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Civil trial: how are the witnesses heard?

Verified 16 décembre 2019 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

In a civil trial, it may be necessary to call witnesses. If they are summoned by the court, they have an obligation to testify at the hearing.

General case

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

Minor

A minor cannot be called as a witness.

In the case of a divorce or legal separation proceedings, the children of the couple may not be heard on the grounds of separation. Whether as witnesses or for simple statements.

Such persons may, however, make simple statements in court, under the same conditions as witnesses but without taking an oath.

Loss of civil rights

A person who has lost his or her civil rights as a result of a court decision cannot be called as a witness.

She may, however, make simple statements in court, under the same conditions as witnesses but without taking an oath.

Trustee

A person under guardianship cannot be called as a witness.

She may, however, make simple statements in court, under the same conditions as witnesses but without taking an oath.

Description

Witnesses shall be appointed by the parties, who shall apply to the judge in charge of the case.

However, the judge is free to refuse certain testimonies if he considers that they will not bring anything to the case.

Witnesses may also be directly appointed by the judge.

Convocation

Witnesses receive their summons 8 days at least before the date of their court hearing.

The invitation can be sent by mail or by mail.

The parties shall be informed of this invitation.

Present

General case

In the event of a summons to appear before the court, the witness must appear, unless there are legitimate reasons (illness...).

  Warning : Unjustified refusal to testify shall be punishable by a fine of €10,000..

Parents

Parents of a party or the parents of their spouse, cohabiting partner or Pacs partner may refuse to testify.

Spouse or former spouse

The person who lives as a couple with one of the parties or his ex may refuse to testify.

Children

Divorce/Separation

Children of full age may not be heard as witnesses in a divorce or separation case involving their parents.

Other business

Children of full age may be summoned to a case concerning their parents but may refuse to attend court.

Take oath

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

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

False testimony in civil matters is punished by 3 years imprisonment and €25,000 fine.

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

The testimony of witnesses shall be taken in the order decided by the judge, in the presence of the parties.

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

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 are recorded in minutes.

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

Allowances may be paid to the witness. They shall reimburse the costs incurred in coming to testify:

  • Travel expenses (train, motorway expenses...)
  • Residence (hotel...).

Claims must be filed with the Registrar at the hearing. They shall be paid on presentation of documentary evidence.