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Last update: 01-08-2007
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Bringing a case to court - Portugal

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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 Portugal ? 3.
4. If yes, which particular court should I go to in Portugal, 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 Portugal ?

See the 'Jurisdiction of the courts' theme.

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

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

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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 cases in which it is not obligatory to be represented by Counsel, the parties may represent themselves or they may be represented by pupil barristers or by solicitors.

It is obligatory to be represented by Counsel:

  1. In matters which fall within the jurisdiction of the Courts with such a value that an ordinary appeal lies (the Courts of First Instance have jurisdiction over claims with a value of up to € 3,740.98 and accordingly, as a general rule, it is not obligatory to have legal representation in claims of less than this amount);
  2. In matters in which an appeal always lies, regardless of the amount;
  3. In appeals and cases brought in the higher Courts.

Even where it is obligatory to be represented by Counsel, pupil barristers, solicitors and the parties themselves may make applications in which matters of law are not raised.

In inventories, of whatever kind or value, it is obligatory to be represented by Counsel only where matters of law are to be raised or discussed.

Where Counsel are not available locally, the party may be represented in Court by a solicitor.

In matters where the amount claimed is less than € 3,740.98, representation by Counsel is not required to apply for a writ or any other proceedings within the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Courts (Small Claims Courts).

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In order to bring an action for the collection of a debt which is enforceable through the Courts (execution proceedings) it is only necessary to be represented by Counsel where amount claimed is greater than € 14,963.94. However, it may be the case, if the amount claimed is greater than € 3,740.98, that it becomes necessary to instruct Counsel in later stages of the proceedings, in particular where the debtor or a third party raises objections (defence) or in other proceedings which follow the terms of adjudicative proceedings.

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

The general office of the Court is responsible for receiving the initial application (in adjudicative proceedings, the claim form).

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?

All documents submitted by the parties must be written in Portuguese.

Any documents in a foreign language must always be translated.

Where a foreign national who cannot speak Portuguese has to give evidence in the Portuguese Courts, an interpreter will be appointed for him.

Proceedings in Magistrates Courts can be brought verbally.

In all other proceedings, the action must be brought in writing. This may be done by fax or e-mail provided that the Court receives the documents in electronic form or the back-up copy within five days, together with any other documents not sent.

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Submissions, claims and counter-claims may be submitted in electronic form, together with a hard copy, which will be used as the back-up and as a safeguard against alterations to the electronic text and any documents submitted by the partiers which are not in electronic form; any other documents which the parties need to serve in writing during the proceedings may also be submitted in electronic form.

Submissions, applications, defences and any other documents which the parties need to serve in writing by the parties during the proceedings may be:

  1. Handed in at the Court office, on production of proof of identity by any persons not known to the Court and, at their request, a receipt will be issued;
  2. Sent by recorded delivery post, in which case the date of posting by recorded delivery will be taken as the date of service of the document;
  3. Sent by fax or e-mail, in the latter case with a digital signature attached, in which case the date of transmission will be taken as the date of service of the document.

From January 2003 onwards, all documents must be submitted in electronic form, where the party is represented. This must be accompanied by a hard copy to follow within 5 days.

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?

Special forms exist for applications for a writ and also for bringing proceedings in a Magistrates Court where, in the latter case, the applicant has chosen not to bring proceedings verbally.

No special forms exist for other types of proceedings. Submissions must be presented in duplicate; where a submission involves more than one person, a duplicate must be supplied for each person involved living in a separate household, unless they have the same legal representative.

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Applications, claims and other documents submitted by any of the parties must be accompanied by as many copies on ordinary paper as the number of duplicates specified in the paragraph above. These copies are served on the other party together with the first document served after they are received.

Where justified on special grounds, the judge may dispense with the submission of copies or may set an additional deadline for them to be submitted. In addition to the duplicates to be served on the other party, the party must supply an additional copy of any submissions to be kept on file so that proceedings may be recommenced in case the papers are mislaid.

At the time of bringing proceedings, documentary evidence of the payment of the initial court fee and the application for legal aid must also be produced.

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?

Yes, unless you have been granted legal aid, there will be court fees to pay (please see the page relating to legal aid).

Court fees are paid in stages, and the first instalment is payable on making the application.

When the party is represented by Counsel and has not been granted legal aid, the legal representative's fees are payable in accordance with the terms and conditions agreed with him in advance.

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

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 action is considered to have been brought at such time as the respective initial claim form is lodged with the Court office (the initial submissions in the proceedings, lodged by the person who attends the Court to make an initial application).

When the claim is received, the formal requirements are checked by the Court officer who accepts it. At later stages of the proceedings, the judge carries out a more detailed and thorough check (particularly in respect of adjudicative proceedings, rulings and judgments).

The parties are always notified of such decisions.

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

The Courts are not required by law to provide information of this kind.

Further information

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

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Last update: 01-08-2007

 
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