Volunteer

mediation room

What is the CMC’s working definition of mediation?
Mediation is a process that helps people resolve their own disputes to their mutual satisfaction in a voluntary and informed way.  Two volunteer mediators, called co-mediators, are impartial between the parties and committed to mediating a fair, informed, confidential and honest process.

What kind of cases do CMC volunteers mediate?
CMC receives referrals to mediate from Knox County courts, primarily Knox County General Sessions Court, both Civil and Criminal, and from Knox County Juvenile Court.  We also accept referrals from individual disputants, schools, law enforcement, social service agencies, hospitals, small businesses, neighborhood organizations, nonprofit agencies and organizations.  Our programs are more fully described here.

Who are the CMC mediators?
Currently, CMC has over 50 active volunteer mediators who mediate from once a week to once a month.  Our mediators come from all walks of life:  stay-at-home moms and dads, retired university professors, school  counselors and teachers, attorneys and law students, social workers, therapists, nurses, middle and high school students, to name just a few.

Why does CMC use the co-mediation model?
Over 85% of community mediation centers nationwide use the co-mediation model.  This model is a wonderful way for volunteers to become comfortable with the process and to feel like they have a partner with whom they can discuss otherwise confidential matters. Co-mediators can also subtly demonstrate cooperative and respectful behaviors for the disputants.  For instance, CMC tries to pair male and female mediators when possible, to help balance “power” in divorce and parenting mediations where male-female relationships are at issue.

What is the commitment for being a volunteer mediator?
A volunteer mediator must undergo a rigorous 40-46 hour classroom and roleplay training, usually held over three short weekends (Fri-Sat).  This portion of the training covers the basics of conflict resolution principles, our 6-step facilitative mediation model, an introduction to our referring courts and forms used in each forum, and participation in mediation simulations.  Every year, in January-February, we co-train with Professor Becky Jacobs and the University of Tennessee College of Law Mediation Clinic.  Half of our class are community volunteers and half are 2L and 3L law students. In 2018, our we will train a General Civil Class.

The volunteer price for the training is low, covering the cost of materials and food, approximately $300.  (If the volunteer would like to apply to the Supreme Court for Rule 31 listing, there is an additional fee.) The volunteer’s real “cost” is his/her contractual commitment to serve as a CMC mediator for one year.  Typically, a volunteer spends 100 hours a year mediating.  Volunteers are also encouraged, if interested, to help with board committees, such as the training committee, the development committee and the peer mediation/schools committee. It is an opportunity to give back to our community while gaining valuable skills and credentials.

General Sessions Court mediators agree to mediate downtown at Sessions Court on specific days beginning at 8:30am, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.  This is a day-of-court program, so–with the exception of cases coming to us outside the courtroom—our staff does not schedule mediation sessions.  We depend on our volunteer mediator to show up and co-mediate on their morning.  The typical day of mediation is over by early afternoon.

Juvenile Court, parenting and divorce mediations are generally scheduled Monday-Thursday evenings, from 6:00pm – 9:00pm, at the Division St. Juvenile Court Annex.

There are a number of family mediations, neighborhood mediations, as well as our work with 4th Circuit Order of Protection docket, which takes place during daytime hours.

As a rule, mediations take anywhere from 1 hr to 3 hrs, and may be “continued” to another session.

Do volunteers work with the Community Mediation Center in ways other than being mediators?
Yes, some of our mediators serve on the CMC Board. Volunteers do most of the interviewing and screening of new volunteers. Still others are involved in updating our training materials. Many of the volunteers will be coaches during the training sessions. While it is not required, we hope many of our new volunteers are able to make similar contributions.

Can I become a Rule 31 mediator by taking CMC’s basic volunteer mediator training?
Our basic mediation trainings are approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission (ADRC).  If you complete the training, you can use the certificate as one of the requirements for becoming a listed Rule 31 mediator.  More about these requirements here on the Supreme Court website.  You are not required to be listed to volunteer, but you must complete the training.  Many volunteers choose to take the training, volunteer with us, and wait a while to apply for listing.

To be eligible to apply to be a Rule 31 mediator, an applicant must have educational credentials or many years of experience.  As well, under the controlling Tennessee Supreme Court rule, the Rule 31 family mediator must receive 46 hrs of approved basic training.  The Rule 31 Civil mediator must receive 40 hours of approved training.   The applicant must submit their applicantion and be approved by the Tennessee ADR Commission, must pay an application fee and an annual renewal fee to be “listed” as a Rule 31 mediator, and must also take 6 hours of continuing mediation education (CME) every two years.

Please read Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Section 17 | Becoming a Rule 31 Mediator

If I am already a Rule 31 mediator, can I volunteer for CMC?
We encourage Rule 31 mediators to become CMC volunteers.  It’s a wonderful way to give back to the community and also get what’s most necessary to improve professional skills: practice, practice, practice!  Rule 31 mediators need to take a short (approximately 4-6 hr training) after observing a mediation and debriefing with staff or board trainers.  This “bridge” training will focus on: the CMC 6-step empowerment community mediation model; co-mediation; and specific court protocols and forms we use in General Sessions and Juvenile Courts.  The new volunteer will then observe and co-mediate with senior mediators, as any new trainee would do.

Rule 31 mediators may also take our full training. Please call or email and ask about when these “bridge” trainings are scheduled.

How do I apply to be a volunteer mediator?
Please fill out our application for basic training. Also remember, we receive many more applicants than we can accommodate in our training class. We defer some of those applicants to our next class. Also we have learned than many wonderful people do not necessarily make successful neutral mediators, so applicants will be interviewed by staff and assessed for the program.

Can I volunteer if I have already been trained and am Rule 31 listed?
We will be happy to talk to you about the possibility of volunteering with us.  We want to make sure you’ve received an approved Rule 31 training which uses a facilitative model of mediation.  Once you’ve filled out a volunteer mediator application, we will allow you to observe a CMC mediation and then discuss doing a “bridge training” with us to learn about co-mediation, as well as our ethics, forms and procedure.  CMC’s

Can a mediator talk to anyone about what happens in mediation?
The mediators can talk about NOTHING that happened in the specific mediation in which they mediate.   By agreement with the parties, a volunteer mediator is free to discuss the case with the co-mediator and with CMC Staff.  Mediation is a confidential process; everything said and every note taken in mediation is confidential between the mediators and the parties (and their agents).   Confidentiality is one of THE most important features of mediation. Our ethical rules require that we honor confidences.  Like attorneys, mental health workers, attorneys, and medical health staff, volunteer mediators abide by requirements for confidentiality.

Laws in Tennessee also enforce confidentiality.  By law, a mediator at CMC may not be called as a witness in any subsequent lawsuit to enforce or question an agreement.  Mediation notes or other mediation work product may not be used in litigation.

Parties understand that information about harm to a child, elder, or person with a disability must be disclosed by law.  CMC mediators receive training in how to handle such situations in a careful, safe way.

When is the next CMC basic mediation training?
We offer at least one basic training sessions each year.  Our mid-winter training is a special collaboration with the UT College of Law Mediation Clinic, combining our community trainees with second and third year law students.  We use our seasoned volunteer mediators as coaches, and always have special presentations. Check our site calendar for updates.