Mediation and dispute resolution

Mediation is a process which uses a neutral person to help the parties in a dispute reach an agreement or settlement. The mediator will help the parties (and their lawyers if they have them) talk to each other, in a respectful and safe environment.

You may not realise that there is an alternative point of view to your own, until you've spoken with the other person. Mediation can save money and be less stressful if disputes are resolved without going to court.

In civil cases, many courts now require the parties to go to mediation, often with a court officer as mediator, to try to end the case or narrow the issues in dispute before going to a final hearing or trial. 

Find out:

  • what happens in mediation
  • where you can find mediation and dispute resolution services in WA, and
  • how mediation is used by courts to settle cases.

What happens in mediation?

Mediation is an opportunity for the parties and their lawyers (if they have them) to talk through a problem and reach their own agreement, with the support of a mediator. 

You do not have to agree to resolve your legal dispute at mediation – however, you do have to cooperate, listen to the views of other participants and consider options for resolution. Typically, mediation is used as a forum to identify issues, suggest options and to explore alternatives for resolving the legal dispute – some of which might not be available to you if you go to trial.

The mediator will speak directly to you and to the lawyers present, and you can speak openly.  Each party will have an opportunity to explain their view of the dispute.  Parties are encouraged to understand each other’s perspective.  Options for how to settle or agree are developed and explored.

Where can I find mediation and dispute resolution services?

Legal Aid WA offers its own family dispute resolution (FDR) service for parents and families trying to make decisions about children, parenting or money after separation.

There are also many other dispute resolution services available in WA. We have listed some (but not all) of them below. These services are not run by Legal Aid WA. What they can do for you, and any conditions or costs for their services, is up to them to decide.

  • Aboriginal Mediation Service
    A free service that aims to assist and work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, groups and communities in a culturally safe manner to resolve conflicts including disputes about family, burial, community, neighbour, disputes between co-workers, and issues involving agencies and government services. Only one person involved in the dispute needs to be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander for the service to assist. Contact the service on 1800 045 577 (freecall) or (08) 9264 6176.

  • Anglicare WA
    Provides a range of counselling and mediation services. Staff mediate issues involving family relationships, neighbourhood disputes and employee relationship disputes. Contact Anglicare on (08) 9263 2000.  

  • Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators
    Details of members and information about what happens at mediation.

  • Centacare Family Services
    Provides a range of counselling and support services in the Geraldton area, including Exmouth, Carnarvon, Yalgoo and Mt Magnet. Contact Centacare WA on (08) 9921 1433.

  • Centrecare WA Family Relationship Centre
    Provides a range of counselling and mediation services including family relationship mediation. Contact Centrecare on (08) 9325 6644.

  • Citizen's Advice Bureau
    Some branches offer a family, community and commercial mediation service. Contact the Perth office on (08) 9221 5711.   

  • Family Relationship Centres
    Provide information, advice and dispute resolution services to help people reach agreement on parenting arrangements without going to court. Located in Broome, Bunbury, Geraldton, Joondalup, Mandurah, Midland and Perth. 

  • Gosnells Community Legal Centre
    Provides mediation services for resolving family disputes, children's matters, and community and neighbourhood disputes.  Contact (08) 9398 1455.

  • Relationships Australia WA
    Provides a range of mediation services, including family relationship disputes, neighbourhood disputes, workplace disputes and family business disputes. Contact Relationships Australia WA on (08) 6164 0130 or 1300 364 277

  • Resolution Institute
    Details of dispute resolution practitioners, mediators and arbitrators throughout Australia.

  • Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC)
    The SBDC is a WA Government agency that supports small business owners through the provision of free business advice and low cost services. It provides a free dispute resolution service for small business owners faced with business-to-business or business-to-government disputes. Business owners can access dispute resolution services by calling 133 140.

Court mediation

Most civil cases in WA courts and tribunals are resolved before going to trial. One of the ways this is encouraged is through court-ordered mediation.

The mediation conference is commonly run a registrar of the court, who is also a trained and accredited mediator. In cases of particular complexity or difficulty, it is possible for court mediation conferences to be conducted by a judge. In those situations, to allow the parties to be completely open with the mediator, the judge involved in the mediation will not be the same judge who is involved in the trial or any other court hearings for that matter.

Like mediation that takes place outside court proceedings, what is said during a court mediation conference is confidential and cannot be used or repeated as evidence in court (except in relation to costs, if an offer of settlement was rejected). 

Some courts offer more than one formal opportunity for the parties to discuss settlement during a case. This may sometimes go by a different name, such as 'a pre-trial conference'.

More information

 

Reviewed: 12 December 2021

Dispute Resolution at Legal Aid WA

We can help you work through family law problems without going to court, including arrangements for children and property settlements.

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.