This page is mainly about Civil Courts - people suing and being sued.
If you are looking for information on Criminal Law then visit our Public Criminal Law page.
The Department of Justice encompasses police; courts; prisons; emergency services; regulation of gaming, racing, liquor licensing and trade measurement; and victims' services.
Their web site has a lot of information and links on many legal topics that relate to Court Cases in Victoria.
There is also the Courts and Tribunals Victoria web site. While it is a useful resource to access each of the Courts, it does not have the same general information for the Public.
VCAT has simplified procedures that may be applied in Small Claims.
Parties are encouraged to resolve the dispute without the need for a trial and to represent themselves. Where the claim is for $10,000 or less, in almost all circumstances parties must present their own case. Lawyers will not be allowed. If more than $10,000 is in dispute, lawyers are sometimes allowed to represent those involved.
Law Handbook (Victoria) has helpful advice on dealing with a range of disputes. This link is to their advice about disputes over money.
The Civil Claims Workbook assists consumers (purchasers) who are in dispute with a trader (supplier) about the quality or performance of goods or services, and who are considering making a claim through the Civil Claims List of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Are you representing yourself? is a guide for people conducting civil court cases in the County Court on their own without a lawyer.
The Law Handbook (South Australia) has a chapter on this. Under the heading of Minor Civil Claims they go through the steps involved in a Court Case. With some modifications the same principles apply to any Court case and it is useful background information for you even if your case involves larger amounts of money and you will be using a lawyer.
Queensland Public Interest Law Clear House set of fact sheets is also very good at explaining different aspects of what is involved in a Court case.
Arts Law Centre has a collection of information on recovering debts, including a sample letter of demand.
Foolkit has a page on DIY Legal Kits. You may also find more focused information about your legal problem on that page.
Are you looking for detailed information like this, or contact details for any of the bodies mentioned on this page. If so, then start on the Courts Pages on the blue For Lawyers pages.
If it isn't there, then start on our Finding Detailed Legal Information page.
Please read our warning on that page "Be careful using these resources".
The Law is not always as straightforward as it appears. We have not included any information about when and how to use that information or any traps. We assume that the Lawyers will know this.
Please give us feedback about your experiences using Foolkit and ideas for improvements.
Going to Court can be costly, emotionally draining and drawn out. Some Court cases take many years to conclude. There are alternatives to going to Court. Often it pays to look into these methods of dispute resolution before launching into litigation. Talk to your lawyer about alternatives including settlement conferences, mediation and arbitration.
For a very general explanation on the various types of alternative dispute resolution:
The The Legal Services Commission Handbook (South Australian) has a chapter on resolving disputes.
This is the Dispute Information web site. It has information on alternative dispute resolution, A Guide to Dispute Resolution and information on other people who can help. It also steps you through some common situations and how they might be resolved.
Going to Court for the first time can be a daunting experience.
There are some useful sites that can assist you when you go to Court for a civil or criminal matter:
If you have a lawyer, then they will tell you what you should do. If you choose to go to Court without a lawyer, then:
The Ombudsman can assist you with your complaint about the administrative actions of a government agency or authority, or local government council.
There are also bodies appointed to resolve disputes within particular Industries, Departments or particular areas of concern.
A court not only decides who the Winner and Loser are, it also decides who is to pay for the legal costs that are involved. These are the Court's fees as well as the costs of the solicitors and barristers.
Sometimes who will pay costs, and how much they will pay, is negotiated between the parties. Your lawyer will explain to you what is occurring in respect to costs as the matter unfolds.
Prior to a trial there will be short hearings (that may be called directions, status or interlocutory hearings) or applications that your lawyer will attend on your behalf. If you are self-represented you will attend these hearings that guide the case towards a resolution or a trial. At the end of each short hearing there is usually an order made about who will pay the costs of that part of the case once the matter has concluded. Some common orders include:
Costs in the Cause: The ultimate loser of the case will pay the costs of the hearing.
Costs Reserved: The question of who will pay costs will be determined at a later date.
Here are some simplified explanations of legal speak when it comes to costs. NOTE: Always check your retainer (agreement) in place with your lawyer as to how they define these terms:
When the Court orders one party to pay the costs of the other party, it means its party/party costs. Party/party costs are always less than solicitor/client costs (often around 60 to 75%). Thus the 'winner' of any litigation is usually left out of pocket in respect of their legal costs to this extent.
Party/party costs are determined according to the appropriate Court Scale; i.e. if you are in the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court scale applies. Your agreement with your own solicitor may provide for paying their fees on some other basis.