A court-connected referral for dispute resolution services can be made only to programs that have been approved. A program is approved by the Chief Justice of the applicable Trial Court Department in which it seeks 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 seeking approval to provide court-connected dispute resolution services must apply for approval.
Definitions for eligible ADR programs
There are two 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 remains in good standing to receive referrals in the Trial Court Department(s) in which it was approved to provide services. The application for existing programs is streamlined to allow programs to update information supplied in the previous application process except the Probate and Family Court requires complete responses rather than "No Changes".
A “new program” is:
- A program seeking approval for the first time; or
- A program previously approved in one department and seeking to provide services in another department; or
- A program previously approved in a department and seeking to provide a different ADR process to be used in that department.
A note regarding the District Court: If the District Court Department specifically requests that a program approved to provide mediation services expand to provide conciliation services within a court division, it is not considered a new program. Such programs are required to update its roster of qualified neutrals and submit the list of new conciliators with the application or within 30 days following the approval to provide conciliation services.
Department requirements for ADR programs
Before applying as a new or existing alternative dispute resolution program, please review the following requirements per specific courts within the Trial Court:
The District Court Department is not approving programs that charge fees for dispute resolution services for court referred cases. If you are NOT currently approved and are seeking approval to provide services in one or more District Court divisions, you must obtain and include with your application a letter from the first justice of each court division reflecting his or her intention to utilize the type of dispute resolution service you intend to provide.
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 “in-house” 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 and environmental litigation in determining the need for court-connected dispute resolution options.
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.
The Land Court will be seeking programs with mediators who by reason of their past experience in private practice or practice with public agencies, or as jurists have particular skills relative to real estate law, including but not limited to title issues, environmental and land use permitting and/or disputes concerning the same, and who otherwise comply with S.J.C. Rule 1:18, Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution.
Probate and Family Court
When determining program approval, the Probate and Family Court Department will consider relevant subject matter expertise including but not limited to training specifically 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; and estate, probate and related laws under the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code and the Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code. Please indicate which neutrals on your roster have such subject matter expertise, and the dates and providers of the relevant specialized training.
Existing Programs: The Probate and Family Court Department requires all programs to complete the full application process. Therefore, all existing programs are prohibited from replying to the questions in the Program Application as “No Changes” and are required to provide full responses.