What Happens When Divorce Mediation Doesn’t Work?

You and your spouse had the best of intentions. You vowed to keep your divorce civilized, affordable, and out of the hands of a judge. Together, you hired a mediator, or perhaps a team of collaborative experts, to ensure an optimal agreement for both parties. Many couples start on this hoped-for path of least resistance only to discover that they are unable to reach an agreement once negotiations start.


Divorce agreements touch upon the most sensitive and important of issues. Custody of children, disposition of the family home, and long-term financial security all need to be discussed and resolved. All it takes is one disagreement to stall progress in negotiations. If your lawyer, mental health professional, or financial planner is not equipped to mediate thoughtfully and fairly, or if one party approaches negotiations in an unreasonable manner, the process could easily be derailed. If you and your spouse cannot reach a consensus, your divorce could ultimately end up in court.

Uncontested divorces are reached only when there is an agreement. That outcome is the goal of mediation and collaborative divorce processes. Contested divorces require judicial decision-making and can be long, impersonal, and expensive. They also tend to take a greater emotional toll on the parties involved and their children. For this reason, it is critical to hire a skilled attorney who will seek to preserve family harmony to the greatest extent possible.

Once a divorce is contested, your attorney will prepare and file the appropriate legal documents with the court and all issues of divorce will be submitted to the judge presiding over the case. Contested divorces usually require more extensive fact-finding than mediation, so keep in mind that the discovery process will take time. The judge will consider all available information when making decisions on points of dispute between a couple.

If your divorce does end up in court, take comfort in the fact that the time and money spent during mediation were not a waste. All issues that you were able to agree upon can be stipulated to and ordered even when a judge is brought in to decide on outstanding matters. Bear in mind though, that the agreement will be reviewed in its entirety by the judge before the divorce is entered.

Divorce in Maryland can take anywhere from several months to several years, depending upon the parties’ availability and focus, the professionalism and dedication of each party’s attorney, and the prevailing court backlog.

The length and cost of litigation will also depend upon the matters that are in dispute. Disagreements on to custody arrangements, both legal and physical, can take the court a very long time to adjudicate, for example. Maryland regards protecting the best interests of children as the single most important aspect and responsibility in a divorce. Failure to agree upon custody and visitation matters can result in a detailed and lengthy investigation and the need for expert witness testimony. Coordinating the schedules of mental health professionals and other important figures in the children’s lives who can testify can be tedious and time-consuming. This sort of litigation can also place your children at risk of being questioned by the judge. With the help of a skilled and sensitive attorney, however, it is usually possible to arrive at a settlement before this happens.

The importance of choosing your legal representative in the divorce process wisely cannot be overstated. Finding an attorney who can strike the delicate balance of advocating for your personal and financial interests while also understanding the negative impact that an adversarial divorce can have is key. An attorney’s unwillingness to make strategic compromises will be counterproductive and a hindrance to you in the long term. If you need legal representation in a divorce proceeding, the attorneys at TNS are here to help. Our team of experienced lawyers can help you achieve your goals in divorce litigation with skill while minimizing your costs and preserving the emotional health of your family.

If you have questions about divorce mediation or litigation, please contact TNS Family Law at (410) 339-4100 or Our team of attorneys is here to help guide you.

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Division of Property in Maryland Divorce
Can I Modify My Child Custody Agreement?
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