Appropriate Dispute Resolution for New York County Surrogate’s Court

Statement of Policy

It is the policy of the Unified Court System to encourage the resolution of civil legal disputes by methods including mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation, in-court settlement practices, and summary jury trials. All actions or proceedings heard in Surrogate’s Court, shall be presumptively eligible for early referral to an alternative dispute resolution process unless otherwise excluded. The Court may refer parties to an ADR process at any time after an action has been commenced and are encouraged to do so at the earliest appropriate opportunity.



ADR Contact Information

To be updated soon


Call for Mediators

New York County Surrogate’s Court serves a wide variety of litigants, including persons of varying age, race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, religion, socioeconomic and family status. The Court’s Mediation Programs recognize that neutrals with a wide variety of cultural and life experiences enrich the alternate dispute resolution process by bringing diverse perspectives to resolving disputes. To accomplish these goals, it is important that the New York Surrogate’s Mediation Program Rosters attract and retain neutrals who represent a range of personal and professional backgrounds who can, thereby, better serve and instill confidence in participants in the ADR process. To that end, qualified applicants of all diverse backgrounds and experiences are encouraged to apply for admission to the Mediation Rosters in New York Surrogate’s Court.

Universal Application Form


Mediator Requirements

Each Surrogate shall establish, and the ADR Program Contact shall maintain, a roster of trained mediators ("The Roster") for the Program which shall be available on the Court website. To be eligible to join the Roster as a Mediator, a person shall satisfy the training and experience requirements of Part 146 of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge as follows:

All Court Roster Mediators shall have received at least 24 hours of basic mediation training, as well as 16 hours of additional training in the specific mediation techniques applicable to Surrogate’s Court matters. In addition, all Court Roster Mediators shall have recent experience mediating actual cases in the area of Trusts and Estates and Surrogate’s Court matters. Mediation experience can be achieved by: a) mediating at least three (3) Court cases in a New York State, or b) completing a court Mediation Apprenticeship.

A Court Mediation Apprenticeship shall include observing at least one (1) mediation, regardless of case type; Co-mediating three (3) Court cases in the subject area of the types of cases to be referred to them and debriefing all observations and mediations with a court roster mediator or ADR Program Contact; and evaluation by a court roster mediator or ADR Program Contact

All Court Roster Mediators must attend six hours of approved Continuing Education relevant to mediating in their respective practice areas every two years.

Fulfillment of these requirements does not guarantee acceptance onto the Roster. Final placement on a Roster or continuation on a Roster is in the discretion of the District Administrative Judge under Part 146 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator.



New York Surrogate Nora Anderson ADR Rules

New York Surrogate Rita Mella ADR Rules

Community Dispute Resolution Centers



Frequently Asked Questions

New York Surrogate Nora Anderson Roster of Mediators

New York Surrogate Rita Mella Roster of Mediators


ADR Referrals

If the matter is referred to mediation, the Court will issue an Order of Reference or Referral (“the Order”). Depending on the referral, it may be up to the parties to select one of the following services for mediation including: Roster Mediator, Community Dispute Resolution Center, Judicial Hearing Officer, or Private Mediator. As an initial guidepost, mediation shall be completed within 60 days of the first session of mediation.  If the matter is not resolved in mediation, the parties shall proceed with discovery, but may be subject to further referral to mediation. During the mediation process, the Court may continue appearances of the matter before the Surrogate, Law Clerks, Court Attorneys, Court Attorney Referees or Judicial Hearing Officer, and discovery may continue at the discretion of the Court. 


Community Dispute Resolution Centers

You may seek the services of a Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC), which offers free mediation.  In New York County, the CDRC conducts mediations virtually. 

More information and a link to your local CDRC


Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): ADR stands for alternative dispute resolution – a variety of processes that help parties resolve their dispute without a trial. ADR may also refer to appropriate dispute resolution, referring to a number of processes that can be used to resolve a conflict, dispute, or claim.

Arbitration: Arbitration is a process where disputing parties agree that one or several individuals --- the arbitrators --- can make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments.

Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC): The New York State Unified Court System partners with local non-profit organizations known as CDRC’s to provide mediation, arbitration, and other dispute resolution options as an alternative to court. CDRC’s help litigants resolve a wide range of family and matrimonial courts disputes involving parents and children as well as child custody and visitation issues, and a wide variety of Surrogate’s matters.

Mediation: Mediation refers to a confidential dispute resolution process in which a neutral third-party --- the mediator -- helps parties identify issues, clarify perceptions, and explore options for a mutually acceptable outcome.

Mediator: A trained third-party neutral. The Mediator is not a decision maker. The Mediator serves as a neutral facilitator of communication and helps the litigants reach resolution of the issue(s) being mediated.

Part: A part shall mean any branch of court so designated by Administrative Rule or any Supreme Court IAS Justice, Acting Justice, Family Court Judge, Surrogate Judge or Judicial Hearing Officer presiding over the matter assigned.

Presumptive ADR: In a presumptive Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) referral model, parties are referred early on to utilize some form of ADR such as arbitration, mediation, neutral evaluation, settlement conferencing or a special masters.

Neutral Evaluation: Neutral evaluation is an ADR process where the case is referred to an expert, usually an attorney, who is asked to provide a balanced and unbiased evaluation of the dispute.

Settlement Conference: Settlement conferences are similar to mediation in that a third-party neutral assists the parties in exploring settlement; however, these conferences are usually conducted by a judge or court staff and generally focus on the attorneys and their legal arguments.

Summary Jury Trials: A summary jury trial is a one-day trial in which attorneys for each party present a shortened version of the case in a real courtroom before a jury.



Mediation Fee Agreement

Mediation Order of Reference

Mediation Opt-Out Form/Court Order

Mediation Participant Statement of Understanding

Mediation Selection form

Post Mediation Survey

Report of Mediator Form


Frequently Asked Questions

Right to Counsel/Right to Assigned Counsel (where applicable): Parties have a right to have an attorney present with them during mediation. Attorneys are strongly encouraged to prepare clients for mediation sessions and assist with drafting agreements. Parties do not need to agree to anything in mediation without first speaking with an attorney.

Who Can attend? When parties have lawyers, some forms of ADR might involve only the lawyers. If the people involved in the case wish to participate in ADR or the court asks them to take part, they will always be allowed to bring their lawyer.

People can always ask to stop the ADR session so they have time to talk to a lawyer or have a lawyer assigned.

ADR can be very flexible and customized. So as long as everyone agrees, there are many ways that other people, who are not parties in the case or the lawyers could also be invited to join in an ADR session.

When will I get referred to a Presumptive ADR session? Parties may be referred at any time to ADR but one of the goals of the Presumptive ADR Program is to refer cases earlier rather than later in order to limit financial and emotional costs of litigation.  This might mean that your case could be referred to some type of ADR at the preliminary conference or before extensive discovery takes place. Each court makes this determination based on the case type and the resources available.

What notice will I receive? This Court will notify parties that they are to attend an ADR session by a written order.

Whom do I contact to confirm when and where to appear or with questions? Parties should refer to the Referral Order; or contact the assigned/appointed mediator; their attorney, if any; or the Judge, of her staff, that referred the matter to mediation.

How Is Language Access for those who do not feel comfortable working in English handled? Parties or their attorney, should notify the Court referring the matter to mediation, or notify the mediator. Parties may retain a private interpreter or use a service e.g. Language Line (; (800) 752-6096).

Are there exceptions to participation in Mediation? ADR Generally? Yes. Exceptions are made at the Surrogate’s sole discretion.

COST? That depends on the issues and on you and the other parties. Mediators on the Court Roster have agreed to provide the first 120 minutes of mediation free of charge. Some mediation providers may offer additional, free mediation services to qualifying families, others may offer a sliding fee scale. Community Dispute Resolution Centers may charge a nominal (small) administrative fee but are, in many instances, free of charge.

Who is delivering the service: Judges, Court Attorney Referees, Judicial Hearing Officers, Law Clerks, Court Attorneys, private attorneys, roster members and CDRCs.


Roster of Mediators

Parties and/or Attorneys may select a mediator from those included on the New York County Surrogate’s Roster.  

Statewide Mediator Directory



Surrogate Mella’s Mediation Rules

Surrogate Anderson’s Mediation Rules