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What is conciliation

Conciliation is a way to resolve a legal dispute without going to trial. A neutral third party, often a judge, may provide suggestions and develop proposals to help you and the other party come to an agreement. You and the other party may:

  • Seek guidance from the judge.
  • Tap the judge's experience and knowledge to help you and the other party come to a mutually agreeable settlement.

You and the other party can decide how to come to an agreement based on the judge's suggestions.

Note
You and the other party must attend conciliation in person. Businesses should send a representative who has enough knowledge of the facts of the case and the authority to settle it.

When it applies

Any party in the dispute may request conciliation at any stage of the proceedings. However, all parties must agree to use conciliation to resolve the dispute.

A judge in the proceedings may also refer your case for conciliation at any time during any proceedings.

When it is appropriate

Conciliation can be helpful if any of the following applies to your case:

  • You and the other party have tried and failed to suggest proposals to resolve the dispute.
  • You and the other party have tried mediation without a positive outcome.
  • One or more parties are not legally represented.

How it compares

Understand the main differences between conciliation, mediation and trial.

 

Conciliation

Mediation

Trial

Who drives the session

The judge can play an active role and may share advice and possible solutions about the dispute.

You and the other party will lead the discussion.

The judge will hear each party's evidence and submissions before making a decision on the case.

Control over the outcome

You and the other party may accept or reject suggestions or proposals by the judge.

You and the other party find solutions to the dispute and determine the terms of the settlement.

You and the other party must follow the judge's decision, subject to any appeal.

Benefits of conciliation

There are several benefits of choosing conciliation over trial.

Settling your dispute through conciliation will generally be less costly as it takes less time.

This means you will save on legal and court hearing fees that would have been spent on preparing for and going to trial.

You and the other party are in control of whether to settle the dispute and the details of your settlement. The judge may offer guidance and provide suggestions, but will not make a judgment on who is at fault.

In comparison, in a trial, you will give up control to a judge who makes a decision based on the evidence you provide.

Trials are generally open to the public while conciliation is done in private.

This means the discussions between parties during a conciliation session will be confidential. If you and the other party reach a settlement, you may also decide to keep the details of what you have agreed to confidential.

How to request conciliation

How you request conciliation depends on which court hears your case.

You may request conciliation by the State Courts' Court Dispute Resolution Cluster (CDRC).

Note
Before requesting, you need to check whether the other party is willing to attend conciliation. The SCCDR only accepts cases where all the parties agree to conciliation.

How to file

If you wish to attend conciliation, file the Court Dispute Resolution (CDR)/Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Form (Form 7A, State Courts Practice Directions) via “Request for CDR” on eLitigation. The form should confirm that all parties consent to conciliation and contain the parties’ available dates in the next two months to attend the conciliation. 

After you file

If your application is accepted by the CDRC, you will receive a letter notifying you of the date, time and venue of your conciliation session. The other party will also receive this letter.

If you fail to attend the session without providing valid reasons, you will be deemed to be unwilling to attempt conciliation. If the case proceeds to a trial, the court may take such conduct into account when making costs orders. (1)

Estimated fees

There are no fees for conciliation by the CDRC except for District Court cases where each party needs to pay $250.

Refer to this table for the exceptions and details:

Type of case

Cost of SCCDR conciliation

All Magistrate's Court cases

Free

District Court cases:

  • For non-injury motor accidents.
  • For damages for death or personal injuries.
  • Under the Protection from Harassment Act.

Free

All other District Court cases not mentioned above

Each party pays $250

How to file

If you wish to attend conciliation, file the ADR Offer (Form 28) via eLitigation and serve a copy on the other party.

If the other party is willing to attempt conciliation, they will file a Response to ADR Offer (Form 29) and serve a copy on you within 14 days after you served the ADR Offer on them.

The court may then give directions for your case, such as to set a timeline for conciliation to complete, or to adjourn pending court proceedings. You will need to arrange for conciliation with a relevant organisation.

If the other party fails to respond to the ADR Offer, they will be deemed to be unwilling to attempt conciliation without providing any reasons. If the case proceeds to a trial, the court may take such conduct into account when making costs orders. (2)

Where to go for conciliation

The Supreme Court does not offer conciliation services. If the court approves your request, you need to arrange for conciliation with an organisation of your choice.

Need help?

The information here is for general guidance as the courts do not provide legal advice. If you need further help, you may want to get independent legal advice.

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