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alternatives to lawsuits

Click on a topic to learn about how to solve your problem without going to court:

  1. Try to settle
  2. Mediation
  3. Negotiate
  4. If you can't settle  
  1. Try to settle

    Try to solve your problem in a friendly way before you file your small claims court case. Ask the defendant to give you what you want. If you solve your problem without going to court you’ll save time, money and aggravation. This helps a lot if you and the defendant (called the “parties“) have a work or personal relationship.

    Can you give the person a good reason to do what you want? If they owe you money, tell them they can pay less if they pay you right away. If you owe money, offer to pay a little more than you think you owe, just to end the fight.

    If the problem goes to court and there’s a judgment against you, you’ll have to pay what you owe plus court costs and interest. And, the judgment will go on your credit record.

    If you know that you owe money but you can’t pay it all in one payment, say you’ll pay a little every month or every week. A judge may also let you make monthly or weekly payments.

    If you can’t reach an agreement on your own, you can try a type of “alternative dispute resolution” called mediation.

  2. Mediation

    Use the Small Claims Mediation Program to solve your problems without going to court. Call the Small Claims Mediation Program of the Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. at: (408) 792-2327  or email at

    About mediation:

    • Mediation is voluntary.
    • It gives you a chance to sit down with the other parties and a mediator to talk about the problem.
    • Mediators are trained to not take sides. Mediators DO NOT decide your case. They just make it easier for everyone to agree. For more information, call 408-792-2321 .
    Why is mediation good?
      • It’s easier to collect your money when you settle in mediation because both sides agree ahead of time.
      • The agreement is confidential. It won't be part of the public record unless you agree.
      • Mediation is FREE.
      • Mediation can help solve a lot of different types of problems.
      • Visit our video page video icon to watch a video that explains how mediation can help.
  3. Negotiate

    You may have to use legal procedures and spend money to enforce a judgment. Your judgment from the small claims court is legal. But sometimes, it can be hard or impossible to enforce.

    Collecting your money is one of the hardest parts of a case. The other person may not have the money, or may just refuse to pay. There are ways to enforce your judgment, but you’ll have to pay more and make an extra effort. See the Property/Money Collection page for more information.

  4. If you can't settle

    • Negative credit report: If there is a judgment against you, it stays on your credit report for up to 10 years, or more.
    • Added expenses: If you are the defendant, you may have to pay what the plaintiff asks for AND what it costs to file and collect the claim, plus interest.
    • Ruined relationships: It can be hard to keep a friendly relationship if you go to court against your neighbors, family members, or business partners.
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