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On-Line Mediation Service Now Available for Maryland Family Law Disputes

Mediation can now be conducted anytime, anywhere on the Internet

Baltimore, September 9, 1996-- The Program for Dispute Resolution of the University of Maryland School of Law,, today announced, an experiment to test the effectiveness of conducting mediation on the Internet. Supported by a grant from the National Center on Automated Information Retrieval (NCAIR), a team has been assembled to test and evaluate the idea that certain kinds of disputes can settled using electronic methods.

During the demonstration period, family disputes, such child custody and visitation, and health disputes between consumers and health maintenance organizations that arise in Maryland under Maryland law, will be accepted by the service for free. Individuals who want to participate in mediations must already have Internet access, and an e-mail address, but all other costs will be absorbed by the program, including the cost of the mediators.

The demonstration program is designed to assess whether on-line mediation is more effective and less costly when the parties are separated by distance and time and find it inconvenient and costly to participate in a face-to-face mediation. An example of such a conflict would be a dispute between one parent who lives in California, with the other custodial parent living in Maryland, who are involved in a post-divorce dispute over visitation.

The new service will use of variety of methods to enhance communication between parties who are separated by time and distance, including real-time chat, electronic conferencing, e-mail, and video-teleconferencing, including if necessary, plain old telephone conference calls.

An unusual aspect of the service will be supporting web sites in Maryland family law and health law that will be linked to the mediation site and accessible to the parties to inform them about the law that might apply to their disputes. Roger Wolf, Professor of Law and Director of the Dispute Resolution Program at the University of Maryland School of Law and Co-Director of the Project, said that one of the research objectives of the project is to "determine if a certain category of disputes -those in which the law that applies to the case is clear- would reach settlement quicker if both parties had more legal information about how a court would decide their case and a mechanism to settle them quickly. It will also be interesting to see what happens to a dispute when the content of the dispute is divorced from the emotional interaction of the parties." Richard Granat, Co-Director of the Program, said that "this is the first step towards creating an electronic space where people can resolve their disputes if they are physically separated by space and time."


The Program on Dispute Resolution at the University of Maryland School of Law trains law students, lawyers, and other professionals in alternative dispute settlement techniques and is part of the Law School's highly acclaimed Clinical Law Program.


For Further Information Contact:
Professor Roger Wolf, Director, Program for Dispute Resolution,
University of Maryland School of Law
Richard S. Granat, Project Director
510 W. Baltimore St., Baltimore, Maryland 21201
Tel: 410-997-7838


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