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Civil Law NSW | Civil Lawyers in New South Wales

Civil law NSW disputes are dealt with either through NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), or the NSW Court system. The civil law NSW courts have jurisdiction if your matter relates to debt recovery, damages from a motor vehicle accident, property not returned, services paid for but not provided, and loan agreements.

Civil cases such as tenancy issues, decisions on guardianship, dividing fences, motor vehicles, building disputes, and consumer disputes are all dealt with in NCAT.

Civil law NSW can be broken up into many different components, with many areas having its own legislation that governs where proceedings are to be commenced, and what cause of action can be taken. The value of your claim will also determine which jurisdiction your matter can be heard in.


The introduction of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), which commenced on 1 January 2014, resulted in the amalgamation of 22 NSW tribunals. The aim was to streamline the tribunal system, and to promote access to justice.

NCAT has four divisions. These include:

  • the Administrative and Equal Opportunity Division
  • the Consumer and Commercial Division
  • the Guardianship Division, and
  • the Occupational Division.

The Consumer and Commercial Division cover issues that used to be dealt with by the CTTT.

To commence proceedings in NCAT you will need to file the appropriate application form, and include the orders that you are seeking, the reasons why you want those orders made, and an outline of the dispute.

The type of orders that NCAT can make are on the application form, and are relevant to that particular matter.  For matters relating to Home Building and Strata and Community Scheme disputes, the parties must participate in dispute resolution prior to lodging an Application with NCAT. All other matters are listed for conciliation after the application has been filed. If conciliation is successful, then consent orders will be made; otherwise the matter will be set down for hearing.

If the order relates to being awarded money, you will need to enforce the order through the Courts. This is done by obtaining a certified copy of the order and filing it in the Court with the appropriate jurisdiction.

NSW Civil Court System

The Local Court of NSW is separated into two divisions: the small claims division, and the general division.

The small claims division is designed to be less formal and less technical, and the rules of evidence don’t apply. It can determine matters up to the value of $10,000. Normally, the matter is determined based on written statements, and not by oral evidence. All other matters up to $100,000 are dealt with in the general division.

Appeals from the Small Claims division can only be made to the District Court on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction or procedural fairness. Appeals from the General Division can be made to the Supreme Court on a question of law.

The District Court can hear all motor vehicle claims regardless of the monetary value, and all other claims up to the value of $750,000. The most common claims commenced in the District Court involve breach of contract, personal injury, or defamation.

The Supreme Court has unlimited civil jurisdiction, and is divided into the Common Law Division, and the Equity Division. The Common Law Division determines matters relating to breach of contract, damages for personal injury, possession of land, and defamation. The Equity Division hears matters on probate, challenging a will, admiralty, and protective matters. It also deals with injunctions, enforcing or setting aside contracts, and matters relating to corporations, partnerships and trusts.

The Supreme Court has specialist lists in which judges with specific knowledge of that field of law are assigned. Proceedings in the Courts are commenced by filing a Statement of Claim, which is then served on the Defendant. The Defendant will then have 28 days to file a defence. If they fail to do so then an application for Default Judgment can be made.

NSW Civil Legislation

NCAT is governed by the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013. There are also many individual Acts that relate to the various areas covered by NCAT, which includes the Dividing Fences Act 1991, Home Building Act 1989, Motor Dealers and Repairers Act 2013, Residential Tenancies Act 2010, and the Retail Leases Act 1994.

Civil proceedings commenced through the Court system is governed overall by the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 2005, and the Civil Procedure Act 2005. Each Court also has its own legislation outlining the procedural rules relevant to the Court and the jurisdiction it has to determine matters.

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