Civil law

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Civil law deals with conflicts between people, conflicts between organisations and conflicts between people and organisations. Another name for civil law is private law. Civil law includes the legal areas of family law and commercial law.

Civil law procedures

There are 2 kinds of procedures in civil law: summons procedures and petition procedures.


Summons procedure

In a summons procedure, you ask the judge to decide a conflict. The first step in this procedure is the summons. This is when you explain what the conflict is and what you want. The opposing party (‘defendant’) can then respond to the summons.

Petition procedure

In a petition procedure, you write a letter to the judge to ask him or her to do something. For example, you can ask the judge to confirm a divorce. The other person, or an interested party (someone who is affected by the case), can respond to the petition; the Dutch word for this response is verweer.

Both the summons procedure and the petition procedure are usually quite complex; they require extensive proceedings, called the ‘substantive proceedings’. If you need the judge to make a decision very soon, you can start an urgent procedure (‘preliminary relief proceedings’).


Subdistrict court or civil court?

Depending on the problem and/or the amount of money involved in the conflict, you will go to either the subdistrict court or the civil court.


When do you go to the subdistrict court?

The subdistrict court is part of civil law. The subdistrict court deals with cases involving money up to €25,000, employment cases, cases relating to rent, consumer sale cases and consumer credit cases. It also deals with cases that involve administration, guardianship, mentorship and accepting an inheritance.

When do you go to the civil court?

The civil court deals with civil cases that involve more than €25,000 and cases where the amount of money is not specified. This can happen if the people involved dispute whether there is an agreement between them, or if one person wants the other person to do something or stop doing something. The civil court also deals with things like divorce, alimony, adoption and children’s guardians.



Authorised representatives in civil law

You must have a lawyer when you bring a case to the civil court. You do not have to get a lawyer when you go to the subdistrict court, but you can if you want to. If you have a lawyer, you do not need to authorise him or her to represent you. If someone who is not a lawyer represents you, you will need to authorise that person.

Mediation in addition to legal proceedings

Mediation in addition to legal proceedings brings people together to resolve their conflict. An independent mediator leads the mediation. You can get mediation in any area of law and at any time during the case. The judge can suggest it, or you can ask for it yourself. If you can resolve your dispute through mediation, you may not need to go to court. The people who have the dispute pay for mediation together.


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