Dispute resolution program marks 10 years (TX)

Today marks 10 years of a legal service offered in Denton County that not many resident know is out there to help them.

The Denton Alternative Dispute Resolution program offers the help of volunteer mediators to resolve cases, such as family law and probate and other civil matters, keeping the courts from clogging up and helping residents who may not have the funds to pay for expensive legal help.

“It gives [citizens] a place they can try to resolve their legal issues at a very low cost,” said Dan Coffey, one of the many attorneys who give their time to program.

The cost for mediation varies due to an income based sliding scale.

“For [possibly] $150 you get the benefit of a licensed attorney to be the mediator,” Coffey said. “I think the average hourly rate of an attorney has to be $200 an hour and most of the time it takes all day long to get it resolved.”

The program covers cases involving civil disputes such as personal injury or car accidents, family law cases, divorce, child custody and occasionally probate cases involving contested wills. The majority of the cases are civil and family law.

The problem, Coffey said, is many people in the county don’t know about it.

“I don’t know what medium, but someone needs to figure out how to market the services to a larger population,” he said. “Because, really, only the lawyers know about it because we’re ordered to go.”

Coffey said with more and more people filing their own suits due to encouragement and confidence gained from the Internet, there are more people out there who can take advantage of the program.

“If they knew beforehand and filed their lawsuit, then went to mediation, it would be good for everybody,” he said. “The parties, if they settle, say ‘thanks’ and they are done. All the mediator gets out of it is the satisfaction of doing something nice for the community, and for younger lawyers, it’s good for them as a learning experience.”

Cases often end up for mediation at the order of the judge who would be presiding over the trial case, with the primary cases being ones where the disputed amount is less than $100,000, said Amie Peace, president of the Denton County Bar Association.

Since the dispute resolution’s inception, Denton County lawyers have volunteered thousands of hours, mediating about 265 cases annually. Over 80 percent of the cases submitted settle and avoid trial in court. The program is funded in part by Denton County and by a fee charged with every lawsuit filed in Denton County.

Peace said volunteer mediators and other officials will celebrate the 10-year mark today with a ceremony this evening to recognize the board and unveil the remodeled office.

For further information on the program, contact Amie Peace at 940-591-6006 or Dave Bouschor at 940-323-1300.

Attribution:

Dispute resolution program marks 10 years
Bj Lewis
September 25, 2014
Denton Record-Chronicle
http://www.dentonrc.com/local-news/local-news-headlines/20140925-dispute-resolution-program-marks-10-years.ece

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