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This section covers alternative dispute resolution for cases in the State Courts or Supreme Court. Find out more about mediation and counselling in the Family Justice Courts.

Alternative dispute resolution

A trial is not the only way to resolve a legal dispute.

The courts encourage you to explore alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options, which are often cheaper and faster than a trial. These include:

Mediation

A neutral third party guides you and the other party to find your own solution that meets both parties' concerns.

Conciliation

A neutral third party with expertise in the subject matter suggests possible solutions. You and the other party can decide how to come to an agreement based on these suggestions.

Neutral evaluation

A neutral third party with expertise in the subject matter provides an early assessment of your case and estimates the likelihood of success at trial.

Arbitration

A neutral third party will decide on an outcome after each party presents their case.

Expert determination

(Only for Supreme Court cases involving an expert's opinion) An independent expert will give an opinion. You and the other party can decide whether you agree to a settlement based on the expert's opinion.

You may request ADR or the courts may refer you and the other party for ADR.

Examples of cases that the courts may refer for ADR include:

  • Civil claims in the Magistrate's Court, District Court or Supreme Court.
    • The referral may be made at the case management conference, pre-trial conference or summons for directions hearing.
  • Personal injury or non-injury motor accident (PIMA or NIMA) claims.
    • These will automatically be referred for neutral evaluation.
  • Complaints under the Community Disputes Resolution Act or Protection from Harassment Act.
  • Magistrate's Complaints.
    • These may be referred for mediation.

Compared to a trial, ADR can be:

Cheaper

ADR generally costs less than a trial.

For example, there are no costs for mediation, conciliation or neutral evaluation by the State Courts' Court Dispute Resolution Cluster (CDRC), except when conducted for District Court cases, which will generally cost $250 per party.

Faster

ADR can take as little time as half a day. The duration may vary depending on the complexity of the case and the parties' attitudes.

Private and confidential

Discussions during ADR sessions remain private and confidential, while court hearings are usually open to the public.

Simpler and more flexible

ADR procedures are less complex and less formal than court hearings, which require parties to follow legal procedures and principles.

A way for you to decide the outcome

For most forms of ADR (except arbitration), you and the other party will decide how to settle your dispute.

During a trial, you give up control to a judge who will make a decision that you must follow.

Some ADR options (such as mediation and conciliation) may lead to win-win solutions for both parties and may help to maintain or improve relationships.

Understand the differences

Each ADR option addresses different needs. You should consider which factors are important to you and choose the option that meets your needs.

Note
Mediation is often the ADR option that first comes to mind for most cases as it addresses common concerns. However, if one party is not willing to mediate or if you have other concerns, other options may be more suitable for you instead.

Refer to this table for the key differences between the ADR options:

 

Mediation

Conciliation

Neutral evaluation

Arbitration

Expert determination

Role of the third party

Guides parties to find a solution that meets their concerns

Guides parties and proposes solutions

Assesses the likelihood of success at trial

Decides on an outcome after each party presents their case

Has expert knowledge and gives an opinion that could be a basis for agreement

Cost

Low cost

(Example: mediation is free for most cases in the State Courts except for mediation of a District Court case, which generally costs $250)

Low cost

(Example: conciliation is free for most cases in the State Courts except for conciliation of a District Court case, which generally costs $250)

Lower than a trial, but higher than mediation

(Example: neutral evaluation is free for most cases in the State Courts except for neutral evaluation of a District Court case, which generally costs $250. There may be other legal fees from your lawyer.)

Higher than mediation. Can sometimes be lower than a trial. The arbitrator's fees must be paid by the parties.

Generally lower than a trial, but higher than mediation. The expert's fees must be paid by the parties.

Speed

Fast

Fast

Faster than a trial, but slower than mediation

Can be faster than a trial, but generally slower than mediation

Faster than a trial, but slower than mediation

Allows control over the outcome

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes. The expert's opinion does not determine the parties’ dispute unless the parties agree to it.

You will know the merits of your case

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Requires a lawyer

No

No

Yes

No

No

Involves a technical expert's opinion

No

No

No

No

Yes

Offered by the court

Yes (State Courts)

Yes (State Courts)

Yes (State Courts)

No

No

Note:

  • The Supreme Court does not offer ADR services.
  • The requirement for whether a party needs to be represented by a lawyer may be different for organisations outside the courts that offer ADR services. You may wish to check with the organisations directly.

Find out more


Note:

  • If you are interested in arbitration, you may contact organisations outside the courts that offer arbitration. For example, the Law Society of Singapore provides arbitration services through the Law Society Arbitration Scheme.
  • If you are interested in expert determination, you may contact organisations outside the courts that offer expert determination. There are specialist areas where expert determination may be utilised. For example, refer to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore or the Singapore Institute of Architects.

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.

Find out more

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