Eligibility requirements for new and existing ADR programs

Learn about the program requirements your alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program must meet for it to be considered to be used in the court.

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The court will only refer to dispute resolution services that have been approved. Programs are approved by the Chief Justice of the Trial Court Department where the program wants to provide services. All programs that are currently approved to provide court-connected ADR services must reapply, and any new programs that want to provide court-connected ADR services have to 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 department(s) where it was approved to provide services. The application for existing programs is streamlined so programs can update information they gave in the previous application process, except the Probate and Family Court, which requires complete responses, instead of marking "No Changes."

A new program is:

  • A program looking for approval for the first time; or
  • A program that was previously approved in one department and wants to provide services in another department; or
  • A program that was previously approved in a department and wants 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 being approved 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 ADR services for court referred cases. If you’re not currently approved and want 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 how they plan to use the type of dispute resolution service you want to provide with your application.

Housing Court

The Housing Court Department is taking applications for court-connected ADR services. The 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

The Juvenile Court Department will consider relevant subject matter expertise to decide whether to approve a program, including, but not limited to, education and training in the areas of: 

  • Child and family welfare 
  • Permanency mediation
  • Parent-child mediation

Land Court

The Land Court will be looking for programs with mediators who have experience and 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 should 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:

  • 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. All existing programs can’t reply to the questions in the Program Application as “No Changes,” and must provide full responses.

Forms and contact information

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

If you have any questions or concerns about eligibility to become an approved program, please contact:

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

Contact   for Eligibility requirements for new and existing ADR programs

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