Seals of the Court of Appeals and Superior Court
District of Columbia Courts

Small Claims

Mediation in Small Claims

  • The Small Claims Mediation Program helps people in Small Claims cases see if they can reach a settlement agreeable to all participants and avoid the need for a trial.
  • Mediators do not take sides. Their job is to help the participants reach an agreement that is mutually acceptable.
  • Mediation sessions are confidential.
  • Mediation sessions generally can last up to 2 hours.
How do I participate in Small Claims mediation?

The court will refer your case to mediation on the day of your court date. All mediations are being held remotely unless an in-person mediation is requested and agreed to by the participants. You do not need an attorney to participate in small claims mediation.

How should I prepare for mediation?

Your case manager will send you an email 7 to 10 business days before your mediation date. The email will include information about the remote mediation process and instructions on how to participate. You will also get the link to join the virtual mediation and the contact information of your mediator and case manager.

Can I request an in-person mediation?

You may ask for an in-person mediation. All participants must agree to an in-person mediation. To make a request you must submit an Application to Appear In Person within 24 hours of receiving the mediation scheduling email sent by your case manager. The case manager will follow up with the requesting party(s) within 24 hours of the request.

Are mediations confidential?

Yes, mediation is confidential. However, credible threats of violence and reports of abuse to children or elders are an exception to this rule.

What happens if an agreement is reached in mediation?

Agreements reached in mediation will be approved by the Mediation Supervisor and entered into the Court record. All participants will receive a copy of the agreement.

What happens if the other side doesn’t follow the agreement terms?

If one side does not follow the terms of the agreement, the court will enforce the written agreement when it is notified that a participant is not following the terms.

What happens when an agreement is not reached in mediation?

If no agreement is reached, you will go before the judge for the next step in your case, which could be a hearing on a motion, judicial arbitration or a trial. More information about arbitration is below.

What are my options if no agreement is reached in mediation?

If you are unable to reach an agreement, you will be offered the option to seek either a trial or judicial arbitration. The judge serves as the judicial arbitrator, if you elect judicial arbitration. Participants may wish to consider the following information, when deciding to elect trial or judicial arbitration:


  • The Rules of Evidence are strictly followed.
  • Trial requires more time—up to twice as long as arbitration.
  • The judge makes a decision (called a verdict).
  • A judgment is entered against one or more party.
  • The verdict is appealable.

Judicial Arbitration:

  • The judicial arbitrator is not bound by the Rules of Evidence.
  • Arbitration is less time-consuming than trial.
  • An award is decided by the judicial arbitrator. The parties determine how the award will be satisfied; in other words, the parties will decide on a payment plan.
  • No judgment is entered in the court record. Instead, an award is decided by the arbitrator.
  • The arbitrator’s decision is final and cannot be appealed.
  • A judgment can be obtained later if a party breaches the plan to honor the award.
  • Both parties must agree to this option. If one party does not agree to judicial arbitration, the case will proceed to trial. Parties cannot withdraw from arbitration once it begins.


Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division

Court Building C
410 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

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Hours of Operation

8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Mediation Hours

9.00a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Telephone Numbers

General Information:
(202) 879-1549