Rule 31 Mediators in Tennessee have a revamped Rule 31.  The Rule recently got a big overhaul and is now two rules: Rule 31 and Rule 31A.  The Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission (ADRC) worked on the restructure and changes for close to two years, submitted its petition in March, 2018.  The Supreme Court requested comments on the proposed rule changes, received 73 pages of comments from mediators.  The ADRC adjusted the final version and the Court approved it in early October, 2018.

Rule 31 is for mediators only, and Rule 31A is for all other neutrals (all of whom must be attorneys) who do case evaluation, non-binding arbitration, mini-trials, and judicial settlement conferences.

Appendix A relates to both Rule 31 mediators and Rule 31A Neutrals.

Go HERE to read the new Rule 31 and Appendix  A.


Welcome, Mid-South Community Justice & Mediation Center!  Tennessee has a new nonprofit community mediation center, and it’s in Memphis.  I am so excited about the news.  The need is so great.  Here is CJAM’s mission statement:

The Mission of the Mid-South Community Justice and Mediation Center (CJAM) is to promote a civil and just community by providing Mid-South residents with high quality and affordable mediation services, conflict resolution, education and training.CJAM provides an array of educational opportunities ranging in topic, length, and cost which develop individual and organizational capacity to manage conflict. CJAM offers both Basic Mediation and Training. In addition, private and public organizations may contact CJAM for training tailored to specific needs. Workshops open to the public are also offered.

They plan to open for business before the end of the year.  Thanks are due to many mediators in Memphis for this wonderful development.

The roster of organizations who offer community mediation in Tennessee:

East Tennessee:

Cumberland, Overton and Putnam Counties

Community Mediation Center in Crossville, serving General Sessions Courts
Phone: (931) 484-0972
Rita Young, Executive Director

Knox county

Community Mediation Center in Knoxville, serving General Sessions, Juvenile, Circuit, Chancery, and Criminal Courts
Phone: (865) 594-1879
Jacqueline O. Kittrell, Executive Director

Anderson county

Community Mediation Services in Clinton, serving Juvenile Court
Phone: (865) 463-6888
Cindy Helton, Executive Director

hamilton county

Community Reconciliation, Inc in Chattanooga, serving Juvenile Court
Phone: (423) 209-5144
Jennifer Paden, Executive Director

Washington County

Neighborhood Reconciliation Services, Inc. in Johnson City
Phone: (423) 202-4964
Cecile Wimberley, Executive Director

Middle Tennessee

Montgomery and Stewart Counties

Medi8Resolution Center in Clarksville
Phone: (931) 266-0134
Wanda Bermudez-Carde and Mary Hunter, Co-Executive Directors

Maury county

The Mediation Center in Columbia
Phone: (931) 380-5583
Beth Tarter, Executive Director

Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Perry, Wayne and Williamson Counties

Mid-South Mediation Services in Hohenwald
Phone: (931) 796-0487
Mary Ellen Bowen, Executive Director

Metro Nashville and Davidson County

Nashville Conflict Resolution Center in Nashville
Phone: (615) 333-8400
Sara Figal, Executive Director


CMC’s annual Winter mediation training will be a Rule 31 approved General Civil Training, 40 hours in length.  Embedded within the 40 hr training will be a Crossover training, 16 hours in length, for those who have been trained as family mediators and would like to train as civil mediators. (Note: CMC does not require Rule 31 listing to become a volunteer, but our trainings are approved by the ADR Commission of the Tennessee Supreme Court, and can be used to make application to be listed as a Rule 31 mediator.)

We co-train with the University of Tennessee College of Law’s Mediation Clinic class, usually 3rd year law students.  Professor Becky Jacobs is our partner, and the class is held at the University of Tennessee School of Law.  The dates listed below are all required for the full 40 hr training.  The segments which make up the 16 hr Crossover Training will occur mostly during the second weekend, but there will be a few segments in the first weekend.

January 18, Thursday, 3:30PM – 9:30PM

January 19, Friday, 3:30PM – 9:30PM

January 20, Saturday, 8:30AM – 5:00PM

January 25, Thursday, 3:30PM – 9:30PM

January 26, Friday, 3:30PM – 9:30PM

January 27, Saturday, 8:30AM – 5:00PM

Because ice and snow is not unheard of in Knoxville at this time of year, we’ve reserved the following two weekends (February 1-3 and Feb 8-11) to use for make-up days, should we be required to cancel class because of inclimate weather.

Our training prepares mediators to do volunteer work in our civil courts, especially our Civil Sessions “day of court” program, and you are required to make a one-year commitment to receive special pricing for CMC volunteers.  We also allow a few people to register (if we have room in the class) who cannot make the volunteer commitment but would like to join us and pay a closer-to-market price.   Please call or email our office if you would like to ask questions about volunteer requirements and about pricing.

This class will be limited to about 12-15, so inquire quickly if you’re interested.  Email us at or call Jackie Kittrell, our Executive Director at 865-594-1879.  Please read our FAQ on volunteering, and download our volunteer application here.  We would love to talk to you!




Here is a downloadable pdf from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) called “What Should We Tell the Children: A Parent’s Guide”

You can find parents resources for mediators, from a wonderful mediator-mentor, Forrest “Woody” Mosten, on his website.

Check out this set of videos and resources from Sesame Street, divorce seen from a young child’s point of view, and possibly useful in helping parents talk to their child about the parents’ divorce plans.

Here are some books with links to Amazon* (for those of us who are book groupies!):

* We encourage you to support your local bookseller when you buy or order!

“Peace is not just about the absence of conflict; it’s also about the presence of justice.  …  A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.” Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, Shane ClaiborneJonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

My friend and fellow mediator, Regina Newson, sent me a link to an article on the website by Richard Custin, one all mediators might read and have an opinion about.  Our volunteer mediators, as well as the law students we train and mentor, struggle with the question raised here.

Is it enough to help people get a settlement?  What if the settlement seems to favor or advantage one party more than the other?

Does the concept of party self-determination erase our concern? By being concerned about the justice of the decision do mediators risk being advocates?  Are concerns about justice and fairness of outcome the purview of law and not mediation?

How do mediators ensure the quality of an agreement, something we are mandated to do by our ethics? How do mediators “balance the power” in the room?  Is it a question of party capacity and fairness of process rather than outcome?

What about the type of dispute resolution called restorative justice? Community mediation centers take these cases quite often.  There, the job of the mediators is to help the parties—-the “victim” and the “offender”, whether individuals or institutions—come to terms with what has happened and move forward along a healing path rather than one of retribution, revenge and further damage.  Mediators use process design and careful preparation, along with trust and honesty, to build bridges across a span which may seem like the Grand Canyon.  The law has briefly stepped aside at the victim’s request so that other possibilities might manifest.  Do those same concerns arise in civil and family mediation practice?  If you have thoughts about any of this, please email or post.  (Regina is the editor of the Tennessee Association of Professional Mediators and is always looking for thoughtful mediators to write articles!)

CMC Executive Director, Jackie Kittrell, was pleased to serve on the Advisory Committee to the Downtown Knoxville Rotary Club, to help select the recipient of the inaugural 2017 Peace Award given by the Rotary to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.  Accepting for the Beck Center was their executive director, Renee Kesler.  The presentation was made on May 23 at the Knoxville Museum of Art’s Bailey Hall.  But for the beautiful drizzly Spring weather, the ceremony would have taken place in the adjacent Rotary Peace Garden.  Presenting the Peace Award for the Rotary were CMC’s Immediate Past Board Chair, Whitney Ray-Dawson, and the inestimable Townes Lavidge Obsorn!

Stay tuned for more information on Beck’s upcoming 8th of August Jubilee at the Downtown Regal Theater!

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This is National Volunteer Week! CMC wants to celebrate our talented volunteer mediators without whom we could not do what we do. Volunteers are essential for CMC to provide mediation services to those regardless of their ability to pay and to mediate in a way that allows ordinary people to make decisions and resolve their own disputes on their own terms.  At any given moment, CMC is lucky to have 50 or more mediators who send us their availability every month and stand ready to mediate when a case is set.

In our photo, you will see two of our best and most prolific mediators, Emil “Bud” Muly and Marita Vornehm.  They’ve both been mediating for CMC for 20 years, and when you add up what they’ve done, they’ve mediated more than 750 mediations between them, many of them as co-mediators in our Day of Court Civil Sessions Mediation Program.  They do what good volunteers do—they show up, and they provide excellent mediation service for folks who need it, giving freely of their time and considerable experience.

At any given moment, CMC is lucky to have 50 or more mediators who send us their availability every month and stand ready to mediate when a case is set.  Our staff program directors stay busy conducting intakes and screenings to make sure mediation is the safe and appropriate choice for disputants, and so the mediation can be scheduled efficiently with two available co-mediators.

CMC defines “best practice” of mediation by looking to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 which provides guidance and regulation of the mediation profession in Tennessee, including volunteer mediators.  We also model our Center on the 10 Hallmarks put forth by the National Association For Community Mediation (NAFCM).

A Community Mediation Center:

  1. Is a private non-profit or public agency or program thereof, with mediators, staff and governing/advisory board representative of the diversity of the community served.
  2. Use trained community volunteers as providers of mediation services.
  3. Strives and is committed to providing mediation to all people in their community.
  4. Provides direct access to the public through self­-referral and strives to reduce barriers to service including physical, linguistic, cultural, programmatic and economic barriers.
  5. Provides service to clients regardless of their ability to pay.
  6. Provides service and hiring without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, age, disabilities, national origin, marital status, personal appearance, gender orientation or identity, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, or source of income.
  7. Provides a forum for dispute resolution at the earliest stage of a conflict.
  8. Provides an alternative to the judicial system at any stage of a conflict.
  9. Initiates, facilitates and educates for collaborative community relationships to affect positive systemic change.
  10. Engages in public awareness and educational activities about the values and practices of mediation.

Volunteers exemplify that the practice of mediation is open to all.  They are often CMC’s greatest referral source because they know how mediation works and how many advantages and benefits it offers.    Through their volunteer mediation, they are always striving to figure out how to reduce barriers to service including linguistic, cultural, programmatic and economic.  Volunteers are the face of CMC in our community and are always engaged in public awareness-raising and educating about our values and mediation practice!



This weekend CMC held its annual Peace In The Valley fundraiser at the Historic Southern Railway Station/Blue Slip Winery.  Much fun was had by all: refreshments, wine tasting, dancing to the Chillbillies rock and roll with Judge Irwin singing lead, from “I saw her standing there” to “Free Bird!  We had a lovely wine-themed silent auction, all items in their new homes, and a blind wine auction where guests bought a bagged bottle of wine, sight unseen.

Besides our amazing Board of Directors and Staff, I’d like to draw your attention to our list of sponsors.  We appreciate them so much:

Platinum level:

Breeding & Henry, LLC
900 S Gay St #1950, Knoxville, TN 37902
(865) 670-8535

Divorce Better Knoxville
Elizabeth Cooper, PhD, Rule 31 listed family mediator
(865) 236-1164

Sherry Mahar, Esquire
Law Offices, 300 Montvue Rd, Knoxville, TN 37919,
(865) 691-9011

David Valone, Esquire
Valone Law, 625 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902
(865) 522-8381

Gold Level:

John Anen, Esquire
Law Office, (865) 925-3177

Angela Blevins, Esquire

Caitlin Elledge, Esquire
Sobieski, Messer & Elledge, PLLC
612 South Gay Street, 5th Floor, Knoxville, TN 37902
(865) 546-7770

G.C. Hutson, Hutson Mediation Firm, PLLC
(Knoxville, Tri-Cities, Nashville)
119 E Watauga Ave, Johnson City, Tennessee
(423) 217-4888

Laura Metcalf, Esquire
Law Office, First Tennessee Plaza, 800 S Gay Street, Suite 1600, Knoxville, TN 37929
Phone: (865) 637-3900

Adam Moncier, Esquire
Law Office, 1318 Clinch Avenue, Knoxville, TN  37916
(865) 200-4615

Elizabeth Kammer Psar, Esquire
Law Office, 7450 Chapman Highway, # 314, Knoxville, TN 37920
(865) 806-0053

Vanessa Samano, Esquire
Law Office, Bank of America Building, 550 W. Main Street, Suite 310, Knoxville, TN 37902
(865) 291-1550

Tennessee Land Development Services
Timothy Howell, Rule 31 listed civil mediator
(Knox & surrounding counties)
121 Dorothy Drive, Talbott, TN 37877
(865) 742-2557

Tennessee Mediation School
Laura Metcalf & Sarah Easter, Esquires, Rule 31 family mediators & trainers
Upcoming Rule 31 family trainings in June and August, 2017.

Mary Ward, Esquire
Law Office, (865) 671-4480

Heidi Wegryn, Esquire
Law Office, 5701 Lyons View Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919
(865) 622-8121

Herston on Tennessee Family Law is a blog maintained with great care using clearly written case summaries by a local Knoxville attorney (who is also a mediator and a collaborative family attorney), K.O. Herston.  He reports some of the more interesting and important Tennessee appellate cases having to do with diverse family conflicts.  Reading about how courts decide family cases is an important and ongoing educational process for family mediators.  We know that mediators do not “advise” parties, and even though Rule 31 gives attorney mediators permission to vocalize opinions if competent to do so, we also realize that we risk our most necessary quality, the participants’ perception that we are impartial and on no one’s side, when we skate close to the place of saying “Here’s what I (the mediator) think.”  Still, it’s very helpful to know the way cases are decided so we as mediators can ask reality-checking questions and make sure that parties understand reality!

Attorneys who participate in mediation and help their client understand how the law affects them are worth their weight in gold to a mediator.   In the world of community mediation, its the norm for people to have no attorney at all or, at best, to have someone they might call if they “have to.”  Mediators handling cases as volunteers or pro bono for the courts must take pains to screen parties to see if they need legal advice.  All the more reason for community mediators to have an overview of family law outcomes to construct helpful BATNA/WATNAs (or BATMA/WATMAs) for their clients.

He also has a page of article links on divorce matters, including divorce mediation in Tennessee.

KO also posts his nature photography and helpful news articles on divorce, children, and best practices.  His blog was voted in the top 100 “blawgs” (law blogs) again this year, now two years in a row.


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