European Commission > EJN > Bringing a case to court > France

Last update: 17-07-2007
Printable version Bookmark this page

Bringing a case to court - France

EJN logo

This page is now obsolete. The original language version has been updated and moved to the European e-Justice Portal.


Imagine a situation in which you are in dispute with a company, a professional person, your employer, a member of your family or somebody else in your own country or abroad. In order to solve this problem, you ask yourself a number of questions:



 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Do I have to go to Court? 1.
2. Am I still in time to bring a court action? 2.
3. Am I sure that I should go to a court in France? 3.
4. If yes, which particular court should I go to in France, given where I live and where the other party lives, or other aspects of my case? 4.
5. Which particular court should I go to in this Member State, given the nature of my case and the amount at stake? 5.
6. Can I bring a court action by myself or do I have to ask an intermediary, such as to be represented by a solicitor? 6.
7. Who exactly do I apply to: to the reception office or the office of the clerk of the court or any other administration? 7.
8. In which language can I make my application? Can I do it orally or does it have to be in writing? Can I send my application by fax or by e-mail? 8.
9. Are there special forms for bringing actions, or, if not, how must I present my case? Are there elements that have to be included in the file? 9.
10. Will I have to pay court charges? If so, when? Will I have to pay a lawyer right from the introduction of my application? 10.
11. Can I claim legal aid? ('legal aid' theme) 11.
12. From which moment is my action officially considered to have been brought? Will the authorities give me some confirmation that my case has been properly presented? 12.
13. Will I have detailed information about the timing of subsequent events (such as the time allowed for me to enter an appearance)? 13.

 

PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS BEFORE BRINGING A CASE TO COURT

1. Do I have to go to Court?

It might be better to use alternative dispute resolutions procedures. See this theme.

2. Am I still in time to bring a court action?

Time limits for bringing court actions vary according to the case. This question of time limits can be clarified with a legal adviser or at an information office to citizens on access to law.

3. Am I sure that I should go to a court in France?

See the 'Jurisdiction of the courts' theme.

4. If yes, which particular court should I go to in France, given where I live and where the other party lives, or other aspects of my case?

See the 'Jurisdiction of the courts - France' theme.

5. Which particular court should I go to in this Member State, given the nature of my case and the amount at stake?

See the 'Jurisdiction of the courts - France' theme.

STEPS TO FOLLOW TO BRING A CASE TO COURT

6. Can I bring a court action by myself or do I have to ask an intermediary, such as to be represented by a solicitor?

In certain cases, you will need a bailiff if the case is to be commenced by a summons served by the claimant on the defendant. Only bailiffs can serve summonses. This applies, for example, to cases in the Tribunal de grande instance (Regional Court) except as regards proceedings in which a advocate is not required to act. In urgent summary proceedings (référés), a summons must be served on the court. In divorce proceedings, where an advocate is required to act, the action is commenced by means of an application to the court.

Proceedings before the Juge des enfants (Juvenile Court) are commenced by a simple application from one of the parents, the guardian or the minor in person.

TopTop

Proceedings before the Juge des Exécutions (Enforcements Court) must be commenced by summons, except as regards proceedings for enforcement of an expulsion order.

In the Tribunal d'instance (District Court), a summons is not required for commencing an action worth less than €3800 or an action for an injunction to pay a debt of a specific amount due under a contract or the constitutional documents of a company or association.

In the Tribunal du commerce (Commercial Court), the injunction to pay procedure, whereby the action can be commenced by a simple application to the court, applies to claims on a draft, a bill of exchange, a promissory note or aN assignment note. Otherwise, the action is commenced by a summons.

In the Conseil des prud'hommes (Industrial Relations Tribunal), the application may be made in the form of a registered letter or presented personally in writing or orally at the registry.

An action in the Tribunal paritaire des baux ruraux (Agricultural Land Tribunal) begins with a registered letter with advice of delivery addressed to the court's secretariat, except in cases where the application must be published in the land register and notice must be served by a bailiff.

An action in the Tribunal des affaires sociales (Social Security Tribunal) can be commenced only after an action in the conciliation tribunal. The action begins with a letter or statement lodged at the secretariat.

TopTop

The parties may also apply to the court by presenting a joint application in which each side sets out its claims. This application is deposited at the registry.

In actions in the Regional Court the parties must generally be represented by an advocate, except in cases concerning commercial leases, urgent actions, actions for withdrawal of parental authority or statements of waiver. In the family court, an advocate is not compulsory in cases of delegation of parental authority or in proceedings consequent on divorce, parental authority, determination of contributions to the costs of the family and alimony.

In the Commercial Court, the District Court, the Enforcements Court, the Juvenile Court, the Social Security Tribunal, the Industrial Relations Tribunal and the Agricultural Land Tribunal, an advocate is not compulsory.

7. Who exactly do I apply to: to the reception office or the office of the clerk of the court or any other administration?

Requests for information should be sent to the reception offices at each court. Free legal advice services are available at most courts, law centres and town halls.

Applications to the court should be lodged at the registry.

8. In which language can I make my application? Can I do it orally or does it have to be in writing? Can I send my application by fax or by e-mail?

French is the only language accepted. An interpreter can attend part of the proceedings, but the court is not obliged to use an interpreter if the judge knows the party's language.
As a rule the application must be made in writing. In the Industrial Relations Tribunal and in the registry declaration procedure at the District Court, it can be made orally and registered by the registry.

In the Industrial Relations Tribunal, the application can take the form of a joint appearance entered by the two parties before the conciliation board.

TopTop

The current rules do not allow applications to be made by fax or e-mail.

9. Are there special forms for bringing actions, or, if not, how must I present my case? Are there elements that have to be included in the file?

The only procedure where there is a special application form is the declaration at the registry in the District Court. In all other procedures, the file must contain full particulars of the claimant and the defendant and all documents relevant to the case, which must be deposited at the registry as soon as the proceeding commences or with the judge at the time of the hearing.

10. Will I have to pay court charges? If so, when? Will I have to pay a lawyer right from the introduction of my application?

As a rule there are no charges payable to the State for acts of procedure, except that in the Commercial Courts there is a scale of registry charges.

“Costs” can be awarded, corresponding to costs incurred in conducting the proceedings. They include allowances paid to witnesses, experts' fees, and the costs of bailiffs and advocates other than their fees. Certain costs can be paid at the beginning of the proceedings or in the course of them. At the end of the proceedings, the court generally orders the losing party to pay the costs unless he is receiving legal aid.

Advocates' fees are set in a fee agreement with the client. The advocate can ask for a refresher, which is a sum paid at the beginning or in the course of proceedings to cover work done for the client.

11. Can I claim legal aid? ('legal aid' theme)

If a legal aid applicant's resources do not exceed a threshold that is reviewed each year (€802 in 2002), he is entitled to full legal aid. Part legal aid is available if the applicant has resources of between €802 and €1203. The thresholds are adjusted for the applicant's family situation (see “Legal aid - France).

FOLLOW-UP

12. From which moment is my action officially considered to have been brought? Will the authorities give me some confirmation that my case has been properly presented?

The case is brought before the court:
  • in proceedings where a summons is compulsory, by depositing a copy of the summons at the registry;
  • in other proceedings, by depositing or registering the application with the court registry.
The applicant is not given confirmation that his document is valid.

13. Will I have detailed information about the timing of subsequent events (such as the time allowed for me to enter an appearance)?

The court registry can give full information on progress in a proceeding and on date when it is set down for hearing.

« Bringing a case to court - General information | France - General information »

TopTop

Last update: 17-07-2007

 
  • Community law
  • International law

  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Estonia
  • Ireland
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • France
  • Italy
  • Cyprus
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Hungary
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovenia
  • Slovakia
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom