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(10.24) What is mediation?

(10.24) What is mediation?

Mediation is the next step in the appeal process, if you disagree with the regional center’s informal meeting decision. But, both parties must agree to go to mediation.[1]§ 4707. You or the regional center can say you do not want mediation. If that happens, you will have a hearing.[2]§§ 4710.9(b); 4711.5(b). The regional center has 5 working days after it gets your written appealto say yes or no to mediation. If the regional center says no, they must immediately tell you. Many regional centers say no to mediation. If you ask for a mediation and the regional center says no, the next step is a fair hearing.

Everyone should consider mediation. Mediation is a good idea because it gives you and the regional center another chance to reach an agreement. If you think there is no hope for an agreement, you can say no. This is called waiving mediation. But, many people who think there is no hope for agreement reach an agreement in mediation.

The mediator is an independent, trained professional from the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). They meet with you and a regional center representative. If you and the regional center agree to mediation, it must take place no more than 30 days after the regional center receives your appeal request.[3]§ 4711.5(c)(2). If you choose mediation, you may have to agree to extend the deadline for the hearing and the hearing decision.

Mediators are trained to help people look at new or different solutions to an issue. They sit down with you and the regional center to try to solve your disagreement. Sometimes mediators meet separately with you and the regional center, and also meet with both of you together. Mediators do not decide. They cannot force you to do anything.

Many disputes are settled in mediation. When you go to mediation, be prepared. Understand the documents in your case. Know what your witnesses might say at your hearing. This makes it easier to decide the agreements you might want to make in mediation. Even if mediation does not work, you will have more information about the regional center’s case that can help you prepare for your fair hearing.

If you and the regional center can come to an agreement in mediation, you should cancel (withdraw) your request for a hearing. Get the “Notification of Resolution” form from the regional center. A mediation decision goes into effect 10 days after the regional center receives your Notification of Resolution.”[4]§ 4711.7(a). Click HERE for the Notification of Resolution form.

If you do not reach an agreement at mediation, any offers to settle will stay secret. They cannot be used by you or the regional center later at fair hearing.

The next step is a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).[5]§§ 4710.9(b); 4711.7(b).An ALJ is sometimes called a hearing officer. DDS contracts with the state Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to hold the hearings. OAH hires the ALJs who hold your hearing.

If you or the regional center says no to mediation, make sure you are prepared for your hearing. Your hearing may be scheduled sooner than if you go to mediation. If you need more time to prepare for hearing, you can request a continuance. A continuance is a type of motion, which must be approved by OAH.

References
1 § 4707.
2 §§ 4710.9(b); 4711.5(b).
3 § 4711.5(c)(2). If you choose mediation, you may have to agree to extend the deadline for the hearing and the hearing decision.
4 § 4711.7(a).
5 §§ 4710.9(b); 4711.7(b).