorneys by law are not allowed to mediate. They can practice law and represent you or they can be your mediator, but they can't do both. A mediator is always natural. An attorney is bound by ethics to be bias in favor of his client. Therefore a judge will most likely ask you during your dispute to mediate your agreement. By hiring a mediator instead of an attorney from the beginning this could be the only tool you will need to work out your agreement. It just makes sense. Why pay an attorney, when you will at some point end up with a mediator helping you decide your case. In fact from the very start you can mediate your entire agreement. As pointed out previously some folks even file their papers not using an attorney at all. One thing for sure, a lawsuit and disputes can be disruptive. They bring on stress, they keep you from moving forward, and they at times are painful. However sadly, sometimes they can not be avoided. This is a time to think about what you want to accomplish, what is best for you, for your business, or your family. At Maryland Divorce Mediation and Maryland/D.C. Mediation Group we hope the best for you and your families as you make these hard decisions. We are here for you. Please call us, let's have a conversation.

 



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2504 Parkview Rd • Gwynn Oak, MD 21207
Phone No: (407) 324-2400         Email: info@maryland-dc-divorcemediation.com         maryland-dc-divorcemediation.com
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