July 21, 2024

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The general rules of a civil trial

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general rules of a civil trial

Principle of adversarial proceedings, communication of documents, subject of the dispute, appearance, mode of proof….these notions constitute the guiding principles of the civil trial and are defined in articles 1 to 24 of the code of civil procedure .

The subject of the dispute is the claims, the demands.

Only the parties determine the subject of the dispute: the judge can only rule on what is asked of him.

Therefore, if, for example, a party requests damages for non-pecuniary damage, or a contribution to the maintenance and education of his child, it is essential that he precisely indicates the amount requested.

The parties must provide proof of all the facts mentioned in support of their claims.

The legally admissible means of proof are in writing (for example, a lease contract, an invoice), witness statements (see witness statement form ), confession, oath, etc. ( article 1353 to 1386- 1 of the civil code ). It can also be letters, photographs, objects etc.

This evidence must be law ful: it must not have been obtained fraudulently (for example, by theft) or unfairly (for example, by recording a person without their knowledge).

“ The parties must inform each other in good time of the factual grounds on which they base their claims, the evidence they produce and the legal grounds they invoke, so that each is able to organize its defence ” ( article 15 of the code of civil procedure ).

This fundamental principle requires that the requests, the arguments developed and the documents that a party intends to submit to the judge must always be communicated in advance in copy to the opposing party , even if it is already aware of these documents. If it wishes to respond to it, the other party must itself respect the principle of adversarial proceedings.

If one of the parties communicates its documents to its adversary on the same day of the hearing or a few days before the hearing, the latter may, barring exceptions, request that the case be referred to a later hearing (the judge remains however free to grant this referral or not).


Depending on the courts and the nature of the request, the parties must be represented by a lawyer or may defend themselves alone (see assistance and representation of parties before civil courts ).

If the parties have appointed a lawyer, the lawyer will go to the hearings, accompanied or not by his client.

If the parties have not appointed a lawyer (for example before the family court judge or the judge in charge of protection litigation, the industrial tribunal, etc.), they must imperatively attend all the hearings, and cannot simply send a letter to the judge, with the following exceptions:

– before the court of law, in oral proceedings, the judge may dispense a party who so requests from appearing; in this case, the communication between the parties is made by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt or by notification between lawyers and it is justified to the court within the time limits set by the judge ( article 831 of the code of civil procedure )

see the costs and expenses of a trial

Which court to go to?
A judge can only be seized of a dispute if it falls within his jurisdiction: this is the material jurisdiction, or jurisdiction of attribution or jurisdiction ratione materiae of the courts.

It can also only be seized if it is geographically competent: it is the territorial competence of the courts

The judicial court

It is the competent court in principle for all civil and commercial matters for which jurisdiction is not attributed, due to the nature of the request, to another jurisdiction ( articles L211-3 to L211-9-2 of the code of judicial organization ).

Depending on the nature of the dispute, the file will be entrusted to:

to the enforcement judge (who is the president of the court or a judge delegated by him) who is competent
to the judge of freedom and detention, in particular for forced hospitalizations (article L213-8 of the code of
to a non-specialist judge of the judicial court.

Depending on the nature of the dispute, the procedure will be oral or written, with or without a hearing:

promissory notes bearing the signatures of merchants and non-merchants at the same time
within the limits of their jurisdiction, requests made pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 861/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 July 2007 establishing a European procedure for the settlement of small claims.
The industrial tribunal

It settles disputes and disputes between public service personnel, when they are employed under the conditions of private law, disputes and disputes arising between employees in the course of work.

For this, it is necessary to know:

– the territorial jurisdiction of each jurisdiction
– the rules of territorial jurisdiction

Territorial jurisdiction

The website of the Ministry of Justice allows you to find out which courts have jurisdiction for a municipality.

The rules of territorial jurisdiction in civil matters

In principle, the territorially competent jurisdiction is that of the place where the defendant lives, namely the place of his domicile or, failing that, his residence (for a legal person – company, association, etc. – this is its registered office or, in certain cases, of the place where one of its establishments is located – a bank branch, a branch, etc.).
If there are several defendants, the plaintiff may seize, at his option, the jurisdiction of the place where one of them lives.
If the defendant has no known domicile or residence, the plaintiff may seize the jurisdiction of the place where he lives.
If the defendant lives abroad, the plaintiff can seize the jurisdiction of his choice.

However, this rule includes exceptions:

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