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It is a good idea to try to resolve or settle a dispute without going to court, as court cases take time and cost money. You can try to resolve your dispute by negotiating directly with the other party. If you need help, you could arrange for an independent person to assist you both through a process called 'mediation'. If you reach an agreement, you should put it in writing.
The information on this page is about trying to resolve your dispute before a court case has started.
If you settle (resolve) your case you will not have to go to court. Here are some benefits:
It can take months for your matter to be finalised at court. You will also have to make time to prepare for and attend court.
If you start a case at court and you lose, the court will usually order you to pay the costs of the other party. These are called 'professional costs' or 'legal costs'. Likewise, if you choose to defend a case at court and you lose, the court will usually order you to pay legal costs.
Even if you win the case and the court orders the other party to pay your costs, this might not cover all of your expenses. For example, you won't be able to claim back wages you lost because you had to attend court and couldn't work.
For more information see Legal costs.
Going to court can be stressful, especially if you don't have a lawyer to sort out the paperwork and do the talking in court. Before going to court, it is a good idea to think about the impact that a court case will have on you personally and whether it is worth the stress.
If you go to court, a magistrate or assessor will make a decision based on the evidence that is presented. The magistrate or assessor will exercise their judgment when applying the law to the facts, and weighing up the evidence. If you and the other party can reach an agreement without going to court, there is less uncertainty about what the outcome will be.
For more information about resolving your dispute, see:
If your dispute is about a home loan, personal loan, credit card or consumer lease or other type of credit from a bank or credit provider, see Resolving your dispute with the bank or credit provider.
If your dispute is about a bill with a utility provider, see Electricity, water, gas and phone bills.
If there is an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) against you, protecting the other party or anyone they have a domestic relationship with, you should get legal advice before contacting them. You may be breaching the AVO if you contact them.
The time limit to start a court case to recover a debt is six years from when the money became owed, when the last repayment was made, or when the debt was last acknowledged in writing (whichever comes last). If you are unsure, you should get legal advice.
Goods and services purchased from a business are covered by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). If you are not happy with the goods or services, or if the business has not supplied the goods or services within a reasonable time, you can make a consumer claim. For more information about consumer rights and how to lodge a complaint about a business, go to the Fair Trading NSW website.