Costs of proceedings - Belgium
This page provides information about costs of legal proceedings in Belgium. For a more in-depth analysis on the costs of proceedings, please consult the following case studies:
Provisions relating to fees of legal professions
The fees of bailiffs in civil and commercial proceedings are regulated by a Royal Decree of 30 November 1976. The tariffs for 2009 were published in the Belgian Official Gazette of 31 December 2008.
The texts and tariffs may be consulted on the Internet site of the National Chamber of Bailiffs of Belgium (heading ‘Tarifs et taux d’intérêt’ (Tariffs and interest rates) then ‘Toutes affaires’ (All cases)) or on that of the portal of the Judiciary of Belgium (heading ‘Législation’ (Legislation)).
The fees of bailiffs in criminal proceedings are regulated by a Royal Decree of 28 December 1950 and by a ministerial circular of 22 January 2009. The tariffs for 2009 were published in the Belgian Official Gazette of 12 January 2009.
The texts and tariffs may be consulted on the Internet site of the National Chamber of Bailiffs of Belgium (heading ‘Tarifs et taux d’intérêt’ (Tariffs and interest rates), then ‘Affaires pénales’ (Criminal cases)) or on that of the portal of the Judiciary of Belgium (heading ‘Législation’ (Legislation)).
Lawyers’ fees are not regulated. Lawyers set them freely and they may be negotiated between client and lawyer, but lawyers must still set them within suitably restrained limits. The lawyers’ association may check that lawyers do not exceed these limits.
Several calculation methods are possible: hourly remuneration, remuneration for each service provided, remuneration according to the value of the case (percentage of the amount involved in the proceedings), etc. A fees pact solely linked to the outcome of the action is prohibited by Article 446b of the Belgian Judicial Code. Lawyers must inform their clients in advance of their fee calculation method. Lawyers’ fees are not subject to VAT in Belgium.
Fixed costs in legal proceedings
Fixed costs in civil proceedings
Fixed costs for litigants in civil proceedings
Court costs are fixed in Belgium. Costs vary depending on the court before which the proceedings are brought and the stage of the proceedings (first instance or appeal).
Costs in judicial proceedings are termed ‘legal costs’ and are the subject of Article 1017 et seq. of the Judicial Code. Article 1018 sets out the costs classed as legal costs. Legal costs consist of:
- the various registry and registration fees. Registry fees consist of fees for register entry, drafting and copy execution and are set out in the Code on Registration, Mortgage and Registry Fees, under Article 268 et seq.;
- the cost of and emoluments and salaries for judicial documents;
- the cost of executing a copy of the judgment;
- the costs of all measures of investigation, in particular witness and expert allowances. With regard to witnesses, a Royal Decree of 27 July 1972 determines the amounts of the allowance and of reimbursements.
- travel and subsistence costs for members of the national legal service, registrars and parties when their journey has been ordered by the judge, and document costs, when these have been produced solely for the proceedings;
- the case preparation allowance referred to under Article 1022;
- the fees, emoluments and costs of a mediator appointed in conformity with Article 1734.
Article 1019 states that the registration fees classed as legal costs consist of:
- a general fixed fee,
- specific fixed fees, and
- fees due on judgments leading to conviction, liquidation or collocation of monies or securities.
In some cases, when the applicant or the intervening party in the proceedings is not Belgian and the respondent is Belgian, the latter may, in the absence of an international agreement providing for dispensation and except in special circumstances, request that the applicant or the intervening party provide surety to guarantee payment of damages arising from the action. This is provided for by Article 851 of the Judicial Code.
The costs of bailiffs and lawyers (see above) and translators and interpreters (see below) must also be taken into account, as appropriate.
Stage in civil proceedings when a party must settle fixed costs
Some costs must be settled before an action is brought. This applies to the registry fee, which is collected when the case is entered in the register.
Costs arising during the proceedings are generally collected while the proceedings are underway.
For some costs a reserve has to be established. In this way, experts are paid from a reserve established by the party that sought the measure of investigation. Likewise, Article 953 states that the party requesting that a witness be heard must, before such hearing, deposit a reserve with the registrar representing the amount of the allowance and the reimbursement of costs (travel, etc.).
Costs in legal proceedings are sometimes advanced by lawyers and therefore included in their statement of costs and fees.
Fixed costs in criminal proceedings
Fixed costs due from all parties in criminal proceedings
The issue of fixed costs in criminal proceedings is regulated under Article 91 et seq. of the Royal Decree of 28 December 1950.
Stage in criminal proceedings when a party must settle fixed costs
The issue of fixed costs in criminal proceedings is regulated under Article 91 et seq. of the Royal Decree of 28 December 1950.
Costs of legal proceedings in constitutional matters
Fixed costs for litigants in constitutional proceedings
The only costs attributed to the parties in constitutional proceedings are the costs of sending items by registered post.
What prior information can you expect to receive from your legal representative (lawyer)?
Information relating to the rights and obligations of the parties
The rules of professional conduct impose a duty of information and advice on lawyers with regard to their clients. This involves lawyers providing their clients with information about their rights and obligations.
Lawyers must, among other things, inform their clients about the method of calculating their fees.
Sources of information on costs of legal proceedings
Where can I find information about costs of legal proceedings in Belgium?
Information on this subject is available on the Internet site of the FPS Justice and that of the Commission for Modernisation of the Judiciary (heading ‘Info juridique’ (legal information)), or on the Internet sites of the various legal professions.
Such information may also be found in statutory texts or by contacting the registrar or a lawyer.
In which languages can I find information about the costs of legal proceedings in Belgium?
This information is available in Dutch and French.
Where can I find information on mediation?
Where can I find additional information on costs?
Website on costs of legal proceedings
Where can I find information on the average length of time proceedings take?
A lawyer will be able to give you some information on the estimated length of time of your proceedings. This varies depending on the type of proceedings that you wish to bring and the court before which you wish to take action.
Where can I find information on the average aggregate cost for particular proceedings?
A lawyer will be able to give you some information on the estimated cost of your proceedings. This varies depending on the type of proceedings that you wish to bring and the court before which you wish to take action.
Value Added Tax (VAT)
Where can I find information on this subject? What are the applicable rates?
Where information on costs is published, the costs indicated do not include VAT. The applicable VAT rate is 21%.
What are the income limits for receiving this in civil matters?
This matter is governed by Article 508/1 et seq. of the Belgian Judicial Code.
Frontline legal help is free for all. It involves initial legal advice, and more specifically:
- practical information,
- legal information,
- an initial opinion or referral to a specialist organisation.
This initial advice is given by law professionals and is totally free of charge, whatever your income.
Second-line legal help allows those whose income does not enable them to meet the costs of a lawyer to obtain free or partly-free assistance from a lawyer. A lawyer helps you by advising and defending you. A Royal Decree of 18 December 2003 determines the requirements for free or partly-free second-line legal help and legal assistance.
Those receiving totally free legal help because of their social circumstances:
- any single person whose net monthly income is less than EUR 944;
- any single person with a dependant whose net monthly income is less than EUR 1 213 (+ EUR 163.47 for each dependant);
- any person forming a household (married or cohabiting) whose net monthly household income is less than EUR 1 213 (+ EUR 163.47 for each dependant);
- any person receiving social integration or social welfare income;
- any person receiving the income guarantee to older persons (GRAPA);
- any person receiving income replacement benefits for disabled persons who have not been granted integration benefit;
- any person with a dependent child receiving guaranteed family benefits;
- any social tenant who, in the Flemish or Brussels-Capital Regions, pays a rent equal to half of the base rent or who, in the Walloon Region, pays minimum rent;
- any minor;
- any foreign national, in order to make a residence permit application or bring an administrative or judicial action against a decision taken pursuant to the acts on admission to the territory, stay, settlement and expulsion of foreign nationals;
- any asylum seeker, any person declaring himself or herself a refugee or making an application for refugee status or making an application for displaced person status;
- a person engaged in collective debt settlement proceedings or wishing to submit a request for collective debt settlement.
Those receiving free legal help due to presumed lack of income (a presumption that may be reversed):
- any person in detention or any accused person covered by the law concerning immediate summary trial who is presumed, unless proved otherwise, to be a person without adequate resources;
- any mentally ill person made the subject of a measure provided for by the Act of 26 June 1990 on protection of the person of those mentally ill who are presumed, unless proved otherwise, to be persons without adequate resources;
- a defendant covered by the law concerning immediate summary trial.
The help is partly free (lawyers may, in this case, ask for a limited contribution to cover their services) for:
- any single person whose net monthly income is between EUR 944 and EUR 1 213;
- any single person with a dependant whose net monthly income is between EUR 1 213 and EUR 1 480 (+ EUR 163.47 for each dependant);
- any person who is cohabiting with a partner or with any other person with whom he or she forms a household and whose net monthly household income is between EUR 1 213 and EUR 1 480 (+ EUR 163.47 for each dependant).
The amounts shown above are adjusted each year in line with the consumer price index.
Legal assistance concerns the costs of legal proceedings. If clients do not have adequate resources to meet the costs of legal proceedings, they may apply, directly or through their lawyer, to the legal assistance office. They may, depending on their degree of insolvency, be exempted, in full or in part, from paying the costs of bailiffs, experts, etc. This matter is governed by Article 664 et seq. of the Judicial Code.
What are the requirements to obtain it when someone is a defendant in a criminal trial, a victim of crime or an accused person?
The conditions for obtaining legal aid as a defendant in a criminal trial, a victim or an accused person are the same as set out above.
Are some proceedings exempt from costs?
Yes, for example, proceedings seeking collective debt settlement or an opportunity to participate in court proceedings without costs.
Does the losing party have to pay the winning party’s costs?
Civil and commercial matters
In conformity with Article 1017 et seq., the costs that constitute legal costs (costs for bailiff, expert, court, etc.) are, in general, awarded against the losing party, once the judgment has been delivered.
A one-off contribution to the lawyer costs and fees of the winning party is part of the legal costs awarded against the losing party. This contribution is termed the ‘case preparation allowance’ and is a one-off contribution calculated according to a scale based on the amounts involved in the case. It does not necessarily cover all of the fee costs. A Royal Decree of 26 October 2007 determines the amounts of this case preparation allowance. The amounts are minima and maxima and it is for the judge to assess the amount of the allowance within this range.
In some instances the court may not award legal costs against the losing party but settle this question differently (shared costs, etc.).
When the court finds against the defendant and those civilly liable, the costs of the proceedings are generally awarded against them, as is a case preparation allowance (one-off contribution to the lawyer costs and fees of the winning party – see civil and commercial matters above). On the other hand, if the court does not find against the defendants and those civilly liable and the party claiming damages loses, the latter may or must be ordered to pay all or part of the costs of proceedings to the State and to the defendant, as well as a case preparation allowance. In some instances the costs of proceedings are paid by the State. These rules are contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Civil and commercial matters
Experts’ fees are not regulated and experts set the amount of their fees freely. The judge monitors these fees in a marginal way (he or she may intervene in the event of disagreement between the parties and the expert) but there is no legal text establishing the amounts of experts’ fees. This matter is governed by Article 987 et seq. of the Judicial Code, as well as by a Royal Decree of 24 May 1933.
A Royal Decree of 14 November 2003 does, however, establish the tariff of fees and costs due to experts appointed by the employment courts in the context of medical reports concerning:
- cases relating to disabled persons’ benefits,
- family benefits for salaried workers and self-employed workers,
- unemployment insurance, and
- compulsory insurance scheme for health care and allowances.
Experts’ fees in criminal proceedings are regulated by a Royal Decree of 28 December 1950 and by a ministerial circular of 22 January 2009. The tariffs for 2009 were published in the Belgian Official Gazette of 12 January 2009.
Texts available for consultation on the Internet site of the Commission for Modernisation of the Judiciary (heading ‘infos juridique’ (legal information) – ‘professionnels’ (professionals) – ‘tarifs’ (tariffs) – ‘frais de justice’(costs of legal proceedings)) or on the Internet portal of the Judiciary of Belgium (heading ‘Législation’ (Legislation)).
Translators’ and interpreters’ fees
It may be necessary to call upon a translator or interpreter in the course of proceedings. Such is the case when documents are presented in a language other than the one used for the proceedings or when a witness can only express himself or herself in another language. It is also the case when a party speaks a language other than the one used for the proceedings and does not understand the language of the proceedings or when the judge does not understand the language used by that party. The applicable rules are contained in the Act of 15 June 1935 concerning use of language in judicial matters.
Translators’ and interpreters’ fees in criminal proceedings are regulated by a Royal Decree of 28 December 1950 and by a ministerial circular of 22 January 2009. The tariffs for 2009 were published in the Belgian Official Gazette of 12 January 2009.
Texts available for consultation on the Internet site of the Commission for Modernisation of the Judiciary (heading ‘infos juridique’ (legal information) – ‘professionnels’ (professionals) – ‘tarifs’ (tariffs) – ‘frais de justice’ (costs of legal proceedings)) or on the Internet portal of the Judiciary of Belgium (heading ‘Législation’ (Legislation)).
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Last update: 10/12/2015