There are also alternative dispute-settlement procedures (see ‘Jurisdiction of the courts’).
The time limits for court cases differ according to the case (see ‘Procedural time limits’). To clarify the question of time limits, consult a lawyer.
A court action may be brought by a plaintiff in person or through an authorised intermediary. The power of attorney authorising the intermediary should be attached to the application.
Applications should be submitted to the reception or office of the clerk of court in person or through an authorised intermediary. Applications are received by members of the court’s staff, generally clerks of court, during the court’s opening hours. Applications may also be sent by post to the office of the clerk of court.
Applications should be submitted to the court in writing and must be written in Bulgarian. Applications may be sent by post, but not by fax or e-mail. The Code of Civil Procedure stipulates that all documents written in foreign languages which are submitted by the parties must be accompanied by translations in Bulgarian that have been certified by the parties.
Applications should be made in writing. There are no special forms for this purpose, with the exception of templates (approved by the Ministry of Justice) of a writ of execution, an application for issuance of a writ of execution and other documents relating to petitions for a writ of execution under the Code of Civil Procedure. The Code of Civil Procedure sets out a number of minimum requirements for applications, but the form itself is not laid down. Pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure an application must include: an indication of the court; the name and address of the plaintiff and defendant, their legal representatives or agents, if applicable, the plaintiff's personal identification number and the plaintiff's fax number and telex, if any; the amount of the application when it can be assessed; a statement of the circumstances on which the application is based, the subject matter of the application, and the signature of the person who filed the application. In the application the plaintiff must indicate what evidence they are submitting and what facts they intend to prove by it and present all written evidence at their disposal .
The application must be signed by the plaintiff or the plaintiff's representative. If an action is being brought by a representative acting on behalf of the plaintiff, the application must be accompanied by a power of attorney confirming that the representative is authorised to bring the action. If the plaintiff does not know how to sign the application or is not able to do so, it should be signed by an authorised person, indicating the reasons why the plaintiff has not signed it. The application is submitted to the court with as many copies as there are defendants.
The application must be accompanied by: a power of attorney when the application is submitted by an agent; a document confirming payment of state dues and expenses; copies of the application and its annexes, one for each defendant.
Bringing an action entails the payment of court fees which depend on the amount of the application and the costs of the proceedings. When the amount of the application cannot be assessed, the court fees are determined by the court. The amount of the application is indicated by the claimant. The amount of the application is the monetary assessment of the subject matter of the case.
Questions concerning the amount of the application may be raised by the defendant or by the court of its own motion no later than the first hearing. If the amount indicated is unrealistic, the court specifies the amount of the application. There are two types of court fees: simple and proportionate. Simple fees are determined on the basis of the material, technical and administrative costs of the proceedings. Proportionate fees are based on the amount at stake. The amount is collected on submission of the application for protection or remedy and on issuance of the document for which fees are paid, in accordance with the tariff approved by the Council of Ministers.
Court fees are normally paid by bank transfer to the account of the court on submission of the application. Each party must pay in advance to the court the costs of the service requested. At the request of both parties or at the court's initiative, all the costs are paid by both parties or by one party depending on the circumstances.
Court fees and expenses do not have to be paid: by claimants who are workers, employees and members of cooperatives in applications arising from employment relationships; in maintenance claims; in actions brought by the prosecutor; by plaintiffs in actions for wrongful damages resulting from crime, in connection with a conviction which has the force of res judicata; or by court-appointed special representatives of a party whose address is unknown.
Court fees and expenses are not imposed on natural persons who are recognised by the court as not having sufficient means. In the case of a request for exemption, the court takes into account: the income of the person and his family, certified assets, marital status, health, employment, age and other circumstances. In such cases the cost of litigation is paid from the amounts earmarked in the court budget. In the case of an application for the opening of bankruptcy proceedings filed by the debtor, court fees are not collected. They are collected from the assets when the property is divided in accordance with the Commerce Act (Targovski zakon).
Where an application is fully or partially successful, the court orders the defendant to pay the plaintiff a proportion of the costs of the procedure commensurate with the extent to which the application was successful (court fees, lawyer's fees, expenses relating to court appearances and gathering of evidence). If the plaintiff has been granted free legal aid, the defendant is ordered to reimburse the costs in proportion to the application. When the case is discontinued, the defendant is entitled to reimbursement of costs and when the court rejects the application the defendant is entitled to claim payment for the expenses incurred in proportion to the rejected application.
Lawyer’s fees are agreed between the client and the lawyer and are usually paid on signing of the contract for legal defence pursuant to the terms of payment.
See Legal Aid.
Applications and other correspondence received by post and documents delivered in person during court office hours are registered by the court in the incoming correspondence logbook on the day of receipt. An action is officially considered to have been brought on the day the application is received by the court. If the application is sent by post or received by the wrong court it is deemed to have been received on the date of dispatch by post or on the date of receipt by the wrong court. The court verifies the correctness of the application. If an application is irregular or if not all the required documents have been attached, the plaintiff is requested to resolve the discrepancies within a week and is informed whether he is eligible for legal aid. When the plaintiff's address is not indicated and is not known to the court, the message is communicated by displaying a notice at a designated location in the court for a period of one week. Where the plaintiff fails to resolve the discrepancies in good time, the application, along with its annexes, is returned. If the plaintiff's address is unknown, the application is kept in the court registry so that it can be made available to the plaintiff. The same applies when discrepancies in the application are ascertained in the course of the proceedings. The action is considered to have been brought on the date of receipt of the amended application.
If, when verifying the application, the court finds it inadmissible, it returns the application. The return of the application to the plaintiff does not preclude re-submission of an application to the court, but in these cases the action is considered to have been brought on the date on which the application was re-submitted.
The judicial authorities do not send a special document confirming that the case has been properly lodged, but certain procedures are performed which demonstrate that this is the case. Once the application has been properly prepared and submitted and all the required documents have been attached, the court sends a copy to the defendant. The copy includes the annexes to the application. The defendant is requested to file a written reply within one month and is told what information it must contain. The defendant is also advised of the consequences if they fail to reply or exercise their rights, and whether legal aid is available if they are entitled to it. The defendant’s written reply should contain: an indication of the court and the case number; the name and address of the defendant, their legal representative or agent, if applicable; the defendant’s position as regards the admissibility and merits of the application; the defendant’s position as regards the circumstances on which the application is based; arguments against the application and the circumstances underpinning them; the signature of the person who filed the reply. In the reply to the application, the defendant must indicate what evidence they are submitting and what facts they intend to prove by it and present all written evidence at their disposal. The reply must be accompanied by: a power of attorney when the reply is submitted by an agent; copies of the reply and its annexes, one for each plaintiff. If, within the time limit laid down, the defendant fails to submit a written reply, to present a position, to raise objections, to contest the veracity of a document submitted with the application fails to exercise their rights to bring a counter-application, incidental application or to call on a third party entitled to intervene on their behalf, they forfeit the possibility of doing so at a later date, unless their omission is due to specific unforeseen circumstances.
After verifying the correctness and admissibility of the submitted applications, the court decides how to proceed with the action and answers requests and objections from the parties concerning all pre-trial matters and the admission of evidence. The court may also order mediation or other means of voluntary dispute resolution.
The court schedules the case at an open hearing, to which it summons the parties. The clerk to the court sends summonses to the parties, who are served a copy of the court decision.
In commercial cases the Code of Civil Procedure provides for a mutual exchange of documents between the opposing parties. Once the reply has been received, the court sends a copy, together with the annexes, to the plaintiff, who may submit an additional application within two weeks. In the additional application the plaintiff may supplement and clarify the original. After receipt of the additional application, the court sends a copy, together with the annexes, to the defendant, who may file a reply within two weeks. In the additional reply the defendant must reply to the additional application.
After checking the correctness of the documents exchanged and the admissibility of the applications submitted, including their amounts and other requests and objections from the parties, the court decides any pre-trial matters and the admission of evidence. The court fixes the date of the case in open court, to which it summons the parties by sending to the plaintiff the additional reply, and it communicates its decision to the parties. It may order mediation or other means of voluntary dispute resolution. When all the evidence has been presented via the exchange of documents and when it is agreed that it is not necessary for the parties to attend the hearing, and if the parties so wish, the court may hear the case in camera, giving the parties an opportunity to submit written defences and replies.
The Code of Civil Procedure includes special provisions governing certain procedural rules - summary proceedings, proceedings in matrimonial cases, civil status matters, judicial disability, judicial partition, protection and re-establishment of ownership rights over property, deeds, collective litigation and petitions for a writ of execution, precautionary proceedings, applications for protection, and enforcement proceedings. Special rules are enshrined in the Commercial Act on insolvency proceedings and related applications.
The Court summons the parties to case hearings. If the case is adjourned, parties who have been duly summoned do not receive a summons to the next hearing if the date has been communicated to them at the hearing. The summons is issued no later than one week before the hearing. This rule does not apply in enforcement proceedings. The summons includes: the court issuing it, the name and address of the person summoned, in which case and in what capacity they are being summoned, the place and time of the hearing and the legal consequences of failing to appear.
The court provides the parties with a copy of any decisions which are subject to a separate appeal.
While time limits set by the court for procedural actions are communicated to the parties, statutory time limits are not.
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