Civil Procedure in Spain: Code, System and Regulations
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Civil Procedure in Spain: Code, System and Regulations

Understanding the Civil Code and Procedures in Spain

Navigating the intricacies of civil procedure in Spain can be daunting for both individuals and businesses. Whether you’re dealing with family disputes, property issues, or commercial disagreements, understanding the civil process is crucial. The Civil Procedure Act of 2000 lays down the rules for accessing justice, defining the roles of legal professionals and outlining various types of processes. This comprehensive guide aims to demystify civil proceedings in Spain, offering clear insights into the legal framework, procedural stages, and the roles of involved parties. By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid grasp of what to expect when engaging with Spain’s civil judicial system.

Two people sitting at a table with legal documents and a gavel, illustrating the civil procedure in Spain.

Overview of Civil Procedure Law in Spain

The civil procedure in Spain is governed by a robust legislative framework designed to regulate disputes within both personal and patrimonial spheres. The cornerstone of this framework is the Civil Procedure Act (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil), enacted in 2000. This pivotal law outlines the functioning and jurisdiction of civil and commercial courts, stipulates the conditions for accessing justice, and delineates the various types of civil processes available. Complementing this is the Spanish Organic Law on Judicial Power, which further defines the structure and authority of the judicial system. Together, these laws ensure that civil proceedings are conducted fairly and efficiently, providing a clear legal pathway for resolving disputes.


Navigating the intricacies of civil procedure in Spain can be daunting for both individuals and businesses. Whether you’re dealing with family disputes, property issues, or commercial disagreements, understanding the civil process is crucial. The Civil Procedure Act of 2000 lays down the rules for accessing justice, defining the roles of legal professionals and outlining various types of processes. At Lawants, we specialize in International Commercial Litigation and Arbitration, offering expert legal representation and strategic advice. Contact us to ensure your interests are effectively protected.

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Law 1/2000, of 7 January, on Civil Procedure (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil)

Enacted in the year 2000, the Civil Procedure Act (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil) serves as the backbone of Spain’s civil judicial system. This law meticulously regulates the functioning and competence of civil and commercial courts, establishing a structured framework for resolving disputes, including alternative dispute resolution methods in Spain.

The Act outlines the conditions and requirements for accessing justice, ensuring that litigants are adequately represented by both a lawyer and a court solicitor (procurador). It mandates that most litigants must be assisted by these legal professionals unless the monetary amount involved is exceptionally low.

The Act also delineates various types of processes, such as the ordinary process (juicio ordinario) for claims exceeding €15,000 and the verbal process (juicio verbal) for smaller claims. Additionally, it includes specific provisions for processes like the order for payment process (juicio monitorio) for monetary claims supported by documentation.

By codifying these procedures, Law 1/2000 ensures that civil proceedings in Spain are conducted efficiently and justly, providing a clear legal pathway for all parties involved.

Spanish Organic Law on Judicial Power

The Spanish Organic Law on Judicial Power plays a pivotal role in the judicial system by defining the organization, competencies, and functions of Spain’s judiciary.

This law complements the Civil Procedure Act by providing the structural and operational framework within which civil and commercial courts operate. It establishes the territorial, functional, and hierarchical organization of the courts, ensuring that justice is administered efficiently and effectively across different levels.

While the Civil Procedure Act focuses on procedural aspects, such as the steps involved in litigation and the roles of legal professionals, the Organic Law on Judicial Power ensures that these processes are carried out within a well-defined judicial structure. Together, these laws create a cohesive system that upholds the rule of law and guarantees access to justice for all parties involved.

EU Procedural Law

EU procedural law significantly influences Spanish civil procedures, ensuring that Spain’s legal system aligns with broader European standards.

Key regulations and directives from the European Union shape various aspects of civil litigation, promoting uniformity and facilitating cross-border legal processes.

For instance, the Brussels I Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012) governs jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters, simplifying legal proceedings across member states. Another crucial directive is the European Small Claims Procedure (Regulation (EC) No 861/2007), which provides a streamlined process for handling small claims across the EU.

These regulations not only harmonize procedural laws but also enhance cooperation between national courts, thereby complementing Spain’s Civil Procedure Act and the Organic Law on Judicial Power. By integrating EU directives into its national framework, Spain ensures that its civil procedures are efficient, transparent, and consistent with European legal standards.

The Civil Law System in Spain

The civil law system, predominant in Spain and many other EU countries, is characterized by its codified nature. This means that laws are systematically compiled into comprehensive legal codes, which are continuously updated to reflect societal changes. The Civil Procedure Act of 2000 and the Spanish Organic Law on Judicial Power are prime examples of such codification, providing a clear and structured framework for civil litigation.

In contrast, the common law system, prevalent in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, relies heavily on judicial precedents and case law. Decisions made by higher courts become binding precedents for lower courts to follow. This creates a more flexible but less predictable legal environment compared to the rigid structure of civil law systems.

Spain’s civil law tradition ensures consistency and clarity, making it easier for individuals and businesses to understand their legal rights and obligations. This codified approach allows for a more straightforward interpretation of laws, reducing ambiguity and fostering a stable legal environment.

Codification and Legal Codes

In the civil law system, codification is the process of consolidating and systematizing laws into comprehensive legal codes. These codified laws serve as a primary source of legal authority, providing clear and organized statutes that govern various aspects of civil life.

In Spain, the Civil Procedure Act (Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil) and the Spanish Organic Law on Judicial Power are pivotal examples of such codification.

The significance of these legal codes lies in their ability to offer predictability and consistency in legal proceedings. By having a structured set of rules, both individuals and businesses can navigate the legal system with a clearer understanding of their rights and obligations. Furthermore, these codes are not static; they are continuously updated and maintained to reflect societal changes and new legal precedents. This ongoing revision ensures that the legal framework remains relevant and effective in addressing contemporary issues.

Codified laws also streamline the judicial process by reducing ambiguities and providing a clear basis for legal interpretation. This contrasts with common law systems, where judicial decisions play a more significant role in shaping the law. In essence, codification in Spain’s civil law system fosters a stable and predictable legal environment, essential for both personal and commercial disputes.

Structure of Civil Courts

The structure of civil courts in Spain is organized by territory, and competence to ensure a systematic and efficient judicial process.

At the foundational level, there are unipersonal courts, which are presided over by a single judge and handle first-instance cases. These courts are responsible for the initial adjudication of disputes and cover a broad range of issues within their territorial jurisdiction.

For more complex or higher-value cases, multipersonal courts come into play. These courts operate at the second instance and consist of panels of judges who collectively rule on appeals against decisions made by unipersonal courts. The collaborative nature of these courts ensures a thorough review process, providing an additional layer of scrutiny.

At the apex of the judicial hierarchy are the High Courts of Justice, the Spanish Supreme Court, and the Spanish Constitutional Court.

The High Courts of Justice serve as the highest judicial authority within each autonomous community, addressing appeals and significant legal matters within their respective regions. The Spanish Supreme Court holds national jurisdiction and is the ultimate appellate court for civil cases, ensuring uniformity in legal interpretation across Spain. Lastly, the Spanish Constitutional Court focuses on constitutional matters, safeguarding the principles enshrined in the Spanish Constitution.

This multi-tiered structure allows for a clear division of responsibilities and specialization at each level, enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of civil proceedings in Spain.

Roles of Legal Professionals

In Spain, the roles of legal professionals in civil procedures are clearly delineated to ensure effective and fair litigation.

  • Lawyers (Abogados): Lawyers play a pivotal role in the civil process. They are responsible for devising legal strategies, drafting judicial documents, and representing clients in court. Their expertise is crucial in navigating the complexities of the law, ensuring that the client’s case is presented effectively and persuasively. Lawyers handle all aspects of the case preparation, from gathering evidence to presenting arguments during the trial.
  • Court Solicitors (Procuradores): Court solicitors, or procuradores, have the formal role of representing plaintiffs or defendants before the courts. They are responsible for receiving judicial decisions and communicating them to the lawyer handling the case. Procuradores ensure that all procedural requirements are met and manage the formalities of court submissions and notifications.
  • Exceptions: While the involvement of both lawyers and procuradores is generally mandatory in civil proceedings, there are exceptions for cases involving very low monetary amounts. In such instances, parties may be allowed to proceed without legal representation, simplifying the process and reducing costs.

This structured approach to legal representation ensures that all parties have access to professional legal assistance, which is essential for maintaining the integrity and fairness of civil proceedings in Spain.

Wooden gavel on a table with a blurred background of a justice scale and people discussing, representing the civil procedure in Spain.

Stages of Civil Procedure in Spain

The civil procedure in Spain is meticulously structured to ensure a fair and orderly resolution of disputes. The process is governed by the Civil Procedure Act of 2000, which outlines the various stages and types of processes involved.

  • Ordinary Process (Juicio Ordinario): This type of process is generally used for claims exceeding €15,000. It begins with the filing of a claim by the plaintiff, accompanied by all supporting documents. The defendant then has the opportunity to file a defense. A preliminary hearing (audiencia previa) is held before the actual trial, where evidence is presented, and legal arguments are made. The trial concludes with a ruling from the judge, which can be appealed to higher courts.
  • Verbal Process (Juicio Verbal): This process is intended for claims of lower amounts, typically under €15,000. Unlike the ordinary process, the verbal process proceeds directly to trial without a preliminary hearing. The trial is conducted orally before the court, where evidence is examined, and conclusions are presented by the lawyers. The judge then issues a sentence, which can also be appealed.

Both processes begin with the filing of a claim and involve several key stages, including evidence presentation and legal arguments. The primary difference lies in the procedural steps and the monetary threshold for each type of process. Understanding these stages is crucial for anyone involved in civil litigation in Spain, as it helps in navigating the legal landscape effectively.


Understanding the stages of civil procedure in Spain is crucial for effective litigation. From filing a claim to the final judgment, each stage requires careful preparation and strategic planning. Lawants’ team of experts in International Commercial Litigation and Arbitration provides the necessary legal support to navigate these complex processes. Ensure your case is handled with the utmost professionalism and expertise. Contact us for comprehensive legal assistance.

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Ordinary Process (Juicio Ordinario)

The ordinary process, or “juicio ordinario,” is designed for claims exceeding €15,000. This type of civil procedure involves several distinct stages to ensure a thorough examination of the case:

  • Filing of a Claim: The process begins with the plaintiff filing a statement of claim. This document must include all supporting evidence and clearly outline the allegations against the defendant.
  • Defense: Upon receiving the claim, the defendant is given an opportunity to file a defense. This response should address the plaintiff’s allegations and present any counter-evidence or arguments.
  • Preliminary Hearing (Audiencia Previa): Before the trial, a preliminary hearing is held. This stage serves to clarify the issues in dispute, organize the evidence, and attempt to resolve any procedural matters. It helps streamline the subsequent trial by addressing preliminary concerns.
  • Trial: The trial is conducted orally before the court. Both parties present their evidence and legal arguments. Witnesses may be called, and documents are examined. The lawyers for both sides will summarize their positions and provide final arguments.
  • Ruling: After considering all presented evidence and arguments, the judge issues a ruling. This decision can be appealed to higher courts if either party is dissatisfied with the outcome.

Each stage of the ordinary process is crucial for ensuring that all aspects of the case are thoroughly examined. Understanding these steps helps litigants prepare effectively and navigate the complexities of civil litigation in Spain.

Verbal Process (Juicio Verbal)

The verbal process, or “juicio verbal,” is intended for claims of a lower amount, typically less than €15,000. This streamlined procedure is designed to handle less complex cases more efficiently.

  • Filing of a Claim: The process begins with the plaintiff submitting a statement of claim. This document should include all relevant evidence and a clear outline of the allegations against the defendant.
  • Defense: The defendant is then given the opportunity to file a defense. This response should address the plaintiff’s claims and present any counter-evidence or arguments.
  • Direct Trial: Unlike the ordinary process, the verbal process moves directly to trial without a preliminary hearing. The trial is conducted orally before the court, where both parties present their evidence and arguments. Witnesses may be called, and documents are examined during this stage.
  • Ruling: After considering all presented evidence and arguments, the judge issues a ruling. This decision can be appealed to higher courts if either party is dissatisfied with the outcome.

The verbal process is designed to be quicker and more straightforward than the ordinary process, making it an ideal option for resolving smaller claims efficiently. Understanding these stages helps litigants prepare effectively and navigate the civil litigation landscape in Spain.

Additional Processes

  • Order for Payment Process (Juicio Monitorio): The order for payment process, known as “juicio monitorio,” is a simplified procedure designed for monetary claims supported by invoices or other documents evidencing the debt. This process begins with the creditor submitting a petition to the court, along with the necessary documentation proving the debt. If the court finds the documentation satisfactory, it issues an order for payment to the debtor. The debtor then has a limited period to either pay the debt or contest the claim. If no response is received, the court can enforce the payment.
  • Other Specific Processes: Beyond the ordinary and verbal processes, Spanish civil procedure includes various specific processes tailored to particular types of disputes. For instance, disputes regarding leases are often processed through verbal proceedings regardless of the monetary amount involved. Another example is family law cases, which may involve specialized procedures to address issues such as custody or inheritance disputes. These additional processes are designed to address the unique aspects of different types of legal conflicts, ensuring that each case is handled appropriately within the framework of Spanish civil law.

Duration and Costs of Civil Procedures

The duration and costs of civil procedures in Spain can vary significantly based on several factors. The type of process—whether it is an ordinary process (juicio ordinario) or a verbal process (juicio verbal)—plays a crucial role in determining the timeline.

Ordinary processes, which generally handle claims exceeding €15,000, often involve multiple stages, including preliminary hearings and trials, thereby extending the duration. Verbal processes, intended for smaller claims, are typically quicker but still depend on the court’s workload.

Costs are another critical aspect that litigants must consider. These include court fees, lawyer fees, and the fees for court solicitors (procuradores). Generally, the losing party bears the cost of the proceedings, which can add up quickly. Understanding these financial implications is essential for anyone considering litigation in Spain.

Additionally, the agility of the court and its current workload can influence both duration and costs. Courts with a high volume of cases may experience delays, extending the time required to reach a resolution. For businesses and individuals alike, being aware of these factors is vital for effective legal planning and decision-making.

Duration

The duration of civil procedures in Spain can vary widely depending on the type of process and the efficiency of the court handling the case.

Ordinary processes (juicio ordinario), which typically deal with claims exceeding €15,000, are more complex and can take anywhere from several months to 2 years to conclude. This extended timeline is due to multiple stages, including preliminary hearings and trials.

In contrast, verbal processes (juicio verbal) are designed for smaller claims and are generally quicker, often resolved within a few months. However, even these shorter processes can experience delays if the court has a heavy workload or other administrative inefficiencies.

According to recent studies, the average duration for an ordinary process in Spain can range from 12 to 24 months, while verbal processes usually take around 6 to 12 months. Understanding these timelines is crucial for litigants as it helps in planning and setting realistic expectations for the resolution of their disputes.

Costs

The costs associated with civil procedures in Spain can be significant and include court fees, lawyer fees, and court solicitor (procurador) fees.

Court fees are mandatory and vary depending on the type of case and the amount in dispute. Lawyer fees can be substantial, as legal professionals are responsible for drafting judicial documents, developing case strategies, and representing clients in court. Additionally, procurador fees cover the formal representation of the plaintiff or defendant and the submission of judicial decisions to the lawyer.

In Spain, it is a general principle that the losing party bears the costs of the proceedings. This includes not only court fees but also the professional fees of both lawyers and procuradores. However, there are ways to mitigate these costs. In Spain, reaching an out-of-court settlement before going to trial can significantly reduce expenses. Alternatively, using methods like arbitration or mediation—regulated by Spanish laws on Arbitration and Mediation—can also be cost-effective solutions.

These alternative dispute resolution methods offer a less formal and often quicker route to resolving disputes, although they are still gaining acceptance in Spain.

Understanding these potential costs and exploring strategies for mitigation can help litigants manage their financial exposure during civil procedures.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Methods

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) encompasses various methods for resolving disputes outside traditional court proceedings, including arbitration and mediation. In the context of civil procedures in Spain, ADR offers a valuable alternative to the often lengthy and costly judicial process. Governed by Spanish laws on Arbitration and Mediation, these methods aim to provide more efficient, flexible, and less adversarial means of settling disputes.

The benefits of ADR compared to traditional judicial proceedings are numerous. ADR methods typically offer faster resolution times, which can be crucial for businesses looking to minimize disruption. They also tend to be more cost-effective, reducing expenses related to court fees, lawyer fees, and procurador fees. Additionally, ADR processes are generally less formal and more adaptable to the specific needs of the parties involved, fostering a collaborative rather than confrontational atmosphere.

By opting for ADR, parties can often reach mutually satisfactory agreements while preserving their relationships. This is particularly beneficial in commercial disputes where ongoing business relationships are at stake. Understanding and utilizing ADR methods can thus be a strategic advantage in navigating the civil procedure landscape in Spain.

Arbitration

Arbitration in Spain is governed by the Spanish Arbitration Act, which provides a structured yet flexible framework for resolving disputes outside traditional court settings. This legal framework aligns with international standards, making it an attractive option for both domestic and international parties.

The arbitration process typically begins with an arbitration agreement, where the parties consent to resolve their disputes through arbitration rather than litigation. Once an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators is selected, the process proceeds with the submission of written statements and evidence by both parties. Hearings may be held where each party presents their case, although these are generally less formal than court proceedings.

Arbitration is commonly used in commercial disputes, particularly those involving complex contracts or international elements. It offers several advantages over traditional judicial proceedings, such as faster resolution times, confidentiality, and the ability to select arbitrators with specific expertise relevant to the dispute. Additionally, arbitration awards are generally final and binding, with limited grounds for appeal, providing a level of certainty and finality that can be beneficial for business operations.

By understanding the arbitration process and its benefits, businesses can make informed decisions about whether this ADR method is suitable for their specific needs in the context of civil procedures in Spain.

Mediation

Mediation in Spain is governed by the Spanish Mediation Act, which provides a legal framework for resolving disputes amicably outside the court system. This method is particularly useful in personal disputes, such as family matters, and commercial conflicts where maintaining relationships is essential.

The mediation process begins with the mutual agreement of both parties to engage in mediation. A neutral mediator is then selected to facilitate discussions. Unlike arbitration, the mediator does not impose a decision but helps the parties communicate effectively to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. The process typically involves several sessions where each party presents their perspective, and the mediator assists in identifying common ground and negotiating terms.

One of the primary benefits of mediation is its confidentiality, which ensures that sensitive information remains private. Additionally, mediation is generally faster and less expensive than traditional litigation, making it an attractive option for many. It also allows for more flexible and creative solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of the parties involved.

By opting for mediation, parties can resolve their disputes in a more collaborative and less adversarial environment, ultimately saving time, reducing costs, and preserving relationships. This makes mediation a valuable tool in the landscape of civil procedures in Spain.

Challenges and Perception

Despite the legal framework supporting Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods like arbitration and mediation, their acceptance and prestige in Spain remain limited. Many businesses and individuals still prefer traditional litigation, partly due to a lack of awareness about the benefits of ADR and partly due to cultural inclinations towards formal judicial processes.

Efforts to promote ADR methods have been undertaken, including legislative initiatives and public awareness campaigns. The Spanish Mediation Act aims to provide a structured approach to mediation, ensuring that it is a viable and accessible option for resolving disputes. Additionally, various professional organizations and legal bodies are actively working to educate both the public and legal professionals about the advantages of ADR.

However, these efforts face significant challenges. The perception that ADR lacks the authority and finality of court judgments persists, making it difficult to shift the preference away from traditional litigation. Furthermore, the infrastructure for ADR, such as the availability of trained mediators and arbitrators, is still developing.

Lawants’ Dispute Resolution Services

Understanding the civil procedure in Spain is essential for effectively navigating legal disputes, whether they involve personal matters or commercial issues. The Civil Procedure Act of 2000 and the Spanish Organic Law on Judicial Power form the backbone of this framework, detailing everything from the roles of legal professionals to the different types of processes available.

Civil procedures can range from ordinary processes for higher-value claims to verbal processes for smaller disputes, with additional specialized procedures such as the order for payment process. Each stage of the process, from filing a claim to the final judgment, requires meticulous preparation and strategic planning.

Given the complexities and potential pitfalls, professional legal advice is invaluable. Specialized lawyers can provide crucial guidance, ensuring that all deadlines, rights, and obligations are met. If you need assistance with civil procedures in Spain, do not hesitate to contact our experienced team at Lawants. We are here to provide you with expert advice and representation tailored to your specific needs.


Given the complexities and potential pitfalls of civil procedures in Spain, professional legal advice is invaluable. Lawants offers specialized services in International Commercial Litigation and Arbitration, ensuring that your legal disputes are resolved efficiently and effectively. Our experienced lawyers provide tailored legal representation and strategic advice to meet your specific needs. Contact us today to benefit from our expertise and safeguard your interests.

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We engage in national and European injunction proceedings, ordinary proceedings, as well as in exequatur procedures regarding foreign judgments and arbitral […]

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