OFFICE OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION   

The Fourth Judicial District Office of Dispute Resolution is a court-associated alternative dispute resolution program providing experienced, quality services to parties engaged in litigation. The office is affiliated with the state Office of Dispute Resolution in Denver but is also independently responsible for designing programs and contracting with mediators that fit the specific needs and have the confidence of the local courts. The office was created to serve the judiciary and the citizens of El Paso and Teller County but is also a resource to other agencies and courts in the district. The office receives its authority from the Colorado legislature through The Dispute Resolution Act, 13-22301,et seq, Colorado Revised Statutes.

The Office of Dispute Resolution ("The Mediation Office" or "ODR") is a full service provider offering mediation, med-arb, arbitration, settlement conferences and family conferences by seasoned mediators and arbiters. The mediators and arbiters have many years of experience and training and handle complex county and district civil, divorce, dependency and neglect (juvenile), child custody cases on a routine basis. Recently the ODR has begun conducting mediations on probate cases and some criminal cases. For several years the office has handled a special program managed by a senior district judge dealing with pre-trial discovery disputes in complex civil cases. Additional pilot projects are being formulated to take advantage of the experience and wisdom of other senior judges in the criminal arena.

The ODR is located in a new suite of offices and conference rooms in the basement of the El Paso County Judicial Building with a satellite office in the Teller County Courthouse in Cripple Creek. The office schedules mediations throughout the workday and has the capability to set cases at night and on some Saturdays by special appointment.

MEDIATION is the most frequently used form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Mediation is a voluntary, confidential, structured communications process conducted by a trained and neutral person. It is a very successful problem solving process where the parties control the outcome and the decision making before actually turning that responsibility over to the court. It is very satisfactory to the parties who are able to avoid the emotional and financial expense of protracted litigation. Studies have shown that mediation is particularly helpful in family cases whether they are juvenile, probate, or divorce and child custody or parenting time matters. Many parties are able to achieve full or partial settlements through the mediation process. There is also evidence that the process reduces the workload on the courts and saves the parties attorney fees and costs even when their case has to be tried.

MED- ARB (Mediation / Arbitration) begins a similar process to regular mediation. However, the parties, prior to the meeting starting, agree in writing that the neutral mediator will also be able to decide the case finally at the end of the session. If the parties cannot agree then they leave it up to the mediator to become the decision maker. The Med/Arb form of ADR is used by many people who want to attempt to make the decisions themselves but also want the comfort of being done with the matter quickly if they are unable to reach a settlement The mediator simply becomes the Arbitrator and issues a binding decision in writing shortly after the conclusion of the meeting. The parties are able to present their respective cases to a neutral, trained professional but do not have to wait for crowded court dockets.

ARBITRATION is a process more people are familiar with because in many ways it mirrors the activities of attorneys and judges in the courtroom Lawyers present evidence, examine witnesses, make arguments and hold much the same role as they do in the courtroom. Instead of a judge an Arbiter makes the decision, which is binding and subject to very limited appellate rights. The Arbiter is usually a lawyer with experience and training in the area of the dispute. The advantage to the parties usually involves the speedy resolution of the case by an experienced professional avoiding the over-loaded court system.

FAMILY CONFERENCING is a dispute resolution meeting conducted by a highly trained and experienced neutral where many members of a family and other persons interested in the welfare of a child are brought together to work out a plan for the child's residence, schooling, parenting and grand parent visitation. It usually involves parents, grandparents, foster parents, social workers, lawyers and others who are interested in the welfare of the child.

CRIMINAL MEDIATION is a pilot project handled by a senior district judge assigned to ODR on a part-time basis. The principles of mediation are similar but the applicable Constitutional protections are also honored.

PRE- TRIAL DISCOVERY DISPUTE RESOLUTION is another program handled by a senior district judge. In civil cases parties can request that discovery disputes be referred to the senior judge for early resolution with the accompanying cost time savings.

State of Colorado
4th Judicial District
Office of Dispute Resolution
Located in the El Paso County Judicial Building
270 South Tejon, Suite B23
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Phone: 719-452-5005
FAX: 719-452-5046

 

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