The Value of Supreme Court Rule 31
June 1, 2023
Written by Cynthia Greer, Rule 31 Family Mediation, Domestic Violence, and Crossover Training Instructor
Mediation is one form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that allows the parties, directly involved in a conflict, to work with a mediator to negotiate a resolution agreement. With the help of the mediator, who does not act as a judge, the process identifies issues, clarifies misunderstandings, explores solutions, and creates negotiated settlements. The impartial mediator facilitates discussions and manages the voluntary process allowing the parties to create their best resolution. The parties, often with their attorneys, and the mediator select the time and location for the mediation and determine the issues to be discussed and negotiated. Mediation can save lots of time and money. And, it can greatly reduce the emotional strain of going to court. In addition, it gives the parties control of any final outcome.
“In 1992, the Tennessee Supreme Court created a commission to study dispute resolution in Tennessee ‘with a view toward the use and implementation of procedures…to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of disputes.’”* Subsequently, in 1996, Supreme Court Rule 31 was enacted. Rule 31 established an ADR Commission which has established requirements for Rule 31 Trainings, the required credentials (education and work experience) and training requirements for mediators, and maintains a list of current mediators on the website. This list allows attorneys, the courts, and unrepresented parties the ability to locate qualified mediators throughout the state.
There are two different types of Rule 31 Mediator Listings, general civil and family. There are five different trainings that allow potential mediators to complete the training requirements.
- The General Civil Mediation Training is a 40-hour program reviewing Rule 31 procedures, standards, and ethics; conflict resolution concepts; negotiation; court process; mediation process and techniques; communication skills; cultural and personal background factors; unrepresented parties; attorneys and mediation; and community resources.
- The Family Mediation Training is a 46-hour program which includes all of the topics in the General Civil Mediation Training along with Tennessee family law and court procedure; screening for domestic violence cases; and the need of and psychological ramifications on families and children, among other topics.
- The 24-hour Civil to Family Crossover Training allows individuals who have completed the 40-hour General Civil Training to complete a portion of the Family Mediation Training (the last 24 hours) to satisfy the training requirements for Dual Listing as both General Civil and Family Mediator.
- In addition, there is a 16-hour Family to Civil Crossover Training for those who have completed the 46-hour Family Training and who want to have a Dual Listing as both General Civil and Family Mediator.
- Finally, there is a 16-hour Domestic Violence Training for those who have completed the Family Mediation Training and who want to be designated as Specially Trained in Domestic Violence Issues. This training covers the types of domestic abuse; why domestic abuse continues; screening for abuse; how to conduct a mediation when domestic abuse is an issue; how to terminate a mediation; consequences to family members and children, community and state resources, among many other topics. Currently, only 12% of Rule 31 mediators hold this designation. And, sadly, more mediators are needed with this specific training.
All of these trainings at Lipscomb University include lecture, class discussions, individual and group exercises, and role plays. Attendees include attorneys, therapists and counselors, educators, and other professionals which creates an active and eclectic learning environment. In addition, the skills and techniques discussed in the trainings may be applied to both one’s professional and personal lives resulting in better communication, more thorough understanding, and a healthier quality of life. Most of the trainings are offered over subsequent 2- and 3-day weekends allowing working professionals to minimize their time away from their work environment.
Rule 31 provides specific guidelines for the mediation process; the roles of the mediator, the parties and their attorneys; confidentiality and inadmissible evidence; mediator obligations; and disciplinary proceedings. In addition, it provides specific Standards of Conduct regarding self-determination of the parties, fairness, full disclosure, procedural flexibility, impartiality, professional advice, fees, concluding the mediation, and advertising.
Importantly, listed Rule 31 mediators, in the course of conducting a Rule 31 mediation, are deemed to be privileged and performing a judicial function. Thus, Rule 31 mediators are entitled to judicial immunity.
As a mediator who has conducted over 1,500 mediations, I have seen first-hand the beauty of mediation and its many benefits to those involved in a dispute. I’ve conducted mediations for divorcing couples, in employment settings, for educational and organizational environments, for governmental entities, and other matters. Mediation is voluntary, private, and confidential which can allow for effective negotiations and cooperative problem-solving protecting relationships. Disputes can be settled quickly and thoroughly by addressing the “real” issues of the conflict. And, mediation can save time and money while reducing stress on and tension between the parties.
In a world full of chaos and uncertainty, a mediation training can teach every individual how to communicate effectively, how to truly listen and hear different perspectives, how to negotiate with purpose and understanding, how to be civil, and how to create agreements to settle conflicts efficiently. In addition, by honing the various skills and techniques discussed in the trainings, individuals may be able to reduce the amount of conflict in their lives. What could be better?
What to expect from Lipscomb's Rule 31 Training:
- Trainings are offered in person by instructors with over 30 years of mediation experience.
- A light breakfast, lunch and snacks will be provided within the classroom and common areas at Spark.
- Each training comes with a detailed manual for your keeping.
- Class sizes are built to maximize class discussion, breakout groups and acting through scenarios together.
- Students receive certificate on the last day and CLE credits are posted within one week of completion.
- Once course is completed, begin your application process for listing as a Rule 31 mediator.
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