FAQ

What is Early Settlement?

Early Settlement is a court-sponsored alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program that is sponsored by the State of Oklahoma Supreme Court with the help of various local sponsors including county commissioners, career technology centers, municipalities and universities. Early Settlement offers mediation, conciliation, settlement conferences and facilitation services.

How does it work?

A party may file a complaint for mediation by contacting one of the twelve (12) program offices that serves the area where the dispute has occurred. To file, all that is needed is the other party’s name, address and telephone number. Since mediation is voluntary, both parties would have to agree before a session would be scheduled.

The program office would then contact the other party to see if they are willing to mediate the dispute. If they agree, a $5 processing charge (this fee is waived if the case has been filed in district court) from each party is required.

Confirmation notices will be sent out to both parties informing them of when and where the mediation will be held. A neutral, third party mediator is then assigned. Early Settlement mediators are trained to facilitate a discussion of the issues in a non-blaming way in order to assist the parties to come up with alternatives as to how they want to proceed in resolving the situation.

Upon reaching resolution, the mediator(s) will work(s) with the parties to draft their written agreement. In civil cases, each party signs and receives a copy. In family and divorce cases, the agreements are recorded by the mediators in what is called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Each party receives a copy that may be taken to his/her attorney for review and put into the proper format for court presentation.

Are all seventy-seven (77) counties served by Early Settlement programs? How do I find out which program serves my county?

Yes, the program serves all seventy-seven (77) counties. Please refer to the program directory for a listing of all of the Early Settlement programs and the counties each program serves.

How can I become an Early Settlement mediator?

Early Settlement mediators are volunteers from communities throughout Oklahoma who serve their community and the court system. If you are interested in volunteering, locate the program serving the area where you live or work and contact the program director about what steps you will need to follow in order to become a program volunteer.

I am already a mediator because I have had training in another state prior to moving to Oklahoma. Can the Supreme Court’s training be waived?

No.

For quality and consistency purposes, attending the Supreme Court’s training is mandatory prior to placement as an Early Settlement volunteer mediator. Although frequently training obtained elsewhere is of good quality, for definitional purposes and ease in working with co-mediators, all Early Settlement volunteer mediators are required to attend the Supreme Court’s Civil (or Basic) Mediation training.

What is the advantage to becoming an Early Settlement mediator?

Learning in a mentored environment while working with experienced mediators is an important advantage. In addition, Early Settlement mediators frequently express their feelings of heartfelt gratitude in wanting to give back to the community that has given them so much.

How do I achieve certification?

If you are an Early Settlement volunteer, under the Oklahoma Dispute Resolution Act, your program director will work with you to set up mediations for you to observe and ultimately for you to be observed while mediating so that you may complete the certification requirements which is a must before you are allowed to mediate alone with the public.

If you are not an Early Settlement volunteer mediator, you may self-certify under either the District Court Mediation Act or the Choice in Mediation Act by following their guidelines as to what kinds of training are appropriate and how much is required.

Does the certification through the Supreme Court last indefinitely?

No, when an Early Settlement volunteer mediator achieves the initial certification, it is good for one year. After that, the basic certification is renewable annually upon completion of a minimum of ten (10) hours of satisfactory annual service as a volunteer for the program and family certification is renewable upon completion of a minimum of forty (40) hours of annual service as volunteer for the program.

If I am unable to commit to volunteering, what training should I get?

There are many professional trainers offering mediation training in the market place. The Oklahoma Bar Association offers mediation training. It is always wise to ask for references and to informally talk to others in the field, locally as well as nationally to explore biases, contexts and reputations.

How much should I expect to pay for training?

Early Settlement volunteer mediators are trained at no charge provided they follow through with their volunteer commitment. Private training varies according to trainers and the (number of days) and hours of training provided.

Is it possible to mediate for fun and profit?

Yes. If you are an entrepreneurial individual and you wish to market your services effectively, you can create a business mediating cases.