Civil trial: how to give testimony?

Verified 07 April 2021 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

In a civil trial, it may be necessary to call witnesses. The court may take their statements at trial. The parties may also provide written testimony.

At the hearing

If you're called as a witness, you have an obligation to come and testify. There are exceptions, however. You can be compensated for your expenses.

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General case

You can testify in court for facts in which you are not directly involved (for example, an accident between 2 other drivers).

In some cases, you may request to be exempted from this obligation to hear, for example because of the respect due to your private or professional life. The judge decides to grant your request.

You can decline hearing if you are a close relative (ascendant, descendant, married, former or common-law partner).

Please note

siblings cannot be exempted from testifying.


If you are a minor, you cannot be designated as a witness, nor can you take an oath to tell the whole truth as provided by law.

In the case of a divorce or legal separation proceedingsHowever, if you are the child of the couple, you can in no way be heard on the reasons for the separation of your parents. Your hearing cannot take place either as a witness or for mere statements.

In other cases, you can make simple statements to the court, which collects your observations and assesses their value and scope. This may be the case, for example, if you have witnessed an accidental fall leading to a trial.

Prohibition related to a court decision

If you have lost your civil rights as a result of a court decision, you cannot be heard as a witness and you cannot take an oath to tell the whole truth as the law provides.

You can, however, make simple statements to the court, which will take your comments and assess their value and scope.

Person under guardianship

If you are under guardianship, you cannot be designated as a witness and you cannot take an oath to tell the whole truth as provided for by law.

You can, however, make simple statements to the court, which will take your comments and assess their value and scope.


Witnesses shall be appointed by the parties (applicant or defendant), who make their request to the judge in charge of the case.

However, the judge is free to refuse certain testimony if he or she considers that it will not contribute to the case.

Witnesses may also be directly designated by the judge.


Witnesses shall be summoned 8 days at least before the date of their hearing in court.

The invitation can be sent by post or by email. It must include full names, a reference to the obligation to testify and the penalties provided for.

The parties shall be informed of such summons.

Introduce Yourself

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General case

In case of summons before the court, you must appear, unless there is legitimate reason (illness...).


failure to appear without cause shall be punished by a fine of €10,000. The witness may be city at his own expense.


If you are the parents of a Civil partnership or his or her spouse, common-law partner or partner, you may refuse to testify, even if the couple is divorced.

Spouse (spouse, Civil partnership partner, common-law partner) or former spouse

If you are the person who living as a couple with one of the parties or his former spouse, you can refuse to come and testify.



If you are the child who has reached the age of majority, you cannot be heard as a witness in a divorce or separation case concerning your parents.

Other business

Apart from cases of separation or divorce, if you are the adult child summoned in a case concerning your parents, you can refuse to come to court.

Take oath

The judge takes an oath to tell the truth and then hears the testimony.

Refusal to swear an oath shall be punishable by a fine of €10,000.

False testimony in civil matters is punishable by 3 years imprisonment and €45,000 of fine.

In case of false testimony motivated by promises of reward, the penalties are increased and increased to 7 years imprisonment and €100,000 of fine.

Testimony shall be given in the order decided by the judge, in the presence of the parties.

Witnesses are questioned by the judge. The parties may not interrupt, call upon or seek to influence it.

If the parties have questions for the witness, they forward them to the judge, who will ask them himself after the hearing.

The witness cannot have written notes during his testimony.

All statements shall be recorded in a written record. The witnesses sign the deed. If they refuse to sign, the judge shall state that fact in the minutes.

Witnesses may be heard in the presence of a technician, who shall be a qualified person as a judicial expert. He is appointed by the judge to provide a technical analysis during the hearing of the witness. This could be a car expert in a traffic accident, for example.

After the hearing, the judge may ask the witness to remain at the disposal of the court in case of additional questions.

You can claim compensation. They shall reimburse the costs incurred in testifying:

  • Travel costs (train, motorway...)
  • Living expenses (hotel...).

Claims for compensation must be filed with the Registrar at the hearing. The judge may authorize you to receive compensation on presentation of proof.

In writing

The parties to the trial may give written testimony. They take the form of an attestation or sometimes other forms such as a letter or a letter from a witness. The judge may receive these writings. It may also request attestations from the parties in order to enlighten it.

The certificate is a written statement by a witness concerning facts which he has personally observed or of which he has had knowledge.

For example, you can make a statement if you witness an accident or a conflict in your neighborhood.

If you have been a witness, you can report the facts in an attestation at the request of a party or the judge.

If you yourself are a party to the trial, you cannot establish a certificate that you have written.

You cannot establish a witness certificate if you are a minor or if you are under guardianship.

If you are the adult child of a couple who separates or divorces, you cannot testify in the form of a certificate.

You must indicate your surname, given names, date and place of birth, address and occupation, your relationship if any.

You must indicate the facts you witnessed or what you personally saw.

The certificate is written, dated and signed by you.

You must attach a photocopy of your ID.

The attestations are produced by the parties or requested by the judge.

It is the judge who decides whether they are valid.

A template is available online:

Model Witness Attestation


any false testimony is punishable by 1 year imprisonment and €15,000 of fine. In some cases, the penalty is increased to 3 years imprisonment and €45,000 of fine.

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