Where are you located?
Please view our contact page.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process in which two or more parties involved in a dispute work with an impartial person or persons, the mediator or two co-mediators, to generate their own solutions in settling their conflict.
Unlike proceedings before a judge or an arbitrator whose decisions subject one party to win and the other party to lose, mediation is about finding a solution that works for both disputing parties–a win-win outcome. Disputants have the opportunity to write the judge’s order!
When should I consider Mediation?
Mediation is always an option whether you are thinking about taking your dispute to court or you are already in court. The very best time to mediate a dispute is well before court!
Look to mediation:
If the dispute has been ongoing;
If you want to preserve a relationship being affected by the conflict;
If you are concerned about the conflict’s effect on your children and would like to model appropriate behavior for your children;
If you would like to speak to the other party so they may hear your concerns, and if you would like to be heard in turn;
If the dispute is upsetting and affecting your daily life, if you cannot afford the time and cost involved with litigation; and
If you would like to resolve the dispute yourself–
informally, privately, speedily and without an unnecessary legal judgment.
What types of disputes are suitable for mediation?
Almost all types! The cases mediated by CMC volunteers are primarily civil cases involving:
parents, children, neighbors, juvenile offenders, tenants and landlords, the workplace environment & employment, small business deals, corporate deals, construction, real estate, health care, church, nonprofit organizations, and community-based disputes about recognition, funding, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
CMC also mediates criminal misdemeanor cases referred by the District Attorney’s Office involving domestic or neighborhood violence. CMC never mediates the violence, but rather mediates conditions of disposition, such as supervised visitation, child support, and psychological services.
It is not necessary for cases to have legal issues and/or lawsuits pending. Disputes are almost always about feelings and needs of the parties, and won’t always “go away” even if there is a lawsuit.
CMC staff screen all disputes involving intimate partners or former intimate partners for domestic violence history and issues. Our volunteer mediators are trained in how to screen cases and recognize and deal with issues of power and control between parties to mediation. For more about domestic violence, go here.
How do I apply for mediation services?
Divorce-related mediation: Including parenting issues arising after a divorce is final. Call and request an application to be send to you by mail, email or fax. The application requires you to submit proof of income (usually a current tax return). Our staff will call you to set the fee and then schedule your mediation.
Price is a sliding scale based on family size and income.
Family mediation: Conflict over parenting and support when parents have not married or when another family member is involved. In cases involving children of never-married parents, one parent must file a petition to establish or modify visitation in Juvenile Court and then be referred to us.
Free if referred from Juvenile Court; otherwise, sliding scale
Mediation between parents and teens:Discipline; house rules; behavior affecting siblings, school, health, etc. These cases are usually referred to us from Juvenile Court before a petition is filed.
Free if referred from Juvenile Court; otherwise, sliding scale
Civil mediation: Workplace conflict, disputes over property or money, neighborhood disputes, landlord-tenant issues, roommate issues, problems with a contract or money owed.Call us for more information if you want to try to mediate a dispute before filing a lawsuit.
Mediation is offered for free on the day of court once the parties file and appear in Knox County General Sessions Court. Free if a lawsuit has been filed in General Sessions Court. Otherwise, prices depend on type of case, income of parties, etc.
Victim-Offender Mediation: Domestic disputes, juvenile offenders, school fights, conflict between friends, roommates, neighbors, workmates etc.The victim of a crime may request mediation with the offender/perpetrator. The DA will approve the referral. We take referrals from Knox County General Sessions Court, and Juvenile Court. Please call us for more information.
What role can an attorney fill in mediation?
The role of the attorney in mediation differs greatly from that of the attorney in litigation. In a mediation session, the attorney plays the role of counselor for his or her client. Rather than presenting an argument, the attorney is asked to allow the client to speak for him/herself, and to be present to support and advise the client throughout the process.
Keep in mind that both sides must be able to communicate with each other. The mediation process is geared toward reaching a workable agreement for both parties. The attorney should encourage his/her client to enter the mediation to try to work with rather than against the opposing side.
The mediators function as neutral facilitators, and they will not make decisions for the clients, or give legal advice, or lead either party in any one direction. The mediators help each client to communicate with one another, so that they can hear each other’s concerns. The mediators aid the clients in identifying common issues, and in developing possible solutions to these issues. The mediators then help the clients to work through the solutions, finding those that are practical for both parties. Finally, the mediator assists the parties in drafting the mediated agreement, which will become a binding contract (or, if signed by a judge, an enforceable order) between the parties.
The attorney is encouraged to help the client review the mediated agreement before signing the contract.
Attorneys are welcome at mediation sessions, unless asked by their client to withdraw. If an attorney is unable to attend a session, s/he should arrange a method of communication with the client if the attorney’s advice is needed during the session. Cell phone are sometimes used.
The client can also request that she be able to consult her attorney before signing the agreement. At the beginning of the mediation, the mediators will ask if the participants are able to sign if they reach an agreement. At that time, the client should inform the mediators of the need to confer with their (absent) counsel before signing.
If I am divorcing, do I have to mediate?
In Tennessee, divorcing parties or those who, after a divorce, have a dispute about their parenting plans, are required to mediate if they haven’t otherwise been able to agree and document the agreement. If parties ask the judge to decide matters, the judge will always ask “Have you mediated?”
If the parties have a history of domestic violence, the vulnerable party may “opt out” of mediation. She or he may also choose to mediate after careful screening and safety planning with the CMC. If the victim chooses to mediate, and CMC feels mediation can be done safely, we assign co-mediators who are specially trained in domestic violence issues, and allow the vulnerable party to bring a domestic violence advocate or other support person to the mediation. Our mediation space is secure, with county officers close by, a metal detector, and parking escorts.
How much does it cost?
- Our civil sessions mediation program provides free application and free mediation service for those whose case is already filed in Knox County Civil Sessions Court.
- Our Victim-Offender mediation program, involving criminal warrants possible or issued by Sessions or Juvenile Court provides free mediation services.
- Juvenile Court referred mediation services, including never-married visitation and custody cases, require a small application fee and all mediation is free.
- Divorce and post-divorce mediation requires a small nonrefundable application fee, and the fee for mediation is set on a sliding scale which takes into account family size and income.
- Other types of civil mediation (neighborhood, employment dispute resolution/facilitated group discussion or conflict coaching), conservatorship, and elder mediation have sliding scale fees. Please ask us about these services.
Please visit our payment page for more information and to pay online.
Who comes to mediation?
Many people, especially family, friends, colleagues or even acquaintances, want to preserve the possibility of continued friendliness or civility, and never want to go to court. CMC believes that mediation should be available at any time during the dispute with another person, group or organization:
- Early in the dispute before everyone heads to court
- After a case has been filed but before any formal legal activity
- Anytime during the preparation for a trial
Anyone can call or come into our office and inquire confidentially about how to go about initiating mediation. If requested, we will gladly reach out to the other person in a neutral way to ask if they would be willing to mediate.
Can mediators provide legal advice to me?
The short answer, applicable to all kinds of mediation, is no. Mediators cannot ethically wear two hats in mediation, even if their other hat is being an attorney. Giving advice would take away their most powerful skill: being a neutral helper who both parties trust to guide them through the process of making their own agreements.
If someone needs legal advice, CMC will assist by referring them to an attorney who may be able to do what is called “limited scope” or “unbundled service”, only charging for certain agreed-upon tasks related to the mediation: advice about the issues to be discussed in mediation, attending mediation, drafting any agreements which come from mediation, filing any paperwork in court (for instance, in agreed divorces or family matters). Mediators will help parties understand what “homework” must be done so that the parties can make their own agreements, and even suspend the mediation while parties do their homework!
What can I expect from CMC during a mediation session?
Our facilitative six-step model has been used successfully for over 25 years in Knox County. Co-mediators will read and ask parties to sign an Agreement to Mediate in which everyone agrees to “ground rules” of the mediation. Typical ground rules are things like: respectful behavior (no interrupting each other, yelling, cursing, threats), the process of terminating mediation. The mediators will explain about how they use separate sessions with each party (sometimes called “caucuses”), how to ask for breaks, how long the mediation will last (CMC’s sessions usually last no longer than 3-4 hours each). The mediators will also schedule future sessions at the table before everyone leaves.
Our Mediation Model:
Step 1: Introducing the mediation process I
In this stage, the mediators introduce the participants to the mediation process and the parties make a voluntary, informed decision to sign the Agreement to Mediate.
Step 2: Presenting Viewpoints
The disputants provide their opening statements and their viewpoints in narrative form, sharing their perspective on the dispute.Step 3;: Creating the Task Statement
Step 3: Creating the Task Statement
Here, the mediators create a “Task Statement” that incorporates the issues and interests of both parties and focuses the discussion on the future.
Step 4: Generating Options
This stage involves the parties brainstorming as many solutions as possible to the conflict.
Step 5: Evaluating Options
The parties then evaluate the possible solutions thoroughly with the guidance of the mediators.
Step 6: Concluding the Mediation
If common ground has been reached, the mediators draft an agreement that incorporates what each party will do to resolve the dispute. The parties review and approve the text of the agreement before signing the document. If no agreement can be reached, the mediation is terminated.