No, you do not always have to go to court to resolve your dispute. In some cases, it is perfectly possible to make use of alternative forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration.
Yes, very often there is, but the time limits for bringing a court action vary from case to case and it is not possible to answer in general terms. For questions, it is best to contact a lawyer or the Legal Help Desk (Juridisch loket).
As a basic rule, the defendant is summoned by the court of the Member State of his/her residence.
Unless otherwise provided by law, your case must be brought before the district court in the place of residence of the defendant. In the absence of a known place of residence of the defendant in the Netherlands, the court in the place where this person is actually staying also has jurisdiction. You will therefore have to find out at which address and in which Dutch municipality the defendant is living. Once you know that, you can consult the Judicial Classification Act (Wet op de rechterlijke indeling) to find out which judicial district the place of residence or stay is situated in. On this basis, it is possible to determine the district court to which the case must be submitted.
For the reply to this question, see the previous question. For further information to determine which court to bring your case before, we refer you to the website De Rechtspraak, which explains the Dutch judicial system.
In the Netherlands, the legal principle is that the parties must be represented by a lawyer in civil and commercial cases. It makes no difference in this respect whether the matter involves proceedings initiated by writ of summons, proceedings initiated by application or summary proceedings, a procedure for an interim injunction or, for example, proceedings in default for failure to appear.
An exception applies only for claims up to a maximum of €25,000 or for claims of indeterminate value, but where there is a clear indication that the value they represent does not exceed €25,000. In these cases, the sub-district court (kantonrechter) has jurisdiction and the parties can opt to represent themselves in the proceedings. You are not then required to engage a lawyer. The sub-district court also deals with cases relating to employment law, leases, consumer sales and consumer credit. In these cases the monetary value of the claim is irrelevant. Other matters dealt with by the sub-district court include administration, guardianship, curatorship and the renunciation or acceptance of an inheritance.
For more information about whether or not you are required to engage a lawyer, click here.
The written documents with which proceedings can be initiated must be addressed to the clerk’s office of the competent court. It is necessary to bear in mind here the difference between proceedings initiated by writ of summons and proceedings initiated by application. In proceedings initiated by writ of summons, the writ of summons is first served on the defendant and then registered at the clerk’s office. Both actions must be carried out by a bailiff. After this, the proceedings are conducted via the cause list (list of cases heard during the session). In proceedings initiated by application, an application is submitted directly to the clerk’s office and the rest of the proceedings are also conducted via the clerk’s office of the competent court. See also ‘Service of documents’.
In the Netherlands, Dutch is the official language of court proceedings. This means that the writ of summons or the (written) application initiating proceedings must be drawn up in Dutch. As an exception, procedural documents in a case pending before a court established in the province of Friesland may be drawn up in Frisian.
Documents may also be lodged with the clerk’s office of a court by fax. Faxed documents received by the clerk’s office before 24.00 on the final day are considered to have been submitted within the deadline. There is an exception to this: applications in family cases are not accepted if they have been sent by fax. Documents cannot be submitted by e-mail.
Proceedings initiated by writ of summons
In proceedings initiated by writ of summons, the writ of summons is first served on the defendant and then registered at the clerk’s office. The summons must include: the name of the claimant, what the claim is, the name of the defendant, the grounds for the claim and the substantiating documents submitted by the claimant in support of the claim. The summons also states the date of the hearing and the court at which the case will be heard.
The file must contain the following documents:
Proceedings initiated by application
In proceedings initiated by application, an application is submitted directly to the clerk’s office and the rest of the proceedings are also conducted via the clerk’s office of the competent court.
The file must contain the following documents:
Any party invoking any document in the writ of summons, written statement or brief is required to enclose a copy of that document.
Court fees must be paid on bringing a court action. Their amount depends on the type of dispute and the amount involved. In practice, your lawyer will often advance this amount and charge it to you afterwards. If it is necessary during the course of the proceedings to call in an expert (for example, an auditor, medical expert or technical expert), the court will ultimately charge the costs to the losing party unless it decides otherwise (for example, in family cases, where the costs are usually borne by the party that has incurred them). The same also applies for the costs of witnesses or of other forms of evidence.
Lawyers charge a fee for their work which is based on an hourly rate, unless there is entitlement to subsidised legal aid (also see question 11). In principle, lawyers’ fees in the Netherlands are not fixed. It is advisable to obtain information on the subject in good time from the lawyer representing you or from the Dutch Bar Association (Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten). Most lawyers ask for an advance, then charge for their services in the course of the proceedings and submit a final invoice at the end.
The possibility of subsidised legal aid exists in the Netherlands. In some cases you can obtain a contribution towards the costs of legal advice and assistance in proceedings. If you cannot afford all of the costs of a lawyer you may, under certain circumstances, be eligible for a contribution to the costs of legal aid. The Legal Aid Board (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand) then pays part of the costs of a lawyer and you will just pay a means-tested contribution. The application is submitted by the lawyer to the Legal Aid Board. Further information about subsidised legal aid can be found on the website of the Legal Aid Board.
Under the proceedings initiated by writ of summons, the lawsuit is pending from the moment the summons is served on the defendant by the bailiff. The writ of summons must be submitted by the claimant to the clerk’s office by the last day on which the clerk’s office is open prior to the cause list date stipulated in the summons (scheduled date for the hearing). If the writ is not submitted to the clerk’s office by that deadline, the case is deleted from the list, unless a valid replacement writ is issued within two weeks of the cause list date indicated in the summons.
Under the proceedings initiated by application, the lawsuit is pending when the application has been submitted to the clerk’s office.
In general, no confirmation is sent that a case has been validly presented. In cases initiated by writ of summons, if this writ is deficient, the claimant will in some cases be given the opportunity to remedy the deficiency. The same applies in the case of proceedings initiated by application. However, the clerk’s office is not obliged to offer this opportunity.
Precise information concerning the timetable for proceedings cannot be given immediately by the office of the clerk of the court or when the action is initiated. Obviously, you will be notified of when your case is finally to be heard. Both parties will receive an invitation to attend the hearing at a given time and place.
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