Court proceedings before the Dutch civil courts


Commencement of civil court proceedings in The Netherlands

Most legal proceedings in The Netherlands are initiated when a writ of summons (dagvaarding) by a Dutch bailiff (on behalf of the claimant) is served on a defendant (called a service of process). This writ states that the defendant is summoned to appear in the Dutch court on a specific time and date. The bailiff or solicitor of the plaintiff then registers the writ with the court according to the date specified in the writ.


Service of process of Dutch defendants

For defendants residing in the Netherlands, the court bailiff delivers the summons to him. In the case corporations, the writ can be served at the company’s offices or to any of its directors.


Service of process under Dutch law of foreign defendants

For defendants residing outside The Netherlands or have no know residence in The Netherlands, a writ is still delivered to the defendant however the process and rules differs depending on whether the defendant resides in:

  1. a state to which the EC Service Regulation applies, or
  2. a state which is a party to The Hague Service Convention 1965, or the 1954 Hague Convention (CCP), or
  3. another state. In this case the writ must be served to the public prosecutor’s office.

Minimum time period to have elapsed before appearing in court

The minimum period of time that must have elapsed between serving a writ on a defendant and appearance in court depends on where the defendant resides, and if this is outside the Netherlands, what rules and regulations the state is governed by.

If the defendant resides in the Netherlands or the defendant has chosen domicile in the Netherlands, there is a minimum period of 1 week before appearance in court is necessary.

If the defendant resides in a state to which the EC Service Regulation applies, the time period is 4 weeks.

If the defendant resides in another state, which is often the case in international contracts, the time period is 3 months.


Written Statements in Dutch proceedings

Parties set out their cases to the courts by use of written statements. Both parties can submit (at least) one written statement. The claimant submits the writ of summons, whereas the defendant submits a statement of defense (conclusive van antwoord).

Contents of the writ of summons (claimant) must a.o. contain:

  1. nature of the dispute and facts of the case
  2. the relief sought (e.g. specific performance or damages)
  3. the cause of action
  4. evidence and witnesses that the claimant will rely on to support his claim
  5. the name of the competent court
  6. the day of the formal appearance in court
  7. arguments that the defense is intended to rely on (in so far as known).

Contents of the statement of defense (defendant) must a.o. contain:

  1. all relevant facts in full
  2. evidence and witnesses that the defendant will rely on to support his defense
  3. well-argued reasons that the defendant is to rely on.

The claimant and defendant can only submit other statements (statement of reply and statement of rejoinder) if permitted by the court.


Order to appear in a Dutch court

Generally, after the statement of defense is submitted the Dutch court orders the parties to appear in court, where the judge can determine whether the case can be settled or how the proceedings should ensue. In the case of settlement, directors or other company representatives are usually required to submit proof that they have the competence to represent the company.

In situations where there is no required order to appear in court, the parties are usually granted a request for closing arguments.


Judgments of a Dutch civil court

The judgment date is usually set to 6 weeks after the order to appear in court or request for closing arguments has taken place. The judgment will either be an interim or final judgment. Interim judgments are given when actions need to take place before the final judgment is delivered. Final judgments conclude the court dispute, and have binding force on the parties.

The judgment of a Dutch court will be enforceable immediately after this is made. If however an appeal is lodged, the judgment is no longer enforceable. Parties can prevent this suspension of enforceability by requesting the court to declare its judgment provisionally enforceable not withstanding an appeal.


More information? Call Us.