Virginia's Judicial System


Frequently Asked Questions About Mediation

  1. What type of qualification is available in Virginia for mediators?
  2. What do I need to do to become certified?
  3. Do I need a particular degree to get certified?
  4. Where can I get information regarding training?
  5. Where can I get the observation and co-mediation requirements completed?
  6. Must I be certified to mediate court-referred cases in Virginia?
  7. If I took mediation training in another state, can I get a waiver of the certification requirements?
  8. Where can I find a list of certified mediators?
  9. Is mediation mandatory in Virginia?
  10. What are characteristics of parties that make mediation more appropriate?
  11. What are characteristics of cases that make them more appropriate for mediation?
  12. What Factors Affect Attorneys' Interests In Using Mediation?
  13. How much discovery is necessary before or during the ADR process?
  14. What does confidentiality in mediation mean?
  15. What can the mediator report back to the court?
  16. What is the effect of an agreement reached in mediation?
  17. Where can I find resource materials regarding mediation?
  1. What type of qualification is available in Virginia for mediators?

    In Virginia, mediators may be certified pursuant to Guidelines established by the Judicial Council of Virginia.

    Mediators may be certified in four categories: General District Court (GDC), Circuit Court-Civil (CCC), Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (J&DR), and Circuit Court-Family (CCF).

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  2. What do I need to do to become certified?

    General District Court (GDC) certification requires at least 20 hours of Basic Mediation training, a 4-hour course on Virginia's Judicial System, two mediation observations and three co-mediations with a certified Mentor. Mediators who are certified in GDC are qualified to mediate civil cases arising in the General District Court such as contracts, personal injury, employment disputes, or landlord-tenant disputes.

    Circuit Court-Civil (CCC) certification requires an additional 20 hours of advanced civil training and 2 observations and five co-mediations with approved Mentors, mediating procedurally complex cases. Mediators with CCC certification are qualified to mediate civil cases at the Circuit Court level.

    Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (J&DR) certification requires 40 hours mediation training (20 hours of Basic and 20 hours of Family specific training), a 4-hour course on Virginia's Judicial System, an 8-hour course on Screening for and Dealing with Domestic Abuse in the Mediation Context, two family mediation observations and five family co-mediations. Mediators who are certified in J&DR are qualified to mediate cases arising in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, such as custody, visitation or support matters.

    Circuit Court-Family (CCF) certification requires an additional 12 hours of advanced training in family finance and economic issues including equitable distribution and spousal support in addition to 2 observations and 5 co-mediations with approved Mentors mediating such cases, thus qualifying these mediators to handle divorce cases at the Circuit Court-Family level.

    For additional information, you may access the Guidelines for the Training and Certification of Court-Referred Mediators on our website at www.courts.state.va.us.

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  3. Do I need a particular degree to get certified?

    You must have earned a minimum of a Bachelor's Degree to qualify for certification as a court-referred mediator in Virginia. You may apply for a waiver of this requirement by submitting a letter to Dispute Resolution Services, describing your relevant work and life experience. The letter must be accompanied by a resume and two letters of recommendation that address your oral and written communication skills. Additional information may be requested. If certification is your objective, you should seek a waiver prior to beginning mediation training.

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  4. Where can I get information regarding training?

    Certified mediation training programs are offered throughout the year, around the state, by different trainers. A training calendar listing mediation courses is available at www.courts.state.va.us. You will need to contact the trainers directly to learn of dates, location, and cost of upcoming training. Be careful to ensure that the trainer is certified to conduct the training program.

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  5. Where can I get the observation and co-mediation requirements completed?

    Often the mediation organization or Center at which you receive training is a good source for case observations and co-mediations. You may consult the list of Mentors or you may use Mentor Status as a search criterion in the Directory of Certified Mediators to identify those who are Mentors. Contact Mentors in your area to determine if they would be willing to assist you in meeting your observation and co-mediation requirements. In addition, the Supreme Court of Virginia enters into contracts with certified mediators to provide services to the courts. These contractors are required to mentor mediators in training. Contact the Mediation Services Contractors in your area.

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  6. Must I be certified to mediate court-referred cases in Virginia?

    Yes. A neutral who desires to provide mediation and receive referrals from the court shall be certified pursuant to Guidelines promulgated by the Judicial Council of Virginia. The parties may however, pursue any other alternative for voluntarily resolving their dispute.

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  7. If I took mediation training in another state, can I get a waiver of the certification requirements?

    Yes. If you have been certified/qualified/registered/trained as a mediator in another state, you may submit information regarding your previous training and experience to the Division of Dispute Resolution Services. DRS will evaluate the content and length of the training you have received and determine which, if any, of the training and mentorship requirements may be waived. At a minimum, individuals receiving training out of state must take a two-hour course on Virginia’s Standards of Ethics for Certified Mediators and, if not licensed to practice law in Virginia, attend a four-hour course on Virginia's judicial system.

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  8. Where can I find a list of certified mediators?

    A Searchable Directory of Court-Certified Mediators can be accessed and the search criteria you enter will narrow your search accordingly. You may search by name, level of certification, education/licensure, training and experience, specialty areas, hours available, language proficiency, jurisdictions served, and fee scale. As you click on each name your search produces, you will be linked to their detailed mediator profile, including contact information. If you prefer to search by geographic location, you may go to the Master List of Mediators and click on a judicial circuit on a map of Virginia to view all mediators who have indicated by their profile form they are available to mediate in that circuit.

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  9. Is mediation mandatory in Virginia?
    No. Section 8.01-576.5 authorizes judges to refer appropriate civil matters to a dispute resolution orientation session. The orientation session is an informational meeting to allow the parties to learn about mediation and consider the appropriateness of their case for mediation. Parties may opt out of the orientation session. The orientation session is free of cost. Participation in an ADR process following the orientation session is voluntary.

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  10. What are characteristics of parties that make mediation more appropriate?

    Party Characteristics

    1. Mediation will likely lead to a better outcome for the parties.
      1. An apology or privacy may be more important than a litigated outcome.
      2. The key is that it is their outcome. The parties decide together what solution meets their needs most appropriately.
    2. Mediation is likely to save the parties time and money.
      1. Cost related factors include the mediator's fees, the costs of counsel during the ADR process, and the costs of party attendance at the sessions.
      2. The state provides funding in order to provide parties with access to free mediation services.
      3. While parties are encouraged to have counsel, many pro se litigants participate in mediation effectively.
      4. Research findings on cost and time-savings in ADR have been mixed, but its qualitative value is unquestionable. Over 90% of parties using mediation are satisfied with process, would use it again in the future and would recommend it to others.
    3. The parties have and wish to maintain a personal or business relationship.
      1. Where there is a business or personal relationship, ADR may reduce hostility and help find a resolution that benefits both sides.
      2. Often there is more at stake than the surface monetary value of the claim.
    4. The parties and their attorneys can use mediation effectively.
      1. If one or both attorneys are known to be exceedingly uncooperative, consider whether they would try to subvert the process or not participate in good faith.
      2. If clients appear to have unrealistic expectations, ADR might help an attorney help his client face facts realistically.
    5. One or both parties are pro se.
      1. ADR is very appropriate in cases involving two pro se litigants.
      2. Where one party is unrepresented, the neutral has a responsibility to ensure a balance of power and that the parties make informed decisions.
    6. Settlement depends on information that parties want to keep confidential.
      1. ADR offers privacy and a chance to share information or emotions that may be irrelevant to the facts of the case.
      2. Cases involving trade secrets or situations where parties may be intimidated by a formal, public court proceeding are appropriate.

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  11. What are characteristics of cases that make them more appropriate for mediation?

    Case Characteristics Making Mediation Inappropriate

    1. The case involves novel legal issues, ambiguous precedent, constitutional issues, or public policy.
    2. A judgement would contribute to the development of the law.
    3. The public should have information about the case and its resolution.
    4. There is an imbalance of bargaining power between the parties.

    Case Characteristics Making Mediation Appropriate

    1. There is a need to save time.
    2. There is a need to save money.
    3. There is a need for the client to avoid trial for emotional or personal reasons.
    4. There is a need to avoid trial because the risk of losing is not acceptable.
    5. There is a need for complexity, flexibility or creativity in the desired solution.
    6. There is a need for privacy and/or confidentiality in resolving the matter.
    7. There is a need for assistance in overcoming communication barriers.
    8. There is a need for the parties to vent, to provide information, to get information, to explain positions and interests.
    9. There is a need for assistance in dealing with a difficult client, opposing party, opposing attorney, etc.
    10. There is a need to maintain or improve ongoing relationships between the parties.
    11. There is a need to seek partial solutions to the dispute to narrow the scope and intensity of the dispute.
    12. There is a need to informally assess the opposing party or perhaps the opposing attorney to better evaluate the case for resolution.
    13. There is a need to examine positions and explore underlying interests.
    14. There is a need for assistance in managing the litigation of the case.
    15. There is a need for the parties to invest in and own the solution.
    16. There is a need for a reality check regarding the merits of the dispute.
    17. There is a need for assistance in evaluating the merits of the dispute.
    18. There is a need to keep control of the process.
    19. There is a need to keep control of the outcome.

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  12. What Factors Affect Attorneys' Interests In Using Mediation?
    1. Mediation provides the advocate with an additional means with which to serve the client.
    2. Mediation allows the advocate to nurture the relationship with the client.
    3. Mediation provides the attorney with an effective marketing tool.
    4. Mediation is less taxing than the court room.
    5. Mediation may allow the attorney to avoid certain problems:
      • bad case
      • good, but prohibitively expensive case
      • bad witness
      • lying witness
    6. Mediation allows the attorney to stay involved as the primary provider of legal services.

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  13. How much discovery is necessary before or during the ADR process?
    1. Permitting discovery may help parties evaluate the soundness of their positions and those of their opponents and give parties more confidence in their ability to recognize a reasonable settlement offer.
    2. As discovery costs go up, parties may feel a greater incentive to settle.
    3. Without enough information, a case generally cannot settle for a fair value and such settlements may not endure.
    4. ADR neutrals, like mediators, may be able to assist parties in making informal exchanges of discovery materials.
    5. Discovery during ADR allows parties to return to litigation without undue delay if ADR does not result in full settlement.
    6. If mediation is scheduled early, discovery may be limited to production of key documents needed for the mediation or to a small number of depositions of critical persons.

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  14. What does confidentiality in mediation mean?
    Confidentiality is a bedrock principle of most ADR processes. Section 8.01-576.10 of the Code states that:

    All memoranda, work products or other materials contained in the case files of a neutral or dispute resolution program are confidential. Any communication made in or in connection with the dispute resolution proceeding which relates to the controversy, whether made to the neutral or dispute resolution program or to a party, or to any other person if made at a dispute resolution proceeding, is confidential. However, a written settlement agreement shall not be confidential, unless the parties otherwise agree in writing.

    There are also special exceptions to confidentiality detailed in the Code of Virginia . For instance, allegations of child abuse, threats of future harm, and information regarding the commission of a crime is not confidential. Information that is shared in mediation that would be otherwise discoverable, such as tax documents, is not confidential.

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  15. What can the mediator report back to the court?

    Mediators can report that an agreement was reached and the terms of that agreement, or that an agreement was not reached. Mediators can also report that the orientation session did not take place or that the mediation did not take place.

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  16. What is the effect of an agreement reached in mediation?

    If agreement is reached, it should be put in writing and the terms should be communicated to the court if the parties agree. Any agreement reached in mediation is enforceable as a contract and may be entered by the court as an order dismissing the case, if consistent with law and public policy.

    If the parties do not reach an agreement, that should be reported back by the neutral, without any comment or recommendation. Where there is no settlement, the court can schedule a pre-trial conference and ask the parties whether issues were narrowed or whether the case can be streamlined because of the progress made in the ADR session.

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  17. Where can I find resource materials regarding mediation?

    The Division of Dispute Resolution Services has a resource library with books and videos that you are welcome to borrow. Please come by to browse or contact us if you would like to find out if we carry a resource that you are interested in.

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