In 1997, the General Assembly authorized the design and implementation of a pilot program for pretrial mediation of equitable distribution and other family financial cases. The statute was amended to clarify that other settlement procedures could be used. The Supreme Court adopted rules on December 30, 1998, which became effective March 1, 1999, to be used in the pilot sites to implement the program. The original seven pilot sites selected by the Administrative Office of the Courts were Districts 5, 6A, 7, 14, 20, 23 and 30. During the pilot phase, district court judges found that high percentages of cases referred to the program settled. Support for establishment of a permanent, statewide program was widespread and included the Conference of Chief District Court Judges, the North Carolina Bar Association's Family Law and Dispute Resolution Sections, the North Carolina Association of Professional Family Mediators, and the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission. At the conclusion of the pilot period, the General Assembly adopted G.S. 7A-38.4A providing for continuation and statewide expansion of the program effective October 1, 2001.