GCFV Recognizes Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution Domestic Violence Rules Committee for “Moving the Work Forward”

ATLANTA – The Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV) presented its Moving the Work Forward Award to the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution Domestic Violence Rules Committee during the 26th Annual Family Violence Conference.

The Moving the Work Forward Award is presented to organizations that are innovative in their approaches and actions to ensure that all victims of domestic violence are provided the necessary resources to live free of violence in their homes.

The Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution (GCDR) was created by the Supreme Court in 1993. From the very beginning, the GCDR has always been cognizant of and sensitive to matters of domestic violence and mediation cases. When the guidelines were created, there was a divergence of opinions on mediating domestic violence cases. However, GCDR held the philosophy that excluding mediation from all cases with domestic violence denies the victim or at-risk party the opportunity for a worthwhile alternative to the battleground of the courtroom. It also held the belief that such an effective surrogate for traditional litigation may be empowering.

In 2015, at the suggestion of Ms. Raytheon (Raye) Rawls, specialized domestic violence mediation trainer and former GCDR member, the GCDR decided to review these guidelines to ensure that the current practices reflected the updates in both the domestic violence and mediation fields. The GCDR determined that seeking the partnership of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV) and other experts in the field would be critical in updating and implementing the rules, as well as securing statewide acceptance.

A working group was formed, and the committee’s inaugural meeting was held in January of 2016. Members of the working group included: Judge Charles Auslander, GCDR; Raye Rawls, J.W. Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia (UGA); Tracy B. Johnson, Executive Director of the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution (GODR); Jennifer Thomas, former Executive Director of GCFV; Professor Llewellyn J. Cornelius, UGA School of Social Work; Christine Scartz, UGA Law Domestic Violence Clinic; Peggy Wilson, GCFV Commission Member; Joan Prittie, Executive Director at Project Safe; Professor Susan Raines, KSU Conflict Management; and Shinji Morokuma, former Executive Director of GODR.

The goals for the working group included: updating the current guidelines to reflect and align with current research and best practices; obtaining the support of major stakeholders in the dispute resolution and domestic violence communities; ensuring that the Domestic Violence Bench Book content aligned with the positions of GCDR and GCFV; conducting a comprehensive review of the screening process of court ADR programs and mediators for determining the presence of domestic violence; and examining how the guidelines were being implemented on a local court program level.

On June 22, 2018, the GCFV voted unanimously to endorse the rules and to support a joint committee with the GCDR to oversee implementation, training, review, and revision of the Rules. The GCDR voted on August 22, 2018, to approve the rules with an effective date of January 1, 2021. In September, GODR will wrap up the supplemental training for mediators and begin training court ADR program staff.

“This project succeeded due to the willingness of the GCFV and others to partner with the Commission on Dispute Resolution. Each partner brought their own expertise to the group while sharing the common goals of safety, self-determination, best practices, and practical implementation. It has been one of the most rewarding processes because all gathered and successfully worked  together to accomplish the important objective of providing at-risk parties the option to attempt to resolve their disputes in a safe environment outside the traditional adversarial courtroom setting,” said Hon. Charles E. Auslander, Athens-Clarke County State Court Judge and former GCDR Chair.

“It is truly exciting to see the innovative and transformative result that has emerged from the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution Rules Committee. This is an important moment for Georgians as we move towards implementing these mediation rules on January 1, 2021. Innovative ideas and collaborative leadership are essential elements to moving forward and making a positive impact on peoples’ lives throughout our state. This team of phenomenal individuals was not afraid to pick up that mantle. We are proud to present the Moving the Work Forward Award to the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution Rules Committee for their tireless work to safely bring mediation as an alternative to the traditional courtroom for families impacted by domestic violence,” said GCFV Chair Stephanie Woodard.

The award was accepted by Tracy B. Johnson, Executive Director of the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution (GODR).

For more information about the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution Domestic Violence Rules Committee, please contact Tracy Johnson.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission’s 26th Annual Family Violence Conference was held virtually on September 14-16, 2020. The theme of this year’s conference was Crafting a Coordinated Community Response: Working Together to End Family Violence. More than 500 local and national stakeholders attended the conference, including judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, advocates, survivors, faith leaders, counselors and community members.

About GCFV: The Georgia Commission on Family Violence, created by The Georgia General Assembly in 1992, is charged with developing a state plan for ending family violence in Georgia. If you or someone that you know is being impacted by domestic violence, call 1-800-334-2836 to speak with a domestic violence advocate.

Press Contact: April Ross, april.ross@dcs.ga.gov