Share on Facebook Tweet (Share on Twitter) Share on Linkedin

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, a contract dispute or two will happen.

This is even more likely the more successful you become. What’s important is how you approach and handle the dispute.

It can escalate into legal proceedings or it can be handled before it gets out of hand.

In this guide, you’ll learn what a contract dispute is, the signs one may be about to occur, and how to handle them properly.

Understanding Contract Disputes

A contract dispute arises when parties involved in a contract disagree with the terms, obligations, or performance under the contract.

These disputes can occur at any stage of the contractual relationship, from negotiation to performance to termination.

Get rid of manual repetitive paperwork with robust document automation


Common causes of contract disputes

  1. Breach of contract: This occurs when one party fails to fulfill its obligations as outlined in the contract. It can involve failure to deliver goods or services, failure to make payments, or any other violation of the agreed-upon terms.
  2. Misinterpretation of contract terms: Disputes may arise when parties have different interpretations of the language or provisions in the contract. This can occur due to ambiguous wording or misunderstanding of legal terminology.
  3. Failure to perform obligations: Sometimes, disputes arise simply because one party fails to perform its duties as required by the contract. This could be due to financial difficulties, logistical issues, or other unforeseen circumstances. This is different from force majeure events.

Types of contract disputes

  1. Disputes over payment and pricing: One of the most common types of contract disputes involves disagreements over payment terms or the agreed-upon price for goods or services. This could include disputes over invoicing, payment schedules, pricing adjustments, or additional charges not covered in the original agreement.
  2. Disputes over quality of goods or services: You may disagree over the quality or standard of goods delivered or services rendered. This could involve claims of substandard workmanship, defective products, or failure to meet agreed-upon specifications.
  3. Disputes over delivery or performance deadlines: Delays in delivery or performance can lead to disputes, especially if one party believes that the other party is not fulfilling its obligations within the agreed-upon timeframe. This could be due to logistical issues, production delays, or other factors beyond the control of either party.

Understanding these aspects of contract disputes allows you to anticipate potential areas of disagreement and to mitigate the risks associated with such disputes through clear, well-drafted contracts and effective communication throughout the contractual relationship.

Recognizing Early Signs of a Contract Dispute

Contract disputes don’t usually come out of nowhere. Some signs show the relationship is deteriorating. When these signs are noticed, it’s important to attempt corrective measures.

Communication breakdown between parties:

This breakdown can take various forms, including delayed responses to emails or phone calls, avoidance of discussing certain topics, or a general lack of transparency in communication.

When communication becomes strained or inconsistent, it can indicate underlying disagreements, misunderstandings, or dissatisfaction with the contract terms.

Recognizing these signs early on allows you to address communication issues promptly and work towards resolving potential disputes before they escalate further.

Failure to meet contractual obligations:

You may start noticing signs of deviation from the agreed-upon terms, such as missed deadlines, incomplete deliverables, or subpar performance.

These deviations not only disrupt the smooth execution of the contract but also lead to dissatisfaction and frustration among the parties involved.

Make work faster with robust document templates

Early identification of these failures to meet obligations enables parties to assess the reasons behind such shortcomings and take corrective actions to prevent further escalation.

Differences in interpretation of contract terms:

Diverging interpretations of contract terms often sow the seeds of conflict and potential disputes. Parties may perceive clauses differently, leading to disagreements over responsibilities, expectations, or the scope of work.

These differences in interpretation can arise due to ambiguous language in the contract, differing industry practices, or varying cultural norms.

Recognizing these discrepancies early on allows you to engage in open dialogue, clarify misunderstandings, and potentially renegotiate ambiguous terms to align your expectations and avoid future disputes.

Escalation of tensions or conflicts:

Finally, an escalation of tensions or conflicts in discussions and interactions among parties is a clear sign of underlying dissatisfaction or disagreement with the contract terms.

Increased resistance, confrontational behavior, or a hostile atmosphere during negotiations or project meetings may indicate that parties are heading toward a dispute.

It’s crucial to recognize these warning signs early on and take proactive measures to de-escalate tensions, address underlying concerns, and find mutually acceptable solutions to prevent the situation from spiraling into a full-blown contract dispute.

How to Handle Contract Disputes

Every contract dispute will be unique so the approach you take will be unique as well. Below are some guidelines to help make the dispute process manageable for you and everyone involved.

Communication and negotiation:

In handling contract disputes, effective communication and negotiation play pivotal roles. Opening lines of communication early on is essential to address concerns and prevent misunderstandings from escalating into full-blown disputes.

Express your grievances, clarify expectations, and seek common ground. Exploring options for resolution collaboratively is the next step.

Document and customer insights at your fingertips


This involves brainstorming potential solutions, considering each party’s interests, and negotiating compromises where necessary.

By encouraging open communication and engaging in constructive negotiation, parties can often find mutually beneficial resolutions to contract disputes without resorting to more adversarial measures.

Mediation and arbitration

When direct negotiation fails to resolve a contract dispute, you may opt for alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and arbitration.

Mediation involves a neutral third party, the mediator, facilitating negotiations to help you reach a voluntary settlement.

Arbitration, on the other hand, involves a neutral arbitrator who evaluates the evidence presented by all parties and renders a binding decision.

These alternative dispute resolution methods offer benefits such as confidentiality, flexibility, and often quicker resolution compared to litigation.

However, they also have limitations, including the potential lack of enforceability and the inability to appeal the arbitrator’s decision in arbitration.

Get essential documents signed in a flash

Legal action and litigation

If all attempts at negotiation and alternative dispute resolution prove unsuccessful, you may resort to legal action and litigation to resolve your contract disputes.

Consulting legal counsel is essential at this stage to assess the merits of the case, understand legal rights and obligations, and strategize the best course of action.

Filing a lawsuit initiates the formal legal process, which involves pleadings, discovery, pre-trial motions, and potentially a trial before a judge or jury.

Navigating the legal process can be complex, time-consuming, and costly. However, litigation may be necessary to enforce contractual rights, seek damages, or obtain specific performance when other methods have failed to achieve a satisfactory resolution.

While litigation is often viewed as a last resort, it provides parties with a formal mechanism to resolve contract disputes when all other options have been exhausted.

Strategies for Resolving Contract Disputes Amicably

Focus on interests, not positions: Parties often become entrenched in their respective positions, leading to deadlock and escalating tensions.

By shifting the focus to underlying interests and concerns, you can uncover common ground and explore creative solutions that meet their underlying needs.

Take advantage of AI-powered document drafting to move 4X faster


This approach encourages everyone to communicate openly, identify shared interests, and work collaboratively towards a mutually acceptable resolution.

Collaborative problem-solving: Collaborative problem-solving involves engaging all everyone in a cooperative effort to identify and address the root causes of the contract dispute.

This strategy encourages active participation, encourages brainstorming potential solutions, and creates a sense of ownership over the resolution process.

By working together to identify areas of agreement and disagreement, you can develop innovative solutions that satisfy your interests and preserve the integrity of the contract.

Compromise and trade-offs: You may need to make concessions or trade-offs to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. This requires prioritization of each other’s interests, assessing the costs and benefits of various options, and being willing to make reasonable compromises.

Automate contracts and workflows

By approaching negotiations with a spirit of flexibility and willingness to compromise, you can find solutions that meet their needs while also accommodating the interests of the other party.

Preserving business relationships: Even amid disagreement, you should strive to maintain professionalism, respect, and goodwill towards one another.

By focusing on resolving the dispute fairly and equitably, you can demonstrate your commitment to maintaining a positive working relationship moving forward.

This may involve acknowledging past successes, expressing appreciation for the other party’s contributions, and finding common ground on which to rebuild trust and cooperation. Ultimately, prioritizing the preservation of business relationships can lead to more sustainable and mutually beneficial outcomes for all parties involved.


When you create a lot of contracts then an occasional contract dispute will occur. It’s your job to mitigate its impact as much as possible and get things back on track.

This guide has outlined how to detect potential contract disputes early, how to mitigate their impact, and strategies you an employ to turn things around.

Let me know what you think in the comments and don’t forget to share.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.