Dispute Non-Release of a Milestone Payment

While we hope that all freelancer and client relationships and projects will run smoothly, we understand that occasionally you may have a disagreement with a client about the work you submitted and your payments. We encourage you to always try to work things out with your client first.

However, if you do need to take further steps, we created Upwork Fixed-Price Protection to allow freelancers and agencies to file disputes under two circumstances:

  1. Ended Contract — A client ends the job with an escrow balance. When you see an escrow refund request, the client is requesting a refund from the escrow balance, not your earnings
  2. Active Contract — A client fails to release a milestone payment despite the delivery of work

NOTE:

Once a client ends a fixed-price contract with balance in escrow, you have 7 days to approve the client's request for an escrow refund or submit a dispute if you feel you haven’t been paid as agreed. If you do not submit a dispute within 7 days, any remaining funds in escrow will be automatically refunded back to the client.

To file a dispute on an ended contract
  1. When the client ends a contract and pays less than the total funded amount, you will receive a notification to respond to an escrow refund request. You can also find it on your Find Work home page by going to My Jobs > All Contracts
  2. Find the contract and select See Request
  3. Choose the option Dispute to file a dispute and request more payment from the client
  4. Specify your reason for the dispute. Describe the relevant agreements, how you met requirements, and attach any documents that support your claim. Explain the situation with enough information to help the dispute specialist to understand your claim. IMPORTANT: This is your chance to provide all the necessary information and documents to support your dispute claim. You won’t be able to edit details after submission
  5. Enter how much additional payment you are willing to accept for the work you submitted
  6. Once you verify all the details are correct, select Submit Dispute
  7. The client will be notified and has 5 calendar days to respond
    • If they accept, you get the funds you requested
    • If they don’t respond in 5 days, the funds you requested will be released to you
    • If they decline, an agent will step in to review the dispute details provided by both parties and provide a non-binding resolution (typically within 2 days)
To file a dispute on an active contract

You can file a dispute on an active fixed-price contract under two circumstances:

  1. The client refuses to release a milestone payment
  2. The client releases a partial milestone payment and applies the remainder in escrow to a future milestone

Important to know:

You should first reach out to your client to discuss any issues, as most cases they can be resolved without filing a dispute. Please be sure to use Upwork Messages for these conversations so we can review them as part of our process if a dispute is filed.

To file a dispute on an active contract:

  1. Ask your client to end the contract and release payment. The client must be the one to end the contract with an escrow balance in order for you to initiate a dispute within the Upwork platform. (Client refusing? Skip to step 3)
  2. When the client ends a contract with a balance in escrow, you will receive a notification to respond to an escrow refund request. If the client ends the contract, use the steps above to file a dispute on an ended contract.
  3. If the client refuses to end the contract or release payment, contact Support. Give details to support your claim that the work is complete and your payment is due. It’s important to explain the situation with enough information to help the dispute specialist understand your claim. Our Support team will then open a case with one of our mediation specialists to review your situation

Responding to Upwork’s non-binding resolution


Freelancers and clients are usually able to reach an agreement. When you and the client receive the non-binding resolution, you each have 2 calendar days to accept or reject it

  • If you both accept, we will move funds accordingly
  • If you or the client doesn’t respond within 2 days or one party declines the non-binding resolution, you will receive a Notice of Non-Resolution. The final option – should you choose to pursue it – is to purchase a binding arbitration service (meaning the decision of the arbitrator will be final) from our arbitration provider service. Learn more about arbitration

Access your disputes


Once a dispute is submitted, you may review or update the request by following these steps:

  1. From your Find Work home page, go to My Jobs and choose View All Contracts
  2. Find the contract and select See Dispute

You can also access dispute information from your notifications.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find information on a dispute I’ve filed?

You can access dispute information through your notifications or by looking at the contract that was disputed.

How long do I have to submit a dispute on an ended fixed-price contract?

You have 7 calendar days to review the payment details and submit a dispute. If you do not submit a dispute within 7 days, any remaining funds in escrow will be refunded back to the client.

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