Why is my small claims case scheduled for mediation?

Small claims mediation is a way for people to resolve a minor legal matter with the help of a neutral third party instead of taking their dispute to court. While you might be wondering why your small claims course is scheduled for mediation instead of being heard before a judge, there are a variety of reasons and benefits that can provide a satisfactory solution for all parties involved. 

What is small claims mediation? 

In the state of Michigan, the maximum you can collect through a judgment in the small claims division of the district court is $7,000. But as small claims courts continue to see a rapid increase in cases, many have instituted policies encouraging and sometimes ordering mediation to assist in the resolution of civil cases before being tried in the courts. Currently, Grand Traverse, Antrim, and Leelanau counties order all small claims cases to Conflict Resolution Services (CRS) for mediation prior to scheduling a hearing before a judge.

While mediation is less formal than a court trial, there is still a distinct process led by a highly-skilled CRS volunteer mediator. They use their State-approved training to guide the conversation, and both sides are encouraged to hear each other out and brainstorm creative solutions.

What are the benefits of mediation for small claims cases? 

The mediation process is a faster and more affordable option, as mediation settles matters within an average of 45 days, compared to 18 months for those that go through the courts.

More than 90% of all small claims are now completed without a court hearing, and more than 75% of the mediated small claims cases reach agreement.

Small claims mediation is beneficial when your dispute is with someone you want to keep good relations with, like a friend, neighbor, or customer. The mediator doesn’t act as a judge deciding who is right or wrong, but instead helps everyone draft a mutually-agreed-upon resolution in a process that’s completely confidential. Whereas one person must lose in the courts, mediation allows both parties involved to walk away with a win.

The process for small claims cases scheduled for mediation

This is the process for 85th District Court, which consists of Antrim, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau Counties. It only applies to small claims cases filed in one of these counties, but every small claims case filed in these counties follows this process.

1. The case is filed with the court clerk.

2. The clerk adds the case to the CRS mediation docket.

3. The defendant is served with the paperwork.

4. Five to ten days prior to the mediation date, CRS receives the docket, summons, and complaint for each case.

5. CRS sends the agreement to mediate to each party that we have an email address for. If we don’t have an email address, we attempt to contact via phone to obtain an email address. If we don’t have the email address after a couple of days, a printed copy of the agreement to mediate is sent to the party via U.S. mail.

6. At date/time specified, the small claims mediation session is held via Zoom.

Important facts about small claims mediation 

There are certain stipulations that are specific about small claims mediation that are important for all parties to be familiar with:

  • Every case ordered to mediation must be mediated before it goes before a judge.
  • If all parties participate in mediation but are unable to reach agreement, the case is then scheduled for a hearing before a judge.
  • If parties reach agreement during mediation, an agreement is drafted and electronically signed by the parties before mediation is concluded. The court requests that the plaintiff in the case use the terms of the agreement to complete a form DC85 and send it to the defendant for signature. Signing and sending this document will be included in the mediation agreement.
  • If the plaintiff does not appear for and participate in mediation, typically the judge will dismiss the case.
  • If the defendant does not appear for and participate in mediation, typically the judge will enter a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
  • There is no cost for participants to mediate a small claims case referred by the 86th district court.

Turn to Conflict Resolution Services

Whether your dispute is with a neighbor or former employee, our goal is to provide you with high-quality professional small claims mediation services. Our trained mediators work with both parties to foster calm, focused conversations that get to the core of the issue and keep you out of the courts. Using a variety of techniques and tactics tailored for your situation, we help find common ground and build a foundation for continued communication.

Contact Conflict Resolution Services at 231-941-5835 or casemanager@crsmediationtc.org.

CRS seeks Case Coordinator

Job Description:

Under the supervision of the Case Manager and Executive Director, opens, documents, follows up, and administers all requirements of mediation cases within given deadlines. Provides service to a diverse group of people, and coordinates activities with other staff. 

10-20 hours per week. $15-17 per hour depending on experience and qualifications. Flexible schedule possible. Work from home is occasionally possible. Work location is Traverse City, MI.

Essential Job Functions: 

-Creates and maintains all case files in State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) database (Madtrac) and other database sources. Generates and submits reports using database software. Responsible for adhering to all deadlines. 

-Performs all aspects of case management process from intake through close, focusing on data management. Includes, but not limited to, communicating with parties, scheduling, assigning mediators, developing case descriptions, compiling mediation packets, filing documentation, and entering data. Performs domestic violence screening protocols on applicable cases.

-Performs related work and other duties as assigned. 

Required Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Minimum Qualifications: 

The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and minimum qualifications necessary to perform the essential functions of the position. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the job. 

– Office experience preferred. 

– Excellent multi-tasking skills and priority setting abilities. 

– Excellent time management and organization skills. 

– Excellent ability to communicate orally and in writing to a wide range of people. 

– Proven ability to maintain good working relationships with a variety of people. 

– Ability to use good judgment, initiative and resourcefulness when dealing with people. 

– Ability to critically assess situations and solve problems, maintain confidentiality and work effectively under stress, within deadlines and changes in work priorities. 

Employment Status: 

It is the policy of CRS that all employees in this job classification are employed at the will of CRS and may resign or be dismissed with or without cause or notice at any time during employment. 

FLSA – Non Exempt 

How to Apply:

Email a cover letter and resume to execdir@crsmediationtc.org

How to Become a Mediator with Conflict Resolution Services

Are you looking for a rewarding way to give back to your community? Conflict Resolution Services (CRS) is always on the lookout for passionate people who want to join us in helping others by becoming a mediator. 

A CRS mediator has a very critical role in resolving conflict between parties. They’re impartial volunteers with diverse backgrounds who have completed state-approved, intensive training. They act as a neutral third party to facilitate the conversation, encourage people to hear each other, and help participants brainstorm solutions.

Our mediators don’t make decisions or judgments, but rather ensure equality among disputants, generate movement when at an impasse, recognize and halt manipulation by those involved, and help both parties reach an agreement that is satisfactory to everyone. In fact, about 80% of all mediations end in an agreement, and the conversations during mediation often serve as a deterrent to future disputes between the participants. Unlike the courts where one person must lose, mediation is a “win/win” situation — thanks in large part to the dedication of our volunteers.

Mediator Training via Zoom

What are the benefits of being a volunteer mediator? 

Being a volunteer mediator has both personal and professional benefits. On a personal level, you get the intrinsic reward of knowing you’re helping those in your Michigan community by resolving their conflicts and relationships without the costs and stress of court. Plus, the skills you learn as a mediator can translate to your own personal life, and you might find you have more patience and are more willing to compromise with your friends and family. 

At the same time, you’re also building professional skills that can be the foundation for a successful career. In fact, 82% of hiring managers interviewed by researchers said they prefer applicants with volunteer experience and 92% say volunteer activities build leadership skills. Those skills include: 

  • Active listening
  • Adaptability
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Empathy
  • Objectivity
  • Patience
  • Problem-solving
  • Tact
  • Trustworthiness

The process to become a volunteer mediator

Are you interested in becoming a CRS mediator? The first step is to complete the volunteer interest form on our website. Once that’s complete the Executive Director will personally reach out to you. They will give you more information about what volunteering with CRS looks like, what your personal background is, and where you’re most interested in volunteering your services. 

Paperwork and background checks

Once you and Brandie have had a chance to get to know each other and it sounds like a good fit, you’ll be sent the new volunteer paperwork. This will include our comprehensive volunteer handbook that will provide insight into our expectations, the mission behind the organization, and all the best practices and requirements expected from our volunteers.

The paperwork will also include a volunteer commitment form which confirms that you will volunteer as a mediator for CRS for two years in exchange for CRS paying for your training. 

Once that is signed and returned, you are asked to provide consent for CRS to perform a background check that’s mandatory before attending any training or mediating. This is required every three years, and failure to do so will result in the termination of your partnership with CRS. 

We’re committed to providing our clients with high-quality professional dispute resolution services, and that means we want the best people available for the job! 

Mediator training

With approval of the paperwork and background check, it’s time to move on to the training. CRS requires all mediators complete State-approved, 40- or 48-hour mediation training. We partner with centers across the state so training is available about monthly, and while you can choose which training you want to attend, please note that most training is only available during business hours. 

After formal training, depending on your education—for example, if you’re an attorney or social worker—you’ll have to either complete two or 18 mediation observations and then a mediation where an experienced mediator observes you leading.

After completion, you’re ready to mediate on your own! 

Continuous learning

To maintain active status with CRS, volunteers must mediate and/or facilitate a minimum of three cases per year and complete 8-hours of advanced mediation training every other year..  

Ready to take the next step? 

If you’re looking for a way to invest in your community — and your own personal and professional development — we would love to talk with you about how you can become a CRS volunteer. To take the first step, please fill out the interest form or reach out to us today. 

DIY Divorce Through Mediation

No one gets married with the intent to eventually get divorced, but it happens. And it’s almost always both a difficult decision and a difficult process — especially if you and your spouse have fundamental issues that you can’t resolve on your own, like child custody, finances, and division of property. 

Fortunately, if both parties are open to an alternative solution, DIY divorce mediation can be an alternative that will cost you less time, less money, and less stress. 

What is Divorce Mediation? 

In divorce mediation, you and your spouse meet with a trained, impartial mediator to confidentially discuss and resolve the issues in your divorce. While the mediators don’t make decisions or offer legal advice, they’re trained to help both sides resolve the dispute in a mutually beneficial way. 

The benefits of divorce mediation include: 

Cost: Mediation is a much less expensive option. Going to court to settle your divorce can cost anywhere from an average of $11,300 to more than $20,000, with the average divorce attorney fees being a staggering $11,000.

Time: Whereas the average divorce settled in court can take between a year to more than 18 months, divorce mediation can be done on your schedule, and completed in an average of 45 days.

Settlements: Unlike in court where someone has to “lose”, 80% of divorce mediations end in an agreement, which is a win/win for both parties involved. 

Control: With mediation, the court won’t control the terms of your agreement. Instead you have the freedom to work together on a solution based on what both sides feel is fair. 

Communication: If you have children from the marriage, mediation can teach you skills to keep the lines of communication open and civil going forward. This helps avoid future conflicts and disruption to your children’s lives and routines. 

How to Prepare for DIY Divorce Mediation

Conflict Resolution Services will help prepare you for the mediation session by asking you to gather some items before the session, which can include:

  • A list of assets, debts, and marital property
  • Financial statements
  • Property statements
  • Key topics you want to ensure are covered in the session

What Will be Discussed in Divorce Mediation? 

While each case will have its own specific issues to be resolved, standard tenants for divorce mediation can include: 

  • Marital property division and debt allocation
  • Retirement account division
  • Spousal support
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Insurance coverage.
  • Future communication
  • Any issues unique to your situation

The Process for Divorce Mediation

Most divorce mediation sessions will follow the general mediation process you can read about here, but there are certain aspects that are included specifically for domestic relations mediation.

Before Mediation

Before the actual mediation session, you will be asked to provide a brief summary of the issues involved in your divorce. This information will be shared with your mediator so that they have any necessary background information about your marriage, your family, and the issues that you’re hoping to get resolved in your divorce. 

During Mediation

As mentioned, there will be aspects of the mediation process specific to your domestic situation. Both you and your spouse will have equal opportunity to give a brief overview of your side of the dispute. After you’ve both had your time, the mediator will ask any questions necessary to clarify certain points and issues brought up, and then summarize both sides to confirm everyone is on the same page. 

The next step will be to discuss the issues related to your divorce that are mentioned in the section above. What’s important to remember is that in order for mediation to be successful, both sides have to be open to listening to and trying to understand your spouse’s point of view. You don’t have to agree — you are getting divorced, after all — but you do have to be open to compromise so that both parties can come to a mutually beneficial resolution. 

The length of your mediation will depend largely on how long it takes to finish the negotiations between you and your spouse. If there are issues you aren’t able to resolve in mediation, you’ll either have to agree to address them at a later date or take them to court.

Completing the Agreement

When you finish negotiations, the mediator will write up an agreement that includes all the issues resolved during the mediation. Once it’s signed by you and your spouse, it becomes a legally binding agreement. However, you do still have to file the divorce paperwork with the court — your signed agreement will be a part of the final divorce order, and the terms of that agreement are enforceable by the courts. 

Are You Ready for Divorce Mediation? 

At Conflict Resolution Services, we know that divorce is a stressful event, and our mediators are extensively trained to work with both parties to foster calm, focused conversations that get to the core of the issue. We acknowledge that every situation is unique, and we have a variety of techniques and skills that can help both sides find common ground in a non-confrontational, balanced way that gives you a foundation for your future going forward. 

When you’re ready to take the next step, contact Conflict Resolution Services at 231-941-5835 or casemanager@crsmediationtc.org.

What to Expect from the Mediation Process

When faced with a legal dispute, it can feel overwhelming to consider where to even start. The situation itself is already extremely stressful, not to mention the time and money that might have to be spent in the courts to even reach a settlement. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way thanks to the process of mediation. 

Use the mediation process to resolve your dispute.

What is mediation? 

Mediation is an alternative way to solve legal conflicts. Through the help of an impartial third person — a trained and experienced mediator — disputes can be settled outside of a courtroom and without standing in front of a judge. The mediation process is a faster and more affordable option, as mediation settles matters within an average of 45 days, compared to 18 months for those that go through the courts. Not only that, but mediation has a success rate of 70-80%.

What are the benefits of mediation?

Meditation is proactive, not reactive, in that everyone involved is working together to find a solution instead of working against each other in court. It can be done at a time that best fits your schedule, it’s completely confidential, and both sides have the opportunity to explain their own point of view — and also hear the other participant’s side. 

The mediator doesn’t act as a judge deciding who is right or wrong, but instead helps those involved draft a mutually-agreed-upon resolution that becomes a legally binding mediation agreement. Whereas one person must lose in the courts, mediation allows both parties involved to walk away with a win. 

What is the mediation process like? 

Mediation is less formal than a court trial, but there is still a distinct process led by a highly skilled Conflict Resolution Service (CRS) volunteer mediator. They use their State-approved training to guide the conversation and encourage both sides to truly hear each other and brainstorm creative solutions.

What can you expect from the CRS mediation process? 

Initiating mediation

If you’ve made the decision to pursue mediation to resolve your dispute, first call us or complete the mediation request form and provide us with some basic information. Since mediation is voluntary when not ordered by a court, both parties have to agree to the process, so we’ll reach out to the opposing party and propose it as a solution. 

If it’s a court-ordered case, both parties must participate or risk being found in contempt of court, but we still initiate the same process as above. 

Mediator introduction

When you arrive, the mediator(s) will introduce themselves and explain their role. All CRS mediators are impartial volunteers with diverse backgrounds, and have passed a certification program that includes an intense State-approved, 40- or 48-hour mediation training; observation/co-mediation time; and regular participation at in-service training sessions to ensure they’re on top of the most effective tactics and techniques. 

Explanation of the process

The mediator will then explain the goals and ground rules, including the fact that you’re there to work cooperatively toward a settlement that satisfies all parties involved. They will also explain what to expect during the process, and then review the “Agreement to Mediate” form.

Both sides have their voices heard

Each party will be given time to explain the matter being mediated and share their concerns. This is the time to let the other party know the consequences they’ve experienced due to the dispute at hand. The mediator will ensure that neither party is interrupted, gently guiding the conversation in an impartial way that ensures both sides have time to make their voices heard.

Clarifications and solutions

The mediator will then summarize and clarify the issues they hear from each party, and then encourage both sides to further define any questions or issues, meeting with each party separately if needed. At that point, everyone involved is encouraged to work together to reach a solution and resolve the dispute. 

Signing of the agreement

When an agreement is reached, the terms of the agreement will be written down and signed by all parties. The signed agreement acts as a contract that is enforceable by the courts.

Ready to resolve your dispute with mediation? 

At Conflict Resolution Services, our goal is to provide you with high-quality professional dispute resolution services. Our trained mediators work with both parties to foster calm, focused conversations that get to the core of the issue. Using a variety of techniques and tactics tailored for your situation, we help find common ground and build a foundation for continued communication.

Whether it’s a simple matter or a complex multi-party issue — civil, real estate, agricultural, family, or work — our team of mediators, arbitrators, facilitators, and trainers can provide you not only the expert services that you need, but the peace of mind that you deserve. 

Contact Conflict Resolution Services at 231-941-5835 or casemanager@crsmediationtc.org.

Want to Make a Difference in Your Community? Become a Volunteer Mediator

LANSING, MI, August 17, 2022 – Based on the growing need for—and success of—dispute resolution services across the state, the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) encourages interested individuals to apply by September 30 to become volunteer mediators through one of its 17 Community Dispute Resolution Program (CDRP) centers around Michigan, where they can help people (online and in person) navigate  a variety of disputes. Each year, nearly 30,000 Michigan citizens who might otherwise have court hearing or trial resolve their disputes through mediation services provided by these local centers, and people typically reach agreements about 80 percent of the time. Cases frequently brought to the centers involve landlord-tenant disputes, contract disputes, family and domestic relations cases, money owed, divorce, and child custody.

Volunteer community mediators are typically individuals who wish to make a difference in their community, have the time to commit to give back, and an interest in conflict resolution. They do not take sides, they do not tell people how strong or weak their case is, and they do not provide legal advice. Mediators are trained to help the parties themselves come up with a solution they can live with.

To provide services as a volunteer mediator, individuals must complete either a 40-hour General Civil Mediation (Michigan Court Rule 2.411) or 48-hour Domestic Relations Mediation (Michigan Court Rule 3.216) training approved by the State Court Administrator, observe at least two mediations conducted by an approved mediator, and conduct at least one mediation to conclusion under the supervision of an approved mediator. Each CDRP center determines its own training and volunteer needs for its service area, so anyone interested in applying should reach out to their local CDRP center for more information about their application process, training opportunities, and possible fees.

More about mediation

Mediation can be conducted in person or virtually through synchronous sessions using videoconferencing or teleconferencing, and the MI-Resolve platform which allows parties to asynchronously, 24/7, negotiate resolutions using smartphones, tablets or personal computers.  MI-Resolve is the nation’s first statewide online dispute resolution platform. A recent independent evaluation shows the effectiveness of virtual dispute resolution using Zoom and SCAO’s MI-Resolve, showing that both were effective and rated highly by users.

General benefits of mediation:

  • Mediation is flexible
  • Participants can control the outcome
  • Mediation is forward-looking
  • Mediation can preserve relationships
  • Mediation is creative
  • Mediation is confidential
  • Mediation is effective

Contact Conflict Resolution Services at 231-941-5835 or execdir@crsmediationtc.org.

Conflict Resolution Services Offers Mediation Services to Local Individuals with Disputes with Community Mental Health

Michigan Behavioral Health Mediation Services logoConflict Resolution Services (CRS) now offers local mediation services to resolve disputes related to behavioral health services provided by Community Mental Health Services Programs (CMHSP) and their contract providers. CRS has been subcontracted for services by Oakland Mediation Center who is the fiduciary of the grant.

MDHHS Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Administration and MDHHS Office of Recipient Rights have partnered with community and advocacy partners across the state of Michigan to ensure that all people receiving publicly funded behavioral health services in Michigan have access to an independent mediation process to resolve concerns about their services and treatment. CRS has been subcontracted for services by Oakland Mediation Center who is the fiduciary of the grant. CRS, based in Traverse City, will be providing services to Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Missaukee, and Wexford Counties.

“The use of mediation has a proven record of successful outcomes in resolving disputes and allows the patient to be an active participant,” said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. “It is exciting that we are able to provide mediation services to resolve complex behavioral health treatment needs in a meaningful way by bringing all parties to the table.”

All CRS volunteer mediators have a minimum of 40 hours of state training on mediation. Volunteer mediators for this program have completed an additional 6 hours of training specifically focused on behavioral health mediation.

Currently, the CMHSP system serves more than 230,000 Michigan residents and the CMHSP Customer Services and Recipient Rights Departments receive a variety of inquiries and questions related to treatment planning and behavioral health services.

CRS is one of 17 Community Dispute Resolution Centers in Michigan. The organization was formed in 1990 to promote peace and civility in the local community. Today the organization provides low- and no-cost mediation services to hundreds of individuals each year through state-trained volunteer mediators .

Clients of Community Mental Health can request a mediation by calling 1-844-3-MEDIATE or emailing at behavioralhealth@mediation-omc.org.




Michigan Community Mediation Association Launches Michigan Agricultural Mediation Program

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Community Mediation Association (MCMA) has been awarded the Michigan Agricultural Mediation Program (MAMP) by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This program offers free mediation services to Michigan farmers to resolve their disputes outside of court. Farmers’ disputes covered by this grant can range from contract issues, estate and probate complications, adverse determinations by the USDA, bankruptcy, and any other conflict they may face concerning their farm.

“Our association is honored to have been awarded this grant to provide a vital alternative to resolving disputes for our farmers,” said Gabriella Reihanian Havlicek, Executive Director of MCMA. “We will be working with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, industry stakeholders, and local leaders to ensure every farmer knows this program is available to them for free to resolve their conflicts.”

MCMA is an advocacy, not-for-profit association for the 17 Community Dispute Resolution Program (CDRP) mediation centers across the state of Michigan that are partially funded by the Michigan Supreme Court State Court Administrative Office (SCAO). MCMA’s mission is to help advocate for the 17 CDRP and educate Michigan residents on the importance of mediation and restorative practices.

“Michigan’s farmers work to feed our communities and families 24/7, 365 days a year and mediation provides an avenue for them to be an integral part of the conflict resolution process. MDARD is proud to support MCMA,” said Gary McDowell, MDARD Director. “I encourage farmers to look into mediation as a viable option for resolving conflict.”

Mediation is a confidential process where disputing parties will discuss their issues with a neutral third party, the mediator, who will help them come to a resolution.

“Farmers already have heavy issues to navigate on a daily basis,” said Kelly Turner, CEO of Potato Growers of Michigan. “Whether it’s a supply chain shortage, finding workers, or navigating continually changing weather conditions. What they don’t need is to have extra legal issues hanging over their head for years to come. Now they can contact MCMA and request a free mediation to resolve any dispute they may be facing.”

Buddy Sebastian, President of Michigan Ground Water Association, echoed these sentiments by sharing, “We at Michigan Ground Water Association are excited to be partnering with MCMA and the 17 Community Dispute Resolution Program mediation centers. The services they provide to our residents and now our farmers allow Michiganders the opportunity to resolve disputes in a free and faster way.”

The 17 CDRP mediation centers are local nonprofits that offer mediation and restorative practice services. Their volunteer mediators are trained in the use of the facilitative model. This will ensure that all participants’ voices are heard and that the disputing parties are the ones making the agreement. Not the mediators.

CDRP mediators are required to complete 40 hours of SCAO-approved General Civil training or 48 hours of SCAO-approved Domestic training, practical experience supervised by seasoned mediators, and continuing education. To mediate agricultural cases the mediators will also be required to participate in 20 additional hours of advanced training every two years.

“Our mediators are highly skilled and trained on how to best serve their community members facing conflict in a respectful, professional manner,” said Shannon Taylor, Executive Director of Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP) Conflict Resolution Program and MCMA’s Training Committee Chairwoman. “I am certain they will bring this same level of expertise to the Michigan Agricultural Mediation Program and to our farmers.”

Farmers that wish to request a mediation may contact MCMA at www.micommunitymediation.org, via email micommunitymediationassoc@gmail.com, or by calling 800-616-7863.