Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) will be the focus of changes to Australia's legal system due to commence next month.
From 1 August, the Civil Dispute Resolution Act 2011 will require parties to a court action to lodge a statement about the steps they have taken to try and resolve their dispute before going to the Federal Court or Federal Magistrates Court.
Attorney-General (AG) Robert McClelland said the changes would result in more people resolving disputes before going to court, thus saving time, money and stress.
"Parties can benefit from exchanging information, narrowing the issues and exploring options for resolution, leading to more matters being settled by agreement earlier on. Even if matters progress to court, experience shows costs will be saved as the issues will be better understood," said McClelland.
The Attorney-General said that Australia's legal system is changing and moving away from a system that prioritises "winners and losers".
"We are moving away from an adversarial culture of litigation to a broader approach to dispute resolution," said McClelland
The changes do not introduce mandatory processes which themselves could become the subject of dispute. Rather, they are deliberately flexible to allow parties to tailor the steps they take to their individual circumstances.
The new law is part of the Government's Strategic Framework for Access to Justice and implements key recommendations from the 2009 National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council report, The Resolve to Resolve- Embracing ADR to Improve Access to Justice in the Federal Jurisdiction.