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Frequently Asked Questions about Certification
 
Following are answers to questions Commission staff routinely receive about the family financial certification rules and the Commission's certification process. This material is intended to assist you in better understanding the rules and certification process. It is not intended to deter you from calling the Commission's office. If your question does not appear here or if it does and you need additional clarification, please contact us at (919) 890-1415 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. We will be happy to assist you.
  1. Must I be certified to mediate family financial cases?
  2. Do I have to be an attorney to mediate family financial cases?
  3. What if I am not sure whether my qualifications and experience satisfy Rule 8?
  4. Where can I find a list of approved trainers?
  5. Where can I get an Application for Certification?
  6. Is there a certification fee?
  7. Once I submit my application, how long will it take for the Commission's office to process it?
  8. Do I have to have been a North Carolina resident for a period of time to be certified to mediate family financial cases?
  9. Will mediation training that I have taken outside North Carolina satisfy the 40-hour training requirement set forth in Rule 8.A.2.?
  10. If I am already a certified MSC mediator, do I still have to complete a 40-hour FFS mediator training course?
  11. I practice family law extensively, do I have take the two-day basic family law CLE course required by FFS Rule 8.A?
  12. I am an attorney applicant who is not licensed in North Carolina. What does the "demonstrates familiarity" language require in FFS Rule 8.A.(2)(b)?
  13. Do I have to complete the 40-hour training program before I complete my observations?
  14. I am having difficulty scheduling observations of family cases, what can I do?
  15. Will I have an opportunity to mediate custody and visitation disputes?
  16. Once I am certified, what can I put on my letterhead or business cads?
  17. Once I am certified, how many court referrals may I expect to receive?
  18. Is there anything I need to do after I become certified?
Q. Must I be certified to mediate family financial cases?
A. No. It is not necessary to be certified to mediate family financial cases provided that the parties nominate (choose) you as their mediator and the Court approves your nomination. (See Rule 2.A. of the Rules Implementing Settlement Procedures in Equitable Distribution and Other Family Financial Cases (FFS Rules)). However, the Commission believes that training and certification are important credentials for a mediator who is working in the courts. Mediators who receive court appointments to mediate family financial cases must be certifed by the Dispute Resolution Commission.
 
Q. Do I have to be an attorney to mediate family financial cases?
A. No. The Commission certifies non-attorney mediators who either hold advanced practitioner membership in the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) ( FFS Rule 8.A.1.) or hold a license and have experience practicing one of the professions listed in FFS Rule 8.A.2.
 
Q. What if I am not sure whether my qualifications and experience satisfy FFS Rule 8?
A. If you have any doubts about whether you are eligible to qualify under the threshold criteria set forth in Rule 8.A.1. or 8.A.2., you should contact the Commission's office at (919) 890-1415 and provide a copy of your resume.
 
Q. Where can I find a list of approved trainers?
A. You may contact the Commission's office directly or you may go to the menu at left and click on the "Approved Trainers" option. You will need to contact the trainers directly to learn of dates and locations of upcoming training.
 
Q. Where can I get an Application for Certification?
A.

Application packets are available through the Commission's office or are posted on this web site. You may download an application packet from the menu at left. A "fillable" application form is also available from the menu. If you have any problems downloading Adobe Acrobat or using the fillable form, contact the Commission's office at (919) 890-1415. If you are using the fillable form, you will still need to review the full application packet and provide other materials as required.

When you have completed your Application, please forward it along with your supporting materials in a single mailing. Please send the original of your completed Application, but copies of your other submissions. Please keep a copy of your Application for your own records. All Applications should be mailed to the Commission at: P.O. Box 2448, Raleigh, NC, 27602. The Commission's office does not receive mail at its street address.

Please contact Commission staff if you have any questions about the application or the application process. If you would like to drop by the Commission's office in person to discuss your Application or to drop off your packet, please let Commission staff know in advance to insure that someone is here to greet you.

 
Q. Is there a certification fee?
A.

Yes. There is a $140.00 annual certification fee which is pro-rated quarterly the first year in which a mediator is certified. Thereafter, the full $140.00 is due each spring. For mediators holding dual certification, i.e., both superior court civil and district court family financial certification, the Commission has adopted a reduced dual fee of $200.00 which is also pro-rated quarterly the first year.

 
Q. Once I submit my Application for Certification, how long will it take for the Commission's office to process it?
A. Applications are nearly always processed within five working days of their receipt, if not sooner. If you mailed your Application and it has been more than two weeks and you have not heard back, call the Commission's office. Please complete your Application carefully. Usually, when there are delays in processing an application, it is because the applicant did not follow the instructions in the Application and accompanying explanatory materials.
 
Q. Do I have to have been a North Carolina resident for a period of time to be certified to mediate family financial cases?
A. There is no residency requirement for applicants applying as out-of-state attorneys or as Advanced Practitioner Members of the Association for Conflict Resolution. Applicants who are applying as North Carolina professionals pursuant to FFS Rule 8.A.2.(a)-(g) must have been licensed in this State for at least five years, but need not actually reside here. A few certified mediators reside in border states such as Tennessee, Virginia, or South Carolina, but come to North Carolina to mediate.
 
Q. Will mediation training that I have taken outside North Carolina satisfy the 40-hour training requirement set forth in Rule 8.A.2.?
A. Sometimes the Commission can give partial credit for training taken outside North Carolina or for training taken in North Carolina, but not approved by the Commission. In such instance, an applicant will need to provide the Commission's office with a copy of a detailed agenda from his or her training program, a list of trainers, and, if available, their resumes. If would also be helpful to know whether the training was approved by the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) or its predecessor organization, the Academy of Family Mediators, since FFS Rule 9 specifically provides that such programs may be approved if they substantially comply with the curriculum set forth in FFS Rule 9. Applicants can almost never receive full credit for training taken outside North Carolina. Such training rarely includes all the required Rule 9 material, including 1) a discussion of the North Carolina Family Financial Settlement Rules, 2) a discussion of the North Carolina Supreme Court's Standards of Professional Conduct for Mediators, 3) a review of North Carolina family law, and 4) an exam on the Rules. Such applicants will need to go to a Commission certified trainer to complete those portions of the training which were not covered in their original course.

The Commission cannot give partial credit for training that has some focus other than family mediation, for example, community, EEOC, peer, dependency, or other kinds of mediation training. Also, the Commission cannot give partial credit for arbitration training.
 
Q. If I am already a certified MSC mediator, do I still have to complete a 40-hour FFS mediator training course?
A. No, if you are already certified by the Dispute Resolution Commission as a superior court (MSC) mediator, you will need to take only a 16-hour supplemental course which will focus on the FFS statute and Program Rules, family law in North Carolina and ethical issues arising in FFS cases.
 
Q. I practice family law extensively, do I have take the two-day basic family law CLE course required by FFS Rule 8.A?
A. Applicants who are experienced family lawyers may be exempt from this requirement. Please see the Commission's Policy on Interpreting and Implementing Family Financial Settlement Rule 8.A. To view the policy, click on the "DRC Policy on FFS Mediator Certification" option from the menu at left and then click on the Rule 8.A. Policy option.
 
Q. I am an attorney applicant who is not licensed in North Carolina. What does the self-study requirement in FFS Rule 8.B. contemplate?
A.

That Rule requires that attorneys licensed elsewhere demonstate familiarity with North Carolina court structure, legal terminology, and civil procedure. The Commission has posted two documents on its web site that such applicants may read in satisfaction of the requirement. To view the documents, from the menu on your left click on "DRC Policy on FFS Mediator Certification", then click on the Self-Study option from the next menu. The documents that you will need to review, The Judicial System in North Carolina and Rules 1 and 1A of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, should appear on your screen. After you have reviewed these documents and any others which you feel will help familiarize you with NC court structure, legal terminology and civil procedure, you will need to attach a letter to your Application advising Commission staff of your efforts to satisfy this Rule.

 
Q. Do I have to complete the 40-hour training program before I complete my observations?
A. Rule 8 training and observation requirements need not be completed in any particular order. However, an observation may be more meaningful if an observer has completed the 40-hour training program and has a better idea of what constitutes good mediator practice and what does not.
 
Q. I am having difficulty scheduling observations of family cases, what can I do?
A.

The Commission appreciates that it can be difficult to complete the observation requirements required by FFS Rule 8.D. Divorcing couples may not want an observer present at their mediation, cases are sometimes postponed at the last minute, or a mediation may involve multiple sessions with an observer unable to attend the second or third sessions. Still, the Commission believes that observations are integral to the training process and asks that you continue to seek out opportunities until you have observed the two required family mediations from start to settlement or impasse. You may want to look at the list of Family Mediators posted on the Commission's web site. Mediators who personally know you may be more willing to work with you on your obsevations. You may also want to contact your trainer or family lawyers that you know and ask them for help in finding observation opportunities.

In addition to observing family financial mediations, you can also observe custody mediations conducted by an Administrative Office of the Courts' mediator (be aware that not all judicial districts permit observations of custody mediations) or private mediations conducted by Advanced Practitioner Members of the Association for Conflict Resolution. Contact the Commission if you need help identifying custody mediators. To identify NC mediators who hold Advanced Practitioner Membership in the Association for Conflict Resolution go to www.acrnet.org . (If you are a non-attorney applicant, you will also need to observe three additional mediations ordered by NC state or federal courts (See FFS Rule 8.D.). These additional mediations need not be of family matters.)

 
Q. I understand the FFS Program is focused on money conflicts, but will I also have an opportunity to mediate custody and visitation disputes?
A. The Family Financial Settlement Program is designed to provide parties with an opportunity to mediate the financial aspects of their divorce. If the parties elect to discuss custody and visitation at their family financial mediation, such issues may be included. If your primary interest is in mediating custody and visitation disputes, you should contact the NC Administrative Office of the Courts at (919) 890-1000 and ask for a referral to the Custody and Visitation Mediation Program. Contact informaton for that program can also be found at the home page for this web site, www.ncdrc.org.
 
Q. Once I am certified, what can I put on my letterhead or business cards?
A. You should review the Commission's Advertising Guidelines for Mediators. You may view the Guidelines by clicking on "Standards of Conduct' from the main menu, then click on the Guidelines.
 
Q. Once I am certified, how many court referrals may I expect to receive?
A. FFS Rule 2 provides for the Family Financial Settlement Program to be a "user pay" program. Because the parties, and not the taxpayers, are paying for their mediator's services, the parties are afforded an opportunity to select their mediator. Only in instances where the parties do not take any action or cannot agree on a mediator will the court appoint one to conduct the conference. In most districts, the vast majority of cases are mediated by "party-selected" mediators. Court appointments to mediate tend to be relatively rare and are apportionedon a rotating basis among certified mediators who have expressed a willingness to accept court appointments in a given district. Since parties have the option to select a mediator and most are exercising that option, it is essential for mediators intent upon establishing a practice to notify attorneys of their availability and willingness to serve.
 
Q. Is there anything I need to do after I become certified?
A.

Once you are certified, you should check the contact information posted for you on the Commission's on-line "List of Mediators" maintained on this site. (If you hold dual certification please check the contact information on all the lists for the programs you are serving.) In addition, you will have an opportunity to complete an on-line profile form and to provide key words to describe your education, experience and interests. Parties and attorneys use this information in selecting a mediator, so it is important that it be available and correct. You will be able to update all your information during the annual certification renewal period or at any other time as necessary.

If you have selected any districts where you are not known to the Chief District Court Judge, you may want to write or visit him/her for the purpose of introducing yourself. Be sure to verify that the district is including you on its list for purposes of court appointments. If you do not reside in a particular judicial district from which you would like to receive court appointment or in a county contiguous to that district, FFS Rule 2.B. requires that you contact the district on an annual basis and inform staff of your continuing interest in receiving court appointments. Please be sure to check for local mediation rules in any districts that you have agreed to serve.

Lastly, as noted above, this is a market driven program. Most mediators get their assignments by referral from parties rather than through appointments. As such, most mediators will need to market their services to members of the Bar at least until they are established in their mediation practice.

 
 
 
   
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