Mediation is what most people think of when they hear the term alternative dispute resolution. In its most general terms, it’s a meeting attended by your ex, or soon to be ex spouse, each of your respective attorneys, and a neutral trained mediator or facilitator to explore possible resolutions to your disputed issues. How the mediator or facilitator assists in that meeting can vary. What doesn’t vary is that control over the result always remains with the parties in mediation, by that I mean no resolution is reached in mediation until the parties jointly approve the result.
Arbitration on the other hand is the dispute resolution process that most closely resembles litigation in that the parties see at least partial control of the outcome to the arbitrator. There are two types of arbitration, binding and nonbinding. In either type of arbitration the process is the same, the parties agree to submit a list of disputed issues to a jointly chosen arbitrator, who hears testimony, receives evidence, and then makes a decision on the disputed issues in conformance with the governing law on the issues in the jurisdiction of choice.
The difference between the two is that the arbitrator’s decision may or may not be binding upon the parties. And by binding I mean the parties pre-agree that the arbitrator’s ruling will be legally enforceable against them and that by participating in arbitration, they’re waiving their rights to seek a different result in a different form. One final point worth noting is custody issues cannot be arbitrated in Maryland. Custody must be resolved by agreement or court order. Only financial issues are appropriate for arbitration in divorce cases in Maryland.
Family lawyers Heather Collier and Erik Arena are partners at Dragga, Hannon, and Wills law firm in Rockville Maryland. Heather has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” in the area of family law for the fourth consecutive year, and selected to the Super Lawyers’ list of Top 50 Women Attorneys in Maryland. Erik has also been named a “Super Lawyer” in family law, and a “Best Lawyer” in Maryland family law by Best Lawyers in America. To learn how Heather, Erik, and the team at Dragga, Hannon, and Wills can help you choose the right dispute-resolution process for your divorce, please visit DraggaLaw.com.