What are civil proceedings?

Civil proceedings are court proceedings in civil matters. You may find some general information about civil proceedings in a brochure published by the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Justice, "Was Sie über den Zivilprozess wissen sollten" externer Link, öffnet neues Browserfenster (available only in German).


Who is called a party to civil proceedings?

Those who file a suit and those against whom a suit is filed are both parties to civil proceedings. This means that, depending on the kind of the proceedings, the plaintiff and the defendant (in proceedings leading to a judgment), the creditor and the debtor (in enforcement proceedings), and the petitioner and the respondent (in other proceedings) are all parties to civil proceedings.


Are the parties entitled to plead their case before the court?

No – there is a statutory requirement to be represented by a lawyer in civil proceedings before a regional court.


Is there an obligation for parties to be present at the court hearing?

As a result of the statutory requirement to be represented by a lawyer, the parties to civil proceedings before regional courts have to be present at the hearings only if the court orders them to attend the hearing. This will be the case where the court considers personal attendance of the parties necessary, for instance because the court wants to make additional enquiries into the facts of the case or to discuss an amicable settlement of the dispute. In such case, the party in question will be specifically summoned to the hearing. The party – just like a witness – is obliged to comply with the summons. The summons also contains information about what to do if the party cannot attend the hearing. It goes without saying that parties are free to accompany their lawyers to a court hearing without being summoned.


What ca. you do if you are uncertain whether you are required to attend the court hearing?

In that case you should ask your lawyer or contact the competent court registry.


Please note:

There are security checks of people entering the court building. You should therefore allow for queues due to the security checks, especially in the morning.
Mobile phones with camera facilities must be deposited at the entrance.