This section provides basic information for people who are required to attend a court or tribunal for a hearing to which they are a party.

Representing yourself in a civil case

While you may want to represent yourself in a civil case before a court or tribunal – or you may not have another option – there are important issues to consider.

Legal costs of the other party

In civil cases heard in courts and some tribunals, the losing party is likely to be ordered to pay the legal costs of the successful party. In some situations (especially in the Magistrates’ Court), these legal costs can be much more than the amount involved in the dispute. 

Therefore, before deciding to pursue a case in court, you should get objective legal advice on the strength or ‘merit’ of your case – that is, how likely you are to be successful in getting an outcome that benefits you. Pay close attention to any legal advice that you receive as you may be refused free legal assistance because the lawyer advising you believes your case has no merit (i.e. you are likely to lose the case).

VCAT: Costs

VCAT generally does not award costs except in the specific circumstances outlined in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 (Vic) (s 109). The circumstances where costs will be awarded by VCAT tend to involve a party causing delays unreasonably or conducting the case in an unfair or inappropriate way.

AAT: Costs

The Social Security and Child Support Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) is a cost-free jurisdiction, meaning the tribunal has no power to award costs and each party is expected to pay their own costs. (See Chapter 5.1: Dealing with social security.)

Rules and procedures

The procedures and rules used by different courts and tribunals vary significantly in civil matters – for information about a court or tribunal’s procedures and rules, visit the website of the relevant court or tribunal.

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