What are the modes of evidence in a civil trial?

Verified 18 May 2021 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

In a civil trial, any person who makes a request in court must provide proof of his claims. They have to follow certain rules. In principle, evidence is provided by the parties, except in exceptional cases where the judge seeks it himself.

Proof by any means

The proof is often written (contract, title, invoice...). You have to produce the original. It proves the existence of your commitment or right. Writing on electronic media has the same value as writing on paper.

When you want to prove a fact, a situation, you can bring proof by any means (SMS, email, screenshots, photographs...). For example, you can take a picture of a text message and then have it seen by a commissioner of justice (former bailiff and judicial auctioneer). The report of a private detective is also admissible evidence.

Loyalty of evidence

Any evidence you bring to court must have been gathered fairly. Such evidence must not infringe on privacy or professional secrecy (e.g. medical records). It cannot be the result of fraud, violence or theft. For example, in divorce matters, messages sent by a spouse to a third party are only allowed if the spouse had free access to them (social networks, smartphone, online profiles, lack of password or known password...). Any person must be informed before a recording of telephone exchanges.

GPS trackers and bugs, for example, are not fair evidence, just like recordings without consent.

In any case, you cannot produce evidence from yourself to attack your opponent. For example, you can't write an invoice to prove that someone owes you money.

The judge checks the conditions for obtaining evidence before using it as evidence. You can also ask the judge to rule out unfair evidence.

In a legal action, you must, like your opponent, produce the evidence necessary for your defense. For example, if you request that a service provisionNo, you have to prove it. There are many such methods of proof.

Authentic instrument

The authentic instrument is an act drawn up by a public and ministerial officer (Commissioner of Justice, notary ...). For example, a certificate of ownership issued by a notary proves that you are indeed the owner of a house.

The authentic act is hardly questionable. It must be proved that the public officer did not personally carry out this act or that the finding was not made by him.

Act under private signature

It's written without any particular form, either by the parties or by a third party. It must be dated, signed and binding on all parties.

For example, it can take the following forms:

In the event of a dispute concerning the performance of a contract, you must provide proof of the existence of the contract and its content. This proof can be provided in writing in original indicating your obligations and those of your opponent and including your signatures.

The privately signed document can also be countersigned by a lawyer. It then provides proof of the writing and signature of the parties and is more difficult to challenge.

The judge shall assess the probative value of these writings, that is, their value as evidence.

Written or oral testimony

You can use the testimony written or oral by a third party.

The witness's certificate shall contain a statement of the facts which he has witnessed or personally observed. It is written, dated and signed by him.

A template is available online:

Model Witness Attestation

Its validity is assessed by the judge.

Sometimes the testimony can't be used. Written evidence is thus required to prove any legal act relating to a sum greater than €1,500.


anyone who testifies to facts that are materially inaccurate shall be liable to imprisonment for one year and €15,000 of fine.

Proof by index

You can provide clues from which the judge can establish his or her intimate conviction.

These may be statements by persons who cannot be heard as witnesses (guardians, minors, children of spouses during divorce). It can also be the attitude of a party who, for example, refuses to submit to genetic testing or to respond to a court summons. In these cases, the judge may consider your opponent's behavior as prima facie evidence.

The judge shall assess the probative value of this index, i.e. its value as evidence.

Usher's statement (now called Commissioner of Justice)

If you have to prove the reality of a situation (noise nuisance, degraded car, departure of a spouse from the matrimonial home...), you can contact a Commissioner of Justiceso that he can make a statement. This finding describes the material findings made by the Commissioner of Justice personally. The findings of the Commissioner of Justice are rewarding.

The judge plays an important role in evidence.

Technician Instruction Metrics

The judge may designate any person of his choice to enlighten him by a finding or expertise on an issue that requires a technical explanation. For example, it may be a finding by the Commissioner of Justice, an opinion or an expert report.

This technician (often an expert) must complete his mission within the time limit set by the judge. It may request the parties to submit any relevant documents.

Such measures may be ordered at any stage of the procedure.

The judge shall designate the party or parties who shall be required to pay an amount of money as provision to graft of the court. This amount of money is an advance of costs to cover the cost of expertise.

The expert may be assisted in the performance of his task by a person of his choice acting under his supervision and responsibility.

The judge is not obliged to follow the expert's findings or conclusions.

Personal Verification

The judge may carry out checks by himself, in the presence of the parties. If he deems it necessary, he can make observations by moving around the place, as in the case of bounding for example. A report shall be drawn up. It shall be brought to the attention of the parties.

If there is a dispute about a privately signed document, the judge can check the handwriting or signature of the person who wrote the document. He can order the parties to produce all documents to compare and ask them to write, under his dictates, lines of writing.

Personal appearance of the parties

The judge may call the parties or one of them personally. He shall fix the places, days and times of the personal appearance, unless he orders it on the same day of the hearing.

The parties shall be questioned in the presence of each other, unless the circumstances require that they be questioned separately. They must be confronted if one of the parties so requests.

The parties may be questioned in the presence of a technician and confronted with witnesses.

The parties shall answer the questions put to them in person. Minutes shall be drawn up of their statements, their absence from appearance or their refusal to reply. These minutes shall be signed by the parties questioned.

Third Party Declaration

The judge may hear persons who are aware of the dispute and who can provide useful information. For example, it may hear witnesses to a traffic accident to inform it of the circumstances of the collision.

Judicial Oath

The oath is a solemn declaration made before a judge, which may sometimes be ordered by the judge, in the absence of other evidence.

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