Who Pays for Small Claims Mediation? - ADR State Links | NCSC.org


State Links


In Alabama, nine counties have free mediation programs in their small-claims courts. Mediators volunteer, but each program has a paid coordinator. Some programs are funded by the Supreme Court Commission on Dispute Resolution; others are funded through a grant from the Soros Foundation. The Administrative Office of Courts uses citizen volunteers. The Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution Commission programs use volunteer lawyers.

There was one community mediation center in Montgomery; it folded at the end of 2002 for lack of funding.

Judith M. Keegan Esq., Director
Alabama Center for Dispute Resolution
415 Dexter Avenue
P.O. Box 671
Montgomery, AL 36101
(334) 269-1515, ext. 11
(334) 261-6310 fax


In Anchorage, a group of volunteer mediators shows up in court a few mornings each week to mediate any case the parties wish. It is voluntary. The judge explains this option to the parties at the beginning of court. Although many of the mediators belong to different ADR organizations, there is no particular sponsoring organization.

For more information, please contact:

Rick Barrier
(907) 250-5698

Karen Largent
Dispute Resolution Coordinator
Alaska Court System
820 W. 4th Street, Room 223
Anchorage, AK  99501
(907) 264-8236
(907) 264-8291 fax


The mediation program for small claims is administered by the justice courts. The program is free for clients and uses volunteer mediators. Funding for administration comes from court funding and a small grant fund provided by the Arizona Supreme Court AOC.

For more information, please contact:

Serena Hagevik
ADR Director
Superior Court of Arizona
201 W. Jefferson, CCB5
Phoenix, AZ  85003
(602) 506-0199


The Dispute Resolution Center provides mediation services for most small-claims courts in Riverside County. The center also provides mediation services for the superior courts as requested. Mediators are in several courts during the week. There is no charge to individuals who choose this service. However, the center does receive a small amount of money from the county's court dispute resolution funding.

For more information, please contact:

Dana Lofton, Program Manager
Department of Community Action
Dispute Resolution Center
County of Riverside
(909) 955-4903


The Jefferson County Mediation Services program mediates cases as a service to the courts and the community. The program serves as a steady, reliable supply of cases for the mediators who wish to work in the county, allowing them to obtain experience. There are no funds available for community mediation programs in Colorado from the courts or the public. The courts retain the filing fees.

Mark Loye, Director
700 Jefferson County Parkway., Suite 220
Golden, CO 80401


Mediation services are funded mostly by the county at this time. A constitutional amendment will go into effect July 1, 2004, requiring the state to cover the costs of all the essential elements of the courts. Currently, mediation is considered an essential element, so things might change radically over the next eighteen months.

A statutory provision allows each board of county commissioners to adopt an additional filing fee to support mediation and arbitration programs. If they adopt this fee, $1 of each is sent to the state to support the state office of dispute resolution. In addition, the family mediation programs typically offer mediation services on a sliding scale, generating some fees from service delivery.

Small-claims mediators are paid a small stipend by the county in some jurisdictions and serve as volunteers as others. In no circumstances do parties pay for small-claims mediation.


By statute, Georgia state courts may charge a  maximum fee of $7.50 in all civil cases to support ADR programs.

In Dekalb County, mediation is free to the parties.


The community mediation centers who handle the small-claims cases in Hawaii are partially funded by the state judiciary and partially by private funding. The mediators are volunteers. For more information, please contact:

Pam Martin
Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution
State of Hawaii Judiciary
417 S. King St., Room 207
Honolulu, HI  96813


Fourth Judicial District Court- Ada County Court

    The Ada County Court has a Small Claims Mediation Program that began in 1997 in response to the increasing number of cases. All mediators are professionally trained volunteers, but parties still may have fees associated with their case.



The Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) in Chicago provides mediation services in a variety of cases.

In 1987 the Chicago Bar Association lobbied for the passage of the Illinois Not For Profit Dispute Resolution Act (710 LCS 10/1-20/6). The act created a dispute resolution fund to be disbursed annually to qualified dispute resolution centers in Illinois. The fund is supported by a $1 charge to parties filing civil actions. The purpose is to provide an annual source of funding for not-for-profit corporations providing free mediation services in each judicial circuit. The chief justice of each circuit enters an order annually distributing the funds. For the past several years, CCR has received $200,000 annually.

As a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), CCR receives additional funding through a combination of individual and corporate donations, foundation and government grants, training fees, and contracts with institutions and government agencies.

Julia C. Langfelder
Director of Marketing and Development
Center for Conflict Resolution
11 E. Adams, Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 922-6464, ext. 11


Parties pay a filing fee/surcharge for every small-claims case filed. Mediators invoice court; courts pay them.


Maryland’s certified court mediators can fulfill their pro bono requirements by mediating cases (including small claims) from the district court. Cases often proceed through community mediation centers. Thus, there is no shortage of qualified mediators, and mediation is free for the parties.


Several mediation programs in Minnesota provide on-site mediation services in small-claims court. Three receive funding from the court and one from the county. However, the change to statewide funding of the court system may affect this funding scheme.

For more information, please contact:

Beth Bailey-Allen, Executive Director
Community Mediation Services, Inc.
9220 Bass Lake Road, Suite 270
New Hope, MN  55428
(763) 561-0033

Washington County uses volunteer mediators. A court employee is the program coordinator so there is no extra payment to an outside vendor.

Ramsey County uses services from the Dispute Resolution Center, and they are also paid by the county to provide and coordinate volunteers. For more information, please contact:

Jessica Kuchta-Miller
Director of Mediation Services
Dispute Resolution Center
974 W. 7th Street
St. Paul, MN  55102
(651) 292-7791


Hennepin County pays nonprofit community mediation centers to provide volunteers. For more information, please contact Michele Moore at (612) 822-9883.


Clark County Courts- North Las Vegas

    The North Las Vegas Justice Court is testing a program that would require mediation in small claims cases. The free service is made possible by volunteer mediators and staff of the Clark County Courts Neighborhood Justice Center.

New Hampshire

Cheshire Mediation mediates a few small-claims cases a year without funding. The court sends a letter to both parties that tells them about mediation and the Cheshire program and invites them to participate. Thus, Cheshire Mediation receives publicity/marketing in exchange for mediating the cases. There are not many cases. Cheshire Mediation also obtains work for its volunteer mediators. If the caseload were to grow further funding would be needed.

For more information, please contact:

Greg Hessel
Director, Cheshire Mediation
181 Washington Street
Keene, NH  03431
(603) 357-6873

North Carolina

The Mediated Settlement Conference Program is designed as a "party pay" program in that parties, rather than courts or taxpayers, compensate the mediator or other neutral. Because they are responsible for paying the fees, parties select their neutral. Parties ordered to or electing to pursue mediated settlement may choose a mediator certified by the Dispute Resolution Commission, or they may nominate a noncertified mediator. If parties cannot agree or take no action to select a mediator, the senior resident superior court judge will appoint a certified mediator. The mediator is responsible for scheduling and finding a location for the conference. Conferences are normally held in the courthouse, the office of the mediator, or the office on one of the attorneys involved in the case.

Leslie Ratliff
Executive Secretary
State of North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission
P.O. Box 2448
Raleigh, NC  27602
(919) 981-5077
(919) 981-5048 fax


Hamilton County Municipal Court includes small-claims ADR funding as a line item. Contact is Cathy Kuhl (513) 946-3400.

In Mahoning County, Ohio (Youngstown), both the municipal and county (small-claims) courts have a referral relationship with Mahoning Valley Dispute Resolution Services, a local nonprofit. They receive private support as well as grant funding from the state. The small-claims courts contribute funds to the agency that are used for local match on their state grants. In the county courts that money is derived from a nominal filing fee designated for mediation ($1-$2) on all civil and criminal cases. The annual amount is set based upon the need for local match, and not the number of mediation referrals. So the courts are not paying on a per-mediation basis (and get a better deal the more referrals they make). The agency also asks participants to contribute on a sliding fee scale, basing their invoice on ability to pay. Most court referrals are free.


Robert Rupeka, Administrator
Mahoning County Common Pleas Court

In Perry County the court collects filing fees from all cases and forwards the money to the Main Street Mediation Center. For more information, please contact:

Patti Smith
Mediation Coordinator
Main Street Mediation Center
120 West Brown Street
New Lexington, OH  43764
(740) 342-1905

Dayton Mediation Center
Tom Walrab
(937) 333-2345

Cleveland Mediation Center
Dan Joyce
(216) 621-1919, ext. 104


The Oklahoma legislature created a dispute resolution system revolving fund composed of monies from a $2.00 fee applied to all civil cases and a $5.00 fee from each party involved in mediation. This is used to support community-level mediation programs.

Sue Darst Tate
Alternative Dispute Resolution System of Oklahoma
Administrative Office of the Courts
1915 North Stiles, Suite 305
Oklahoma City, OK  73105
(405) 521-2450
(405) 521-6815 fax


Oregon uses several models, each developed locally based on available resources and need.

Several of the larger courts have in-house, volunteer, small-claims mediation programs staffed by court employees. The court hires a staff person to coordinate the program, and administrative costs come out of their local operating budget. Most mediations are done by volunteers; some are done by court staff as part of the coordination role.

Courts have developed relationships with local community dispute resolution programs (CDRPs). CDRPs are not-for-profit organizations that receive funding through court-filing fees, grants, fees for services, and other sources. They handle neighborhood and other disputes using volunteer mediators.

Some courts have entered into contracts and pay fees to their local CDRPs for services out of their general operating budget. Contracts vary from place to place and are based on “mediation service availability” and the average number of hours a coordinator will be available. (For example, $910/month for the program to provide mediation service availability in 16 cases per week with the coordinator providing an average of approximately 10 to 12 hours of services per week. Or $1,000/quarter for the program to provide mediation service availability for six cases on the first and third Fridays of each month with the coordinator providing an average of 20 hours of services per month.) In other places, the CDRP provides free small-claims mediation to the courts and supports this work through other funding.

Contact for information:

Erin Ruff
Mediation Coordinator
Oregon Judicial Department
1163 State Street
Salem, OR 97301-2563
(503) 986.4539
(503) 986.6419 fax


There are two community mediation centers in Utah that provide small-claims mediation in the courts.  They are Utah Dispute Resolution (coordinator, Russ Osguthorpe) and the Community Mediation Center (coordinator, Jeri Alphin).

In Utah, neither mediators nor community mediation centers receive funding from the state.

Because all cases that would be referred by the court for mediation are under the court’s jurisdiction, the court keeps the filing fees. Several programs in the state use volunteer mediators, including small claims, victim-offender, landlord-tenant, and truancy.

Nini Rich
Director of ADR
Administrative Office of the Courts
P.O. Box 140241
Salt Lake City, UT  84114-0241
(801) 578-3984
(801) 578-3843


The Virginia General Assembly allocates $750,000 annually to support mediation services in the courts. Each spring, all certified mediators and community mediation centers may submit a proposal to provide mediation services to the courts. The proposals are evaluated and selected by the Virginia Supreme Court’s Department of Dispute Resolution Services.

Almost all of the community mediation centers in the commonwealth apply for such a contract. These contracts allow centers to handle a certain number of cases, 100, for example, and pay them $90 per small-claims case. At the end of each court-referred mediation, the center bills the Department of Dispute Resolution Services. For the last two years, the department has also funded dispute resolution coordinator contracts for screening/coordination services in the courts. Many centers have a coordinator contract for the courts they serve. This helps offset the cost of court-sitting and case management in small-claims cases.

Many centers also charge a sliding scale fee. They may not charge a fee in cases they handle pursuant to contracts with the Department of Dispute Resolution Services. Many center mediators are volunteers. They often receive a stipend from the center.

Geetha Ravindra
Director, Department of Dispute Resolution Services
Supreme Court of Virginia
Department of Dispute Resolution Services
Office of the Executive Secretary
100 N. Ninth Street, Third Floor
Richmond, VA 23219
(804) 786-6455


An additional penalty is levied by local jurisdictions. The fee (up to $15) goes directly to the ADR provider.


Eau Claire has a nonprofit organization called TRY Mediation (TRY). TRY uses trained volunteer mediators to handle the initial step of the small-claims process. The county provides partial funding for TRY; the remainder comes from United Way, grants, and donations.

Local court rules make mediation mandatory for small-claims case in the county. The settlement rate for mediated agreements is about 62 percent. If parties do not reach agreement, the court commissioner hears the case. For more information, see TRY’s Web site.