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Important changes in procedural law

Changes procedural law

From 1 January 2017, there will be changes to the way in which legal proceedings are conducted in the Netherlands. The new regulations will be phased in and introduced on a court-by-court basis. The starting point of these new regulations is to simplify and digitise proceedings. The most important changes are summarised below.

In civil procedural law, there will no longer be any distinction between summons proceedings and applications proceedings. In the first instance, a basic procedure will be introduced in which all proceedings under civil law will be initiated by the electronic submission of an application or an action to the court. If it concerns an application, the court will deliver that to the parties concerned. In the case of an action, the petitioner will receive a summons from the court that he or she must deliver to the opposing party within two weeks. A bailiff will no longer be necessary, as papers may be served by post or email. A digital portal will become available for new case law (called ‘Mijn Rechtspraak’); all proceedings will be conducted via this portal.

Digital round
The basic procedure of case handling consists of one round conducted in writing for both parties, followed by an oral hearing and a judgment, which is also available digitally. Parties must submit their arguments and documents immediately in the digital round as much as possible. It is therefore important to consult a lawyer at an early stage in a dispute to allow sufficient time to prepare procedural documents and gather evidence.

Oral hearing
The oral hearing forms the core of the new basic procedure and often the final stage as well. The judge then delivers his/her judgment following an oral hearing. To this end, he/she informs the parties prior to the hearing of the content that he/she intends to include in the oral hearing. The possibilities vary; the parties may be asked to provide a verbal explanation, or witnesses or experts may be heard by means of audio or video recordings, for example. Allowing the parties to attempt to settle is also an option, however.

The court will be given greater freedom to not only examine the case itself, but also any underlying dispute. During such handling of a case, the parties themselves will be given the opportunity to explain their viewpoints and to respond to allegations made by the opposing party. The plea as we currently know it will cease to exist. Although the basic procedure will be followed in the vast majority of cases, there is scope for proceeding in a different manner according to the specifics of the case. For example, the court may decide to deviate from the basic procedure by skipping or indeed adding stages.

Faster proceedings
Finally, the procedural time limits will be tightened up. The aim is to reduce the length and duration of proceedings. A request for postponement will therefore not be readily honoured. In principle, the oral hearing will take place within fifteen weeks of the start of proceedings. Procedural documents must be submitted by no later than ten days prior to the hearing. In principle, a judgment will be delivered within six weeks after the oral hearing (four weeks in the case of the sub-district court). This may be quicker: courts may also deliver a judgment immediately after the oral hearing.

Do you have any questions or would you like to know more about the changes? Please contact: Annelies de Bosch Kemper-de Hilster (a.deboschkemper@vo.eu)