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Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has been utilized by the Florida Court System to resolve disputes for over 25 years, starting with the creation of the first citizen dispute settlement (CDS) center in Dade County in 1975. Since that time, the uses of mediation and arbitration have grown as the Legislature and judiciary have created one of the most comprehensive court-connected mediation programs in the country.

The court-connected mediation and arbitration programs represented in Florida are as diverse as the state itself. Programs have been organized based on the needs of the court, the availability of volunteers and the accessibility of funding sources.

Prior to 1987, mediation programs for county and family cases were in operation, and legislation authorized the creation of citizen dispute settlement centers and judicial referral of cases to family mediation programs. As a result of the 1985 and 1986 Legislative Study Commissions' findings and reports, the Florida Statutes were broadened in 1987 to grant trial judges the authority to refer any contested civil matter to mediation or arbitration subject to limited Supreme Court exceptions. This comprehensive statute was supplemented by the adoption of Rules of Civil Procedure (adopted in 1987), the Florida Rules for Certified and Court-Appointed Mediators (adopted in 1992), and the Florida Rules for Court-Appointed Arbitrators (adopted in 1994).

In an effort to keep pace with this rapidly evolving field, the Supreme Court of Florida has a committee on mediation (ADR Policy and Rules), a mediator grievance board (Mediator Qualifications Board), a grievance board for certified training programs (Mediation Training Review Board), and an ethics advisory committee (Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee).

In 1992, the Supreme Court Committee on Mediation and Arbitration Training (predecessor to the ADR Policy Committee) undertook a comprehensive review of the mediation training standards which were initially adopted by the chief justice in 1989. With the assistance of subject matter experts and input from trainers and trainees, the committee revised the training program standards. The proposed standards were approved by the court and became effective as of April 1, 1996, pursuant to Chief Justice Stephen H. Grimes administrative order.

In 1988, there were 16 CDS programs, three court-based small claims (county) mediation programs, 14 court-based family mediation programs, two court-based circuit civil mediation programs and no court arbitration programs.

Currently, we have 9 CDS programs, 49 county mediation programs (serving all 20 circuits), 45 family mediation programs, 13 circuit civil mediation programs, 40 dependency mediation programs, three arbitration programs and one appellate mediation program.

Even more significantly, the scope of each of these programs, in terms of both the number and types of cases received, continues to expand. As the program grows, an interesting phenomenon has occurred--the largest growth has been in the private sector resolution of court-ordered cases and the resolution of cases through mediation which would otherwise have become civil suits.

In 1990, the Florida Supreme Court revised the Rules of Civil Procedure to allow parties 10 days from the order of referral in which to select their own mediator. This provision has led to the intended result of greater party involvement in the process with circuits reporting that over 90 percent of the parties agree on a mediator. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in greater difficulty for maintaining complete statistics on the scope of the program. Although all 20 judicial circuits refer some portion of their caseload to mediation, we are able to collect statistics only from those circuits in which a director or coordinator of mediation services has been designated.

As of December 2005, over 18,000 individuals had completed a Supreme Court of Florida certified mediation training programs. Currently there are 1391 county mediators, 1682 family mediators, 2166 circuit mediators and 138 dependency mediators certified by the Supreme Court of Florida.

In addition to the court-ordered county civil mediation and arbitration, family (divorce) mediation, and circuit civil mediation and arbitration programs, there are a variety of ADR programs operating successfully throughout the state. Within the court context, mediation, arbitration and med/arb are utilized in juvenile cases in several circuits, summary jury trials are utilized on an ad hoc basis in other circuits, and the federal courts utilize both mediation and arbitration. There are numerous state ADR statutes and successful ADR programs through the Department of Insurance, the Division of Mobile Homes of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Workers Compensation Division of the Department of Labor and Employment Security, to name just a few.

Learn more about the Mediation Program

Learn more about the Citizen's Dispute Settlement Program


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