Alternatives to Court
- Agreeing to resolve a dispute can be easier and less expensive than court.
- There are people who can help parties come to an agreement.
- Before making the agreement, make sure you are satisfied with the solution.
There are times when you may need help to settle a disagreement. For example:
- you do not want to pay someone you hired to work on your house or car, because the work was not done as agreed
- you have a dispute with your neighbour over something like noise, a fence or a tree
- you have been fired and you do not think your boss had a good reason
- your landlord is threatening to kick you out of your apartment
- you bought something and it does not work like the seller said it would
- you and your spouse are separating and do not agree on things like child support
Courts are there to help people resolve these kinds of disputes. But not all disputes need to be settled in court. There are other ways of dealing with a disagreement that may cost less and take less time. Resolving disputes outside of court also means that the people involved, not a judge, have more control over the situation.
Some matters can be resolved by agreement. You may be able to come up with a solution that gives both of you some of what you want. For example, you might be unsatisfied with a product you purchased and want to get your money back. The seller may not want to give you your money back. The seller of an item might agree, however, to give you an in-store credit instead of a full refund of the purchase price.
Before you try to reach an agreement there are a few things you can do to get ready.
Find important records and documents. Keep records of what happened. This may mean keeping things like receipts, but it can also include copies of emails or texts. Make notes about what happened and when it happened. Notes are especially important if the conversation took place in-person or over the phone.
Learn about the law that deals with your situation. Knowing your rights and responsibilities can help you come up with a good solution. PLEA has plain-language information about a number of areas of the law.
Think it over. Once you agree to something, you usually cannot just change your mind. Take time to consider any solution the other party offers. Consider the time and money you may need to spend to take the matter to court if you are unable to reach an agreement. In some cases, it might be best to compromise so the matter can be settled. Deciding to settle a matter should be voluntary. You should not feel forced to agree to a solution.
A mediator might be able to help you find a solution. A mediator is someone trained to help people resolve their issues. Both parties must be willing to try mediation.
A mediator does not make decisions for you or the other party. They help people come to their own decision about how to resolve the issue. Mediators do not favour one side over the other. They don’t push for one solution over another solution.
A mediator may help the parties find solutions they had not considered before. The parties can discuss the issues and make joint decisions about how to settle them. The mediator can then help them put the decisions down on paper.
Mediators will charge a fee for their services, but the cost may be less than taking matters through the court system. You and the other party should discuss how the costs will be shared.
A mediator is a trained professional such as a social worker or lawyer. See Conflict Resolution Saskatchewan for an online directory of mediators in Saskatchewan or check the yellow pages of your phone book.
Sometimes people charged with a criminal offence may be able to deal with the matter without going through the formal court process. Instead, the person may be able to:
- pay restitution or compensation to the victim
- do work for the victim
- attend counselling or treatment for the problems that led to the criminal activity
These types of alternative measures may be an option for youth or adults, although there are different requirements for each.
Published on October 21, 2016.