A: There is no “licensing” or “certification” of neutrals in Georgia. Instead, neutrals who desire to handle court-referred or court-ordered cases must be “registered” with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution. Neutrals who practice exclusively in the private setting are not required to register, although many who meet the requirements do register in order to claim the Supreme Court credential. The office maintains a public registry of neutrals who have met the Supreme Court’s requirements to serve in court-connected ADR programs.

A: You must be registered with our office if you expect to handle court-referred or court-ordered cases. If you do not expect or intend to handle court-referred or court-ordered cases, you may still wish to register for these reasons:

Credential: Registration is the only government-issued credential for ADR professionals in Georgia, and it is one of only a handful nationally that are issued by a state Supreme Court. As such, Georgia registration is accepted and respected by ADR professionals and organizations in most other states. Your registration status is easily confirmed by the public through our website.

Credibility: Registration demonstrates to your clients and colleagues that you have invested in considerable professional training for your ADR practice, that you measure your qualifications according to explicit standards, and that you have made a commitment to pursue continuing education in the field. Registration is an indicator of your professionalism.

Rules: Registration allows you to formally adopt the Georgia Supreme Court ADR Rules as the procedural and ethical framework for your ADR practice.

Protection: In court-ordered or court-referred mediations, conducted by a properly registered mediator, the Supreme Court ADR Rules grant the parties blanket confidentiality protection to their mediation-generated statements, documents, and evidence, and the mediator’s notes and records. The rules also prohibit a mediator from being subpoenaed or otherwise required to testify in court about the mediation.

Registration also offers properly registered mediators conducting court-ordered or court-referred mediations broad immunity from liability for civil damages “for any statement, action, omission or decision made in the course of any ADR process unless that statement, action, omission or decision is 1) grossly negligent and made with malice or 2) is in willful disregard of the safety or property of any party to the ADR process.”

A: No. Training that is submitted for registration must always be taken live. Live instruction, with its opportunities for interaction and feedback, is critical to effective neutral training. Online and video courses are only acceptable for continuing education.

A: To be registered with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution, there is no requirement that a neutral be an attorney or have any other specific professional background. However, domestic relations mediators must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. You must be an attorney if you serve as the sole arbitrator or the lead arbitrator on a panel in a court-referred or court-connected case. You must also be an attorney if you wish to register in Early Neutral Evaluation. Click here to read about specific training requirements.

A: Having a criminal record or professional discipline will not necessarily prevent you from registering as a neutral. Read more about our criminal background checks here.

A: In order to qualify for registration, all training must be in courses approved by the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution.   If you have completed or are considering a course that is not on the approved list, you must submit the course outline to the office for individual review. Specific information regarding training requirements can be found here.

A: That depends on several factors, including your ADR training and experience, your training and experience in other professions, your education, your location, your marketing skills, your networking skills, the compensation system of the particular local court program, and whether the local court program needs someone of your professional and personal background to work in their jurisdictions. You can serve on more than one local court roster. Competition is high for court cases and for openings on local court rosters, particularly in the metro Atlanta area. Some neutrals in Georgia are able to earn a living working full-time in ADR. It takes diligence and patience to build a practice, both in the court system and outside the courts. For most neutrals, serving the courts as a neutral is a part-time endeavor. Some find satisfaction in volunteering with their local courts.