In a perfect world, the parties to a divorce are able to reach an amicable agreement early on in the process that resolves all of the issues and avoids litigation. Of course, the world is rarely perfect. More often, the parties to a divorce are not able to quickly and amicably resolve all of the issues which may lead the court to intervene by suggesting, or ordering, mediation. If you are contemplating divorce, or are already in the process of a divorce, you should have at least a basic understanding of mediation. Toward that end, a Murfreesboro divorce lawyer explains mediation and the role of a Rule 31 mediator in that process.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is one type of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Both judges and parties involved in litigation often turn to the various types of ADR when it is clear that the dispute(s) between the parties is not going to be resolved quickly. Mediation is presided over by a mediator – usually an attorney – who is a specialist in the area of law involved and who has received specialized training in mediation strategies and procedures. In the State of Tennessee, the mediator in a family law matter will likely be a “Rule 31 Mediator” (see below).
A mediator is not a judge and does not make any binding decisions regarding the case. Likewise, a mediator does not give legal advice nor offer legal opinions regarding the strengths or weaknesses of a case to the parties. Instead, a mediator reviews the case and tries to find areas where the parties might be willing to compromise or where it might be possible to negotiate a resolution to the contested issues. During the actual mediation, the mediator will literally go back and forth between the parties trying to coax out compromises and encourage each side to find a middle ground that can be the foundation of an agreement. You are not required to reach a resolution during your mediation; however, if you do, the agreement will be reduced to writing and presented to the court for approval. In the case of a divorce, once the court approves the agreement the divorce will be finalized.
Who Is My Mediator? Rule 31 Mediators
Remember, a mediator is not a judge. State law determines what qualifications, if any, are required to be a mediator. Many states, including Tennessee, also offer mediators the ability to be certified. Rule 31 of the Tennessee Supreme Court Rules govern ADR methods and their use within the state’s court systems. Rule 31 is also sets forth the qualifications for a mediator to become certified. According to Rule 31, an “Active Rule 31 Mediator” is any person listed by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission, or ADRC, as a mediator pursuant to section 17 who has complied with all applicable renewal listing and continuing education requirements and is approved by the ADRC to conduct court-ordered mediations. To be certified as a Rule 31 mediator you must:
- Be of good moral character as evidenced by two references accompanying application for listing and certify in writing an intention to comply with the conditions and obligations imposed by Rule 31, including those requirements related to pro bono obligations;
- Have a graduate degree plus four years of full-time practical work experience, or a baccalaureate degree plus six years of full-time practical work experience. Full-time practical work experience shall be defined as 35 hours or more of work per week; and
- Complete 40 hours of general mediation training which includes the curriculum components specified by the ADRC for Rule 31 Mediators in general civil cases.
In addition, if the mediator holds a professional license, such as a license to practice law, the mediator must:
- be in good standing with the Board or Agency charged with issuing licenses to practice in the applicant’s profession AND
- not be the subject of three or more open complaints made to the Board or Agency charged with hearing complaints about the applicant’s professional conduct.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about mediation within the divorce process in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce attorney as soon as possible. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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