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Litigation in Belgium

Litigation in Belgium

The Belgian court system is based on the civil legislation. The Belgian civil proceedings in litigation cases are conducted by codified rules, national and international rules according to European Directives and treaties Belgium has concluded with other countries.

The court system in Belgium

The judicial system in Belgium is comprised of first instance courts, appellate courts, specialized courts that rule in employment and commercial litigation cases, Supreme Courts, and the Constitutional Court:

  • –          the Constitutional Court acts as an independent body and has jurisdiction over legislation matters;
  • –       the Supreme Court of Cassation is composed of the first chamber that has jurisdiction over civil economic, commercial and administrative matters, the second chamber that rules in criminal cases and the third chamber that rules in social cases;
  • –          the Supreme Court of Administration or the Council of State acts as an appellate body and rules in legislative matters;
  • –          the Court of Audit rules in financial matters;
  • –          the Correctional Court, the Civil Court and the Juvenile Court rule act as first instance courts and decide in juvenile offenses;
  • –          the Courts of Assize that rule in criminal, political and international lawsuits;
  • –          the Police Court rules in traffic and minor matters;
  • –          the Labor courts have jurisdiction over employment related cases.

Proceedings in litigation cases in Belgium

Litigation proceedings in Belgium usually start by writ of summons or by request. The next step will be the hearings and other procedures that are determined based on the hearings. In some cases introductive pleadings are allowed. The following step in a litigation matter will be to file the submissions. Usually, parties agree on the date the written submissions will be filed. Normally, the final step would be hearing all evidence and the ruling. Regular litigation proceedings in Belgium take about one year and a half, while appeal in litigation cases take between two and three years.

Alternative dispute resolution in Belgium

Other than court actions employed to resolve litigation matters in Belgium there are also alternative dispute resolution methods. The most common dispute resolution methods are arbitration and mediation. Arbitration is often used as a mean of resolving litigation cases because it is less time and money consuming. The most employed arbitration rules are the rules of the Belgian Center for Arbitration and Mediation (CEPINA/CEPANI) and the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) Rules. The main advantage of arbitration is that parties decide on the rules to follow. In 2013 Belgium has enforced a new law on arbitration derived from the UNCITRAL Model Law.

If you need details about the legal system or need assistance in litigation matters you can contact our lawyers in Belgium.