Interested in learning how to become a mediator in Georgia? The difficulty of identifying the steps to become a mediator within a state bar or program is often a reason that qualified and skilled mediators are unable to participate in mediation within a state. For this reason, ADR Times has created a series on becoming a court-certified or registered mediator in different states. This article will focus on the process of becoming a registered neutral in Georgia.
The Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution is responsible for the registration process for neutrals and mediators, as well as approving and recommending training courses for registration within the court system. The Georgia Supreme Court also has created the Georgia Commission, which is a commission in the Supreme Court that oversees registration and mediation training. The Office of Dispute Resolution and the Georgia Commission of the Supreme Court determines which mediation course will apply toward registration requirements.
Becoming a registered neutral in Georgia allows mediators to handle court-referred cases and participate in the evaluation of such cases. Registration is not complicated or time-consuming; however, it does require specific training and continued hands-on experience, especially for specific types of mediators. This article will outline the process to provide a step-by-step guide to becoming a registered neutral in Georgia.
The Role of a Mediator in Dispute Resolution
A neutral or a mediator plays a direct role in conflict resolution for a given dispute. A mediator is like a guide through the negotiation process between the parties, helping them identify the areas where they may be able to agree on the issues and creating value between the parties by guiding the discussion and interjecting if necessary. Mediators are neutrals, meaning that they are not influenced by or interested in the outcome of the case. Instead, they help the parties identify potential dispute resolution and move them toward an agreement.
While mediation is a voluntary process, many states have implemented mandatory mediation for certain disputes before the court will hear the case. This is most common in family law cases and other interpersonal disputes. To determine if a dispute will be sent to mediation, you can contact your local court program to identify the procedure for specific types of court-ordered cases.
The Requirements for Registration in Georgia
To become a registered neutral in Georgia, there are several requirements that you will need to consider. Depending on the type of neutral or specialty that a neutral may choose, requirements will vary. However, there will always be requirements for education, specific requirements for training programs, and observation with experienced mediators.
The Georgia Commission, which is a Georgia Supreme Court Commission that oversees development and registration, does not require that everyone wishing to register be an attorney or judge before they may qualify. In fact, the only type of neutral that is required to have a juris doctorate is an early neutral evaluation provider. For any other type of neutral a baccalaureate degree or bachelor’s degree will be sufficient to qualify. For some neutrals, there are no education requirements outside of training. The specific requirements for each level of neutral will be discussed in more detail below.
The Georgia Commission also requires that neutrals complete a training program or course to register with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution. Prospective neutrals may attend a state-approved program or work with a local program to complete their requirements. There are specific programs required for certain types of neutrals, so it is advised to follow a state-approved training program to ensure that the credits will apply to registration.
Observation with Experienced Mediators
Another requirement that many types of neutrals need in Georgia is observation and practice with an experienced mediator. How much experience is required varies by the type of neutral and cases that one would like to cover, but the Georgia Office does see the value that practice requirements add to the training received and the continued skills and knowledge that it builds.
The Levels of Mediation Training
The first step in registering with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution is the completion of the training and experience requirements for the specific type of neutral. Importantly, for most neutrals, completion of a training program alone does not automatically qualify them to register. There will often be other requirements for registration in court-annexed programs.
The system in Georgia operates like levels for requirements for registration, especially as you move into more specialized mediation or other conflict resolution mechanisms in a court-referred program.
Nonbinding Arbitration Training
The type of neutral with the least amount of training and experience requirements is the nonbinding arbitration registration. To become a registered arbitrator able to provide nonbinding arbitration, a neutral will need to complete six hours of a Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution arbitration course and the rest of the registration process.
Nonbinding arbitration is a process where a neutral party called an arbitrator hears the issues from both sides and issues their decision. Because this is nonbinding, the parties do not need to follow the decision, but it can be helpful to predict what a judge or jury may decide.
General Civil Mediation Training
The other base level of neutral registration is the general civil mediation designation. This requires successful completion of an approved general civil mediation training course and observation of five general civil mediation sessions totaling at least ten hours of mediation-session time or a twelve-hour approved practicum course. After completion, they will need to follow the other steps for registration.
The course for general civil mediation is the foundation for most other neutral registration requirements because these courses will teach mediation theory, conflict resolution theory, and the mediation process to the neutrals, ensuring that they have a basic understanding of the skills and training necessary to resolve conflict effectively. Any person hoping to become a mediator in Georgia will go through this mediation training course.
Early Neutral Evaluation Training
Another type of neutral that is separate from most other mediators is the early neutral evaluator. To become an early neutral evaluator, a practitioner will need to be registered as a neutral with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution and complete a 6-hour GODR-approved early neutral evaluation training course. However, unlike the other neutrals, an early neutral evaluator needs to have practiced law or served as a judge for at least eight years preceding the date of their application, have five years of relevant experience in the substantive area of dispute involved, and have served as an arbitrator or mediator in a minimum of ten court-connected or private alternative dispute resolution sessions.
Early neutral evaluation is a process where the parties meet with the evaluator and present their case. The evaluator considers the evidence and issues a recommendation based on their understanding of the case and the relevant law. This evaluation helps the parties understand where the case may go in litigation and can encourage them to work toward a resolution. Evaluators need to have practiced in the area of law that is referenced because they are giving advice based on what they see as the likely outcome.
Domestic Relations Mediation Training
The first type of specific mediation training and specialization that a mediator may choose to pursue is the domestic relations mediation registration to become a family mediator. To qualify, they need successful completion of a 42-hour approved domestic relations mediation training course, to satisfy all requirements for registration in general civil mediation, and hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. They will also need to complete a domestic relations mediation practicum after the domestic relations mediation course or observe at least one mediation and participate in at least two co-mediations of domestic relations cases.
Domestic relations mediation focuses on family disputes. Domestic mediators help families through the emotional and financial issues associated with divorce or other family law issues.
Specialized Domestic Violence Mediation Training
The most specialized type of mediation training course that a mediator may take is the domestic violence mediation course. Someone looking to register as a specialized domestic violence mediator will need to be registered as both a domestic relations and general civil mediation mediator and complete a fourteen-hour approved specialized domestic violence mediation training course. These mediators can work with couples and families that are dealing with domestic violence, which requires specialized skill and care.
Juvenile Delinquency Mediation Training
Another way that mediators can specialize their conflict resolution goals in Georgia is through juvenile delinquency mediation. To become a juvenile delinquency mediator, a person must be successfully registered as a general civil mediator and complete a 21-hour approved juvenile delinquency mediation training course.
Juvenile delinquency is a unique type of mediation to participate in because it is the only one that involves criminal allegations or charges rather than a civil case. Here, the mediators will work with the juvenile offender and the victims of the crime to have the offender take responsibility and work together to create a fair plan for restitution. This type of mediation requires specialized training and skills to address the heightened emotions and conflict that could be present between the parties.
Juvenile Dependency Mediation Training
The final course for specialization is the juvenile dependency mediation training course. To be registered as a dependency mediator, you will need to be registered as a civil mediator and juvenile delinquency mediator before taking a 28-hour approved juvenile dependency mediation training course or a 21-hour course if you are registered in the domestic relations mediation category.
These mediators will work with families where the parents have lost custody of their children for one reason or another. The mediators use their skills to help the parents and children create a safety plan to keep the children safe moving forward. Given the delicate nature of these disputes, the extra course required to mediate them is crucial to ensure that the children and parents are cared for.
The Steps After Training:
After completing the necessary training and acquiring the skills necessary, the Georgia Commission of the Supreme Court has established the following steps to register their training and become a registered civil neutral.
A mediator will need to set up an account on the Office of Dispute Resolution website to track their application and continue to be registered in the future.
Applicants will need to undergo an ethics check, which looks at an applicant’s personal and criminal history to ensure that the person can complete dispute resolution in court cases with the respect they deserve. A criminal history will not automatically disqualify an applicant, and people are encouraged to reach out with concerns and be honest on their applications.
An applicant must attest to the fact that they are in the United States lawfully to qualify.
Secure and Verifiable Document
The applicant must prove their identity by providing identification that matches the document they present to a notary when signing their application.
Application and Fee
Once all the documents are completed, the applicant can submit their application and will be registered if they meet the requirements.
After registration, there are several steps that a mediator can take to ensure their registration remains active. First, they should ensure that they always renew their application on time to avoid having to restart the process. Second, they should participate in continuing legal education that is required to continue learning about the mediation process and perfecting their skills.
Additionally, after practicing for some time and establishing themselves, they may be invited to join the national academy of distinguished neutrals. This adds an extra certification to their registration and ensures clients that they are trusted in their field.
Taking the First Step