Other ways to sort it out

If you have a legal problem, such a debt is owed to you or you are not happy with how a service has been delivered, you may want to try to sort it out without going to court. Court can be costly, and stressful and you may not get the outcome you want. There are often many ways to resolve a dispute. 

Negotiation, mediation and family dispute resolution are some of the most common ways people try to resolve legal problems (or even personal disagreements).

You might also want to consider:

  • family counselling
  • collaborative law, or
  • arbitration or adjudication.

Family counselling

This is where you and your former partner (and sometimes children), receive counselling to work through difficulties in your personal relationships.

Family counselling can also help where you have been affected or likely to be affected by separation or divorce. This may include dealing with issues about arrangements for your children. People involved in parenting cases in the Family Court may be ordered by the court to attend family counselling during the court process. 

You can find more information about family counselling services and other separation services on our webpage, Get help with separation and divorce.

Collaborative law

Collaborative law is a method of dispute resolution where the parties and their lawyers sign a written contract to keep the dispute out of court while they attempt to negotiate. It can be used in both civil and family law settings.

The parties must agree that during the process, they will not start court proceedings, or threaten to go to court, and their lawyers will not advise the clients to threaten or start litigation. The agreement comes to an end if the collaborative process is not followed, or the dispute is not settled despite everyone's best efforts.

If the matter later goes to court, the lawyers who were involved in the collaborative process cannot represent their clients, who are referred to new lawyers.

This helps to make sure that negotiations take place in an open and cooperative way from the start. If everyone agrees, independent experts (such as financial advisors or child psychologists), can be involved in the process to add important perspectives, reduce potential conflict, and help support the parties. 

Arbitration and adjudication

This is a process where you meet with a neutral third person (who is usually trained in the law), who will listen to you and the other people involved and make a decision about what should happen. In most forms of arbitration, parties sign an agreement or contract to accept the arbitrator’s decision. In some cases, it may be possible to start court proceedings to challenge the outcome from an arbitration or start a court case over a dispute that was previously referred to adjudication.

Arbitration is commonly used in relation to worker's compensation claims and complex commercial disputes. It can also be used for family matters in Western Australia. For more information see the Family Court Brochure Arbitration. 

Adjudication is widely used to quickly resolve payment disputes for construction contracts. It is a dispute resolution process to assist parties to resolve disagreements about a payment claim made for a progress payment in a building dispute.

More information

Family law counselling

Collaborative law

Arbitration and adjudication


Reviewed: 29 September 2022


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.


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.