11. Can I settle my dispute out of court even if legal action has already commenced?
You may settle your dispute at any stage of the proceedings before the court passes judgment.
Indeed, whether or not you can afford legal costs or you have legal aid, you should explore the possibility of settling your dispute before the case proceeds to trial. You should bear in mind that a reasonable compromise not only saves your time and expense but also the worry and psychological pressure of litigation.
By making a proposal to the other party for settlement, you are not admitting that your case is weak. You are only suggesting a practical solution to solve the dispute more amicably.
When making proposals to the other party for settlement, you may protect your own position by specifying clearly that the proposals are for settlement only and they are not binding on you if the matter goes to trial in court. You may get this protection by marking your letters concerning any such offer of settlement with the term "without prejudice", which means that you and the other party agree that the contents of the letters can not be used in court should the matter come to trial.
If you and the other party have been able to settle the case yourselves, you should inform the court immediately, particularly when the trial date has already been fixed. You may file a notice to discontinue the case (note), or file a consent application setting out your agreement with the other party.
You may also apply to the court at the trial to have the terms of settlement made an order of the court (i.e. applying to the judge for granting an order, which contains the proposed settlement terms).
(Note: You can find a sample notice of discontinuance on the Judiciary webpage. For cases in the District Court, please click here. For cases in the High Court, please click here. You can also get the relevant form at the Registries of the High Court or District Court or at the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants. )