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Eligibility requirements for new and existing ADR programs

Learn about the program requirements your alternative dispute resolution program must meet in order to be considered for court use.

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A court-connected referral for dispute resolution services can only be made to programs that have been approved. A program is approved by the Chief Justice of the Trial Court Department where the program wants to provide services. All programs currently approved to provide court-connected alternative dispute resolution services in the Trial Court must reapply, and any new programs that want to provide court-connected dispute resolution services must apply for approval.

Definitions for eligible ADR programs

There are 2 versions of the program application: One for existing programs and one for new programs.

An existing program is a program that was approved in the previous application process and is still in good standing to receive referrals in the Trial Court Department(s) where it was approved to provide services. The application for existing programs is streamlined to let programs update information they gave in the previous application process, except the Probate and Family Court, which requires complete responses, rather than marking "No Changes".

A new program is:

  1. A program looking for approval for the first time; or
  2. A program previously approved in one department and looking to provide services in another department; or
  3. A program previously approved in a department and looking to provide a different ADR process in that department.

If the District Court Department specifically requests that a program approved to offer mediation services expands to offer conciliation services in a court division, it’s not considered a new program. These programs must update their roster of qualified neutrals and submit the list of new conciliators with the application or within 30 days of the approval to offer conciliation services.

Department requirements for ADR programs

Before applying as a new or existing ADR program, please review the requirements below for each Trial Court Department:

District Court

The District Court Department isn’t approving programs that charge fees for dispute resolution services for court referred cases. If you’re not currently approved and are looking to be approved to provide services in one or more District Court division, you must include a letter from the first justice of each court division explaining their intention to use the type of dispute resolution service you intend to provide with your application.

Housing Court

The Housing Court Department is taking applications for court-connected dispute resolution services. The Housing Court Department will continue to offer mediation and dispute intervention services in all types of cases through its Housing Specialist Department. However, the Housing Court Department will also consider applications from other programs that have subject matter expertise in the areas of: 

  • Personal injury, including lead paint, mold and asbestos 
  • Zoning litigation 
  • Foreclosure litigation
  • Environmental litigation

Juvenile Court

When determining program approval, the Juvenile Court Department will consider relevant subject matter expertise including, but not limited to, education and training in the areas of child and family welfare, permanency mediation, and parent-child mediation.

Land Court

The Land Court will be looking for programs with mediators who have past experience in private practice or practice with public agencies or as jurists have particular skills related to real estate law, including but not limited to title issues, environmental and land use permitting, and/or disputes about those issues These mediators must otherwise follow SJC Rule 1:18, Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution.

Probate and Family Court

When deciding whether to approve a program, the Probate and Family Court Department will consider relevant subject matter expertise including, but not limited to, training in the areas of: 

  • Family law 
  • Family dynamics 
  • Child development issues 
  • Non-traditional families 
  • Complex financial issues (e.g., business evaluation, retirement benefits, financial consequences of divorce) 
  • Permanency mediation 
  • Guardianship 
  • Estate, probate and related laws under the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code and the Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code. 

Please mark which neutrals on your roster have this subject matter expertise, and the dates and providers of the relevant specialized training.

The Probate and Family Court Department requires all programs to complete the full application process. Therefore, all existing programs can’t reply to the questions in the Program Application as “No Changes,” and are required to provide full responses.

Forms and contact information

For all related application materials and forms, please see ADR Resources: Forms and Documents.

For any questions or concerns about eligibility to become an approved program, please contact:

Tim Linnehan, ADR Coordinator for the Trial Court
(617) 878-0372