Several University of Georgia faculty members are receiving recognition for their contribution to new rules governing the screening and mediation of cases involving issues of domestic violence in Georgia.

A working group that included Raye Rawls, senior public service faculty at the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development; Llewellyn J. Cornelius, professor in the UGA School of Social Work; and Christine Scartz, professor in the UGA School of Law, received the Moving the Work Forward Award from the Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV) during the 26th annual Family Violence Conference in September.

These UGA faculty served as part of a working group that updated the Georgia Commission on Dispute Resolution (GCDR) rules for mediating cases involving issues of domestic violence. Taking effect on Jan. 1, 2021, these rules will govern the screening process in the state’s judicial system to ensure that a case involving domestic violence issues is appropriate for mediation.

“The state had not updated these guidelines in several years and in that time, we have new research and a deeper understanding of domestic violence and how it relates to mediation,” said Rawls, who the GCDR said first approached the organization about updating the guidelines.

Since the most recent revision of the rules in 2002, research has provided insight into areas such as the different kinds of domestic violence and the effect domestic violence has on children, Rawls said. In addition, technological advancements have created new forms of domestic violence that did not exist when the state first created these guidelines.

“Domestic violence can look very different from case to case and different kinds of domestic violence require different strategies or approaches if the court deems mediation appropriate,” said Rawls. “It is important to ensure that the state uses rules that reflect that.”

Goals for the working group included updating the current guidelines to reflect and align with current research and best practices; obtaining the support of major stakeholders in the dispute resolution and domestic violence communities; conducting a comprehensive review of the mediation and dispute resolution screening process for determining the presence of domestic violence; and examining how the guidelines were being implemented on a local court program level.

“We examined academic articles, looked at steps taken by other court systems and evaluated what other mediators are doing across the country, focusing on steps that would be feasible to implement throughout Georgia,” said Rawls.

The resulting new guidelines continue to prioritize safety for all mediation participants through a stringent screening process and training to ensure the safety needs of the victims are understood in alignment with current best practices on the subject. In addition, the guidelines require training to understand the different dynamics of domestic violence to provide victims a meaningful opportunity to advocate for their desired outcome.

Following final approval of the rules, the committee also led the effort to implement the new rules, which included creating training materials on the new rules for domestic relations mediators that Rawls created. With the new guidelines in place, this committee will continue to monitor, evaluate and modify the guidelines as needed.

All of the committee’s work produced an innovative and transformative result deserving of recognition, said GCFV Chair Stephanie Woodard.

“This is an important moment for Georgians as we move towards implementing these mediation rules on January 1, 2021,” said Woodard. “Innovative ideas and collaborative leadership are essential elements to moving forward and making a positive impact on peoples’ lives throughout our state. This team of phenomenal individuals was not afraid to pick up that mantle. We are proud to present the Moving the Work Forward Award to this committee for its tireless work to safely bring mediation as an alternative to the traditional courtroom for families impacted by domestic violence.”

The Moving the Work Forward Award is presented to organizations that are innovative in their approaches and actions to ensure that all victims of domestic violence are provided the necessary resources to live free of violence in their homes.

Writer: Charlie Bauder; 706-542-7039; charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu
Contact: Raye Rawls; 706-542-8098;
rrawls@fanning.uga.edu