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Alternatives to Resolving a Family Law Case in Maryland Without a Trial

Going through a divorce and/or a custody battle with an estranged ex presents a host of challenges.  Understandably, emotions run high and there are plenty of legitimate obstacles that may be faced prior to resolution.  Sometimes, the only option is to go to trial and have a Judge make the final determination.  However, there are several avenues available to try to resolve a family court matter without going to trial, which can save time, emotional energy, and money.  These alternative avenues are known collectively as “Alternative Dispute Resolution” and includes, mediation, arbitration, and settlement conference.


Mediation is a service that the parties can participate in prior to any court filing.  Mediation may also be offered by the court, once the matter is filed.  There are a number of mediation options in Maryland. There are private mediators that can be hired. There are Community Mediation Centers that provide pro-bono or low-bono services. There are also appointed mediators through the court. 

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a neutral forum to allow parties to negotiate and settle a matter.  The mediator is a trained impartial person and is not acting as a judge. The mediator’s role is that of facilitator. The mediator assists the parties in coming to an agreement.  The mediator works to ensure both sides understand the position of the other.  The mediator will work to suss out the hardline issues between the parties and will help the parties to think creatively about how to accomplish the goals of each side.  The mediator does not issue any binding findings and if there is no agreement, the mediator does not have authority to order any side to do anything.  No one can be forced to agree to anything proposed during mediation. If there is no agreement, the parties continue with litigation. 

Another important aspect to mediation is that it is confidential. In other words, nothing that is discussed during mediation can be used during any subsequent court appearance. 

The cost of mediation varies and ranges from free to sliding scale on up. Private mediators typically charge by the hour.  Costs are typically split between both sides.

The mediator is not permitted to provide legal advice or make recommendations. 


Arbitration is an alternative to litigating a case in court. Arbitration is similar to mediation; except, critically, with arbitration, the arbitrator does have the authority to make a final decision.  The parties; however, have the ability to choose the arbitrator and work with an arbitrator that is mutually agreed upon.  The arbitration setting typically will occur at the office of the arbitrator, instead of a courtroom.  Both sides present witnesses and argument, and typically rules of evidence are relaxed in the presentation of information to the arbitrator. The outcome of an arbitration will be binding and typically limits the right to appeal. Disputes that are well suited for arbitration include division of property, alimony claims, and enforcement/interpretation of agreements.  Typically, child custody disputes are not appropriate for arbitration as there may be limits created to a parent’s ability to intervene or change an agreement in the future or when an emergency arise.

With arbitration, unlike mediation, the neutral arbiter has control of the case and the parties have limited power to renegotiate or challenge the decision afterward. 

Settlement Conference

A settlement conference is another forum to resolve a matter short of trial. The settlement conference occurs once a matter has been filed in court.  The settlement conference is one of the many dates set at the outset of a case.  At the settlement conference, both sides will be present with a neutral and impartial person to try to resolve the matter by agreement, instead of trial.  Typically, the impartial person is a judge and will offer their perspective and opinions about the matter and how a court would decide if the case went to trial. 

If a settlement is reached the agreement will be placed on the record.  If no agreement is reached, then the matter proceeds to trial as scheduled. 

Contact KGO Today

The family law attorneys at Krum, Gergely & Oates are committed to assisting you through each stage of the litigation and to bringing your family law matter to a mutually agreeable resolution.  If you have a family law case in Maryland, including, divorce, custody, or support, contact the experienced family attorneys at Krum, Gergely & Oates, today for a consultation.