Thousands of people in New South Wales use alternatives to court every year to resolve all kinds of legal disputes, ranging from small debts or neighbour disagreements to large commercial matters.
These methods are called alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The information in this section will help you find out more about ADR and whether it might be suitable for your dispute.
The information on this page is about resolving civil disputes not criminal matters.
What is alternative dispute resolution?
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a term used to describe a variety of different processes in which an impartial practitioner helps people to resolve their disputes. The word 'alternative' is usually understood to mean that these processes are an alternative to having a decision made by a judge or magistrate in court.
There are many different kinds of ADR to choose from, including:
Why not let the court or tribunal decide for you?
ADR can be a better option because it can be quicker, cheaper, more flexible, less stressful and more confidential. It can also help preserve business or personal relationships between the people involved in the dispute. Most people who have tried ADR in appropriate circumstances report high rates of success and satisfaction.
Many people assume that if they start a case in court, it will automatically go through to a final hearing to be decided by a judge. This is not true. In fact, only three to five per cent of civil cases go to a final hearing. The vast majority of disputes are resolved through negotiation or ADR. In many cases, the court or tribunal may require you to try ADR before you can take your claim further.
When can you use ADR?
You can try ADR at any time during the dispute, including before you start a legal case, while a case is going on or even after a court or tribunal has made a decision. For more information see ADR before, during or after court. Many contracts also require people to use ADR rather than court processes as a first step if any disputes about the contract arise.
What is the New South Wales Government's view on ADR?
In NSW 2021: A Plan to Make NSW Number One, the NSW Government committed to increasing awareness and use of ADR and Community Justice Centers to resolve disputes.