Today, a fast-growing number of legal disputes are resolved through Rule 31 mediation. In fact, many court districts mandate it for certain types of cases. Why?

  • Mediation is quick. Most sessions require only a few hours, and disputes can be resolved in just a few weeks, rather than months or years.
  • It’s much, much less expensive for clients.
  • It’s private. With few exceptions, the details of mediation sessions are confidential and cannot be used later in a court of law.
  • It promotes a continued relationship between the parties involved.
  • It creates opportunities to resolve disputes in cases that might not otherwise have been pursued because litigation was cost-prohibitive.




In Tennessee, under Supreme Court Rule 31, parties in a civil or domestic dispute can opt for mediation, which the court defines as “an informal process in which a neutral person conducts discussions among disputing parties designed to enable them to reach a mutually acceptable agreement among themselves on all or any part of the issues in dispute.” If an agreement is reached, its terms become legally binding on the parties.


The process must be conducted by a Rule 31-certified mediator, who is obligated to be impartial, follow a balanced process, and keep all proceedings confidential (except where disclosure is required by law).


At the end of the process, the mediator simply files a report with the court stating the names of the parties and whether the dispute was resolved.


Three Misconceptions about Mediation


1. “It’s only for big cases.”

Reality:  Mediation is particularly suited to cases in which the amounts in dispute often make the time and expense of litigation cost-prohibitive.


2. “It’s like kissing your sister.”

Reality: Mediation typically involves a degree of compromise. That doesn’t mean the result is a virtual tie, or that each side walks away less than satisfied.


3. “It’s for divorce settlements.”

Reality: Rule 31 mediation can help resolve a wide range of cases, from collection issues to landlord-tenant disputes to employment litigation.