Which country's court is responsible?

Bulgaria
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European Judicial Network
European Judicial Network (in civil and commercial matters)

1 Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court (for example an employment labour court)?

Under the Bulgarian Constitution, justice is dispensed by the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, appeal courts, provincial courts, military courts and district courts. Specialised courts may also be set up by act of law. Extraordinary courts are not allowed. Under the Judicial Authority Act, administrative courts are based in the same localities and have the same territorial jurisdiction as provincial courts. You need to apply to an administrative court if you wish to have a decision by a public authority amended, repealed or quashed or if you want the court to instruct a public authority to issue a particular decision, if you believe a public authority has acted wrongfully or has wrongfully failed to act, unless your case is within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Administrative Court. There are no other specialised courts. If you are a party to a civil dispute, your case will be heard by an ordinary civil court. Under the Code of Civil Procedure, special procedural rules apply to matters of special urgency, to cases regarding marriage and marital status, judicial disability, judicial partition, protection and restitution of possession, deeds and collective litigation. Under the Code of Civil Procedure, special procedural rules also apply to certain non-litigious proceedings, such as petitions for a writ of execution. Under the Commerce Act, special rules also apply to insolvency proceedings heard by the commercial divisions of provincial courts when they have initial jurisdiction.

2 Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction (i.e. these are the courts which have responsibility for such cases) how can I find out which one I should apply to?

2.1 Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts (for example district courts as lower courts and regional courts as higher courts) and if so which one is competent for my case?

Under the Bulgarian Code of Civil Procedure you need to apply to a district court (rayonen sad), unless your case is of a type for which the provincial courts (okrazhen sad) have initial jurisdiction.

You need to apply to a provincial court if your case is about: establishing or challenging parentage, terminating an adoptive relationship, declaring a person to be under judicial disability or lifting such disability,

  • ownership of or real rights over a property if the value of your claim is higher than BGN 50 000,
  • a civil or commercial dispute over a sum of more than BGN 25 000 (unless your case is about maintenance payments, a claim under labour law or the recovery of unauthorised expenditure),
  • an inadmissible, void or incorrect company registration for which the law provides that the provincial courts have initial jurisdiction,
  • a dispute subject to examination by a provincial court under other legislation,
  • claims, irrespective of their value, joined in a single application within the jurisdiction of a provincial court, if they are to be examined under the same procedure.

If you wish to defend your rights as an associate of a firm, challenge a decision of the shareholders of a firm, obtain the cancellation of the incorporation of a firm, obtain the closure of a firm or launch insolvency proceedings, you need to apply to the provincial court where the firm has its registered place of business.

2.2 Territorial jurisdiction (is the court of city/town A or of city/town B competent for my case?)

2.2.1 The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction

You need to apply to the court that has jurisdiction in the district (rayon) where the defendant is resident or has its registered place of business or head office.

If your dispute is with a government institution or legal person, you must apply to the court where it has its headquarters or seat. If you have a dispute directly with a firm’s branch office, you may also apply to the courts where that branch office is located.

If you wish to bring a civil claim against the Bulgarian State, you need to apply to the courts in the district where the dispute arose, or, if that is outside Bulgaria, to the courts in Sofia.

If you wish to start proceedings against someone who has no known address, you need to apply to the courts where their attorney or legal representative is resident, or, if that is not possible, to the courts of the place where you yourself are resident. This also applies if that person is resident outside Bulgaria. If you too are resident outside Bulgaria, you need to apply to the courts in Sofia.

If you wish to bring a case against a minor or someone without legal capacity, you need to apply to the courts where their legal representative is resident.

If your case is about an inheritance, the complete or partial withdrawal of a will, the partitioning of an inheritance or the cancellation of a voluntary partition, you need to apply to the courts where the will is administered. If the deceased is a Bulgarian citizen, but the will is administered outside Bulgaria, you need to apply either to the courts in the deceased’s last Bulgarian residence or in the place where the estate is located.

To challenge a decision issued by a public authority, you need to apply to the Administrative Court (Administrativen sad) for the authority’s head office. If that is outside Bulgaria, your case comes under the Sofia City Administrative Court (Administrativen sad – grad Sofia).

2.2.2 Exceptions to the basic rule

2.2.2.1 When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court?

To make good a financial claim based on a contract, you may also apply to the courts where the other party currently resides.

If you wish to claim maintenance, you may also apply to the courts in your permanent residence.

If you have a claim with regard to consumer protection, you may also apply to the courts where you are currently or permanently resident.

Workers may also bring an action against the employer at their habitual place of work.

Disputes under labour law between foreign persons, firms or joint ventures whose registered place of business is in Bulgaria on the one hand and foreign employees working for them inside Bulgaria on the other, come under the courts in the employer’s registered place of business, unless the parties have agreed otherwise.

Disputes under labour law between employees with Bulgarian citizenship working abroad for Bulgarian employers come under the courts in Sofia if the case is brought against the employer, and under those in the employee’s Bulgarian residence if the case is brought against the employee.

If you have suffered wrongful damage, you have the option of bringing your case before the courts where the damage occurred.

If you need to bring a case against parties located in different judicial districts or if your case regards property spread over more than one judicial district, you may apply to the courts in one of those districts.

If you or your organisation need to claim damages as a result of a decision issued by a public authority, you can apply to the courts where you are resident or where you have your registered place of business, unless your claim is joined to an appeal against the decision itself.

2.2.2.2 When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)?

If your case is about real rights over a property, partition of a co-property or establishing the boundaries of or re-establishing ownership rights over a real property, you need to apply to the courts where the property is located. You also need to apply to the court that has jurisdiction for the property if your case is about a deed confirming real rights in that property or about severing, dissolving or voiding a real property deed.

2.2.2.3 Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise?

However, the parties to a property dispute can depart from the rules of territorial jurisdiction by signing an agreement attributing jurisdiction to a particular court. This is not possible, however, where your case is about real property rights, partition of co-property, establishing the boundaries of or re-establishing ownership rights over real property, a deed confirming real rights in a property or about severing, dissolving or voiding a real property deed, in which cases the law determines which court has territorial jurisdiction.

If your case is about consumer protection or labour law and you have agreed with the other party or parties what court will have jurisdiction, that agreement will be valid only if it was signed after the dispute arose.

If you have a financial claim, you and the other party can agree to settle the matter by arbitration, unless it concerns real rights or real property, maintenance payments or labour law. In order to launch arbitration proceedings, all parties involved must conclude a special procedural agreement (arbitrazhno sporazumenie or arbitration agreement). The arbitration court may use any relevant sources of international law and a specific Bulgarian source: the Arbitration in International Trade Disputes Act (Zakon za mezhdunarodniya targovski arbitrazh). Under this law, an arbitration agreement means that all parties involved request an arbitration court to settle all or part of the disputes that may arise or have arisen between them within a given contractual or non-contractual relationship. The agreement can take the form of an arbitration clause in another contract or a separate agreement. An arbitration agreement must be in writing. An arbitration court can be a permanent institution or can be created to settle a particular dispute. An arbitration court can sit outside Bulgaria if one of the parties is normally based outside Bulgaria, has its place of business there according to its statutes or has its central management there.

3 Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address?

The only specialised courts in civil matters in Bulgaria are the administrative courts.

All administrative cases come under the administrative courts, except those that come under the Supreme Administrative Court. The Supreme Administrative Court has initial jurisdiction if you wish to challenge: a regulation issued by a public authority other than a municipal council, a regulation issued by the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister, a deputy prime minister or a minister, a decision by the Supreme Judicial Council, a regulation issued by the Bulgarian National Bank any other regulation for which the law provides that the Supreme Administrative Court has initial jurisdiction.

Last update: 22/03/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective EJN contact point. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. Neither the EJN nor the European Commission accept responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

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