Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has issued a judicial order declaring the third week of October (October 11-17) as Conflict Resolution Week for the Judicial Branch of the State of North Carolina. Conflict Resolution Week is intended to recognize the importance of dispute resolution to the Judicial Branch and to North Carolinians. Mediators address a wide variety of disputes, including misdemeanor criminal matters, child custody and visitation, divorce, estates, guardianships, automobile accidents, business and contract matters and many others.
“North Carolina is fortunate to have such a strong network of talented and dedicated mediators who, for decades, have helped those in the midst of conflict to find solutions that avoid costly litigation, conserve court resources, and foster reconciliation,” said Chief Justice Beasley. “On behalf of the entire Judicial Branch, we extend our thanks to them as we join the American Bar Association and the Association for Conflict Resolution in celebrating the immeasurable contributions they make to our judicial system.”
The North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission (NCDRC) in partnership with the Dispute Resolution Section of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) will host a virtual event on October 15 to provide two continuing legal education classes related to dispute resolution. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley will appear via video along with a few former NCDRC chairpersons. Those who wish to participate can email DRCMediators@nccourts.org to register.
North Carolina has long had a strong commitment to programs that promote dispute resolution. The General Assembly created mediation and arbitration programs that have successfully operated in North Carolina’s district and superior courts for more than 25 years.
In 1989, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation (NCGS § 50-13.1) to implement a statewide Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program under the guidance of an Advisory Committee appointed by the director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC). Today, North Carolina is one of a few states in the country that has judicial districts that provide mandatory custoy mediation for all 100 counties statewide.
The Dispute Resolution Section of the NCBA was established in 1993 for the purpose of serving as a resource for developing and implementing Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) programs and techniques in the legal system and society at large.
The NCDRC, established in October 1995, is charged with certifying and regulating private mediators who serve the courts, and also recommends policy, rules, and rule revisions relating to dispute resolution in North Carolina courts. The 17-member Commission includes members appointed by all three branches of government.
Thousands of disputes between individuals, family members, corporations, small businesses, governmental agencies, and others are brought before North Carolina civil and criminal courts each year. Mediation, arbitration, and other conflict resolution processes such as collaborative law, neutral evaluation, and restorative justice can help reduce the demands on the trial courts and improve efficiency. Many disputes are effectively addressed and resolved by the parties themselves with the help of a trained mediator or arbitrator, without the need to involve the police or the court system.
The NCDRC reports that of cases mediated in FY 2019-20, more than 60.2 percent of civil superior court cases and more than 70.1 percent of family financial cases were settled. With regards to arbitration, more than 81 percent of awards stood without appeal to become binding orders of the court. In addition, 1,237 cases were dismissed before the arbitration hearing.
The Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program reports 16,891 people attended the group orientation sessions across the state in FY 2019-20. Additionally, 9,523 mediation sessions were held during the same reporting period.