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Dispute Resolution FAQs

What is dispute resolution?

Dispute resolution generally refers to the settling of a legal disagreement outside of court. Often seen as a low-cost option, dispute resolution can potentially save time and money by removing the formalities associated with legal proceedings and by giving parties more control over the outcome. Disputing parties may come together and discuss the issue, seeking an outcome which is mutually beneficial.

What are the different types of dispute resolution processes?

Dispute resolution can be a complex process, so there are various levels at which the process can operate. These are:

  • Negotiation;
  • Mediation;
  • Facilitation;
  • Conciliation; and
  • Arbitration;

Starting with negotiation, the two parties interact directly in an attempt to find a solution. If this is unsuccessful, further steps can be taken to increase the likelihood of a resolution being found. From mediation onwards, the disputing parties have less direct control over negotiations and outcomes as independent parties become involved as mediators, facilitators, conciliators, or arbitrators.

What is mediation?

Mediation is perhaps the most common dispute resolution process, particularly for less complex matters or those which involve smaller amounts of money.

Mediation occurs when the disputing parties meet, along with a trained, accredited, and impartial mediator who conducts the discussion which ensures all key issues and potential solutions are examined. Mediation is a confidential process.

Legal representation or other supporting parties may also be present during the mediation proceedings.

How do I know which dispute resolution method is right for me?

Generally, negotiation and mediation are the first steps towards dispute resolution.

If a resolution cannot be found here, further steps may then be taken. It is important to consider your circumstances when deciding which avenues to go down, for example, is your dispute between groups or individuals? Are the two parties in clear conflict with one another? Determining these factors will assist you or your representatives in settling on an appropriate means of dispute resolution.

For example, in a situation where parties are in clear conflict and cannot come to an independent agreement, arbitration will ensure that a solution is decided by an independent party and then handed down to the disputing parties.

Do I need to have a lawyer present during the dispute resolution process?

There is often no requirement to obtain legal representation during dispute resolution proceedings. It may be beneficial to do so however, especially if the dispute is complex or has important legal implications. Some lawyers specialise in dispute resolution, and are experts in the process.

Are there specialised dispute resolution services? For example if I have a property dispute?

Yes, some dispute resolution services choose to specialise in particular areas. For example, property, workplace, and family disputes are all catered to by specialised service providers. The advantage of utilising these services is that they are often experts on the laws and available solutions affecting the area of dispute. This expertise may come in handy, especially if you do not have access to legal representation.

Do I need to take part in a formal dispute resolution process? Or can it be conducted completely independently?

Disputing parties can come to agreements independently, especially if the dispute is the result of a simple misunderstanding. Disputing parties may even conduct dispute resolution in a way as simple as organising a phone discussion between lawyers, however, this is unlikely to result in a significant agreement. Mediation, and other dispute resolution processes involving third parties, are designed to provide added steps should the parties be unable to resolve the issue independently, rather than to be the first port of call should a dispute occur.

Helpful links:

Magistrates Court of Victoria

County Court of Victoria

The Supreme Court of Victoria

Federal Court of Australia