Number of civil court cases down in the Netherlands

In 2012, Dutch civil courts dealt with nearly 1.1 million new cases, i.e. a decrease by 75 thousand compared to record year 2010, according figures released by Statistics Netherlands. Although criminal cases generally draw most public attention, the majority of cases brought before Dutch courts are civil law cases.

Civil courts deal with cases involving citizens, businesses and the various levels of government. Civil court cases mostly concern financial issues or family matters, like divorces and child custody. In 2012, civil court judges heard 1.08 million new cases: 549 thousand summonses and 534 thousand petitions.

If someone is summoned, they are ordered to appear in court. A petition is a formal request made to a court of law for some legal action to be taken. In the case of child adoption, for example, a petition is not based on a dispute. The number of cases brought before civil courts between 2001 and 2010 rose by more than 75 percent to 1.16 million in 2010. Subsequently, the number began to fall.

Fewer summons procedures
Most summons procedures end with a court order or judgement. The number of summonses and court orders was reduced by 20 percent between 2010 and 2012 after having doubled between 2001 and 2010. The reduction is partly due to the higher court fee introduced at the end of 2010. This financial barrier makes it less easy for people to go to court.

More petitions
The number of petitions grew by 60 percent between 2001 and 2010 and also increased from 2010 to 2012. A petition procedure usually ends with a disposition. Nearly nine in ten dispositions involve family matters (like divorce, child custody and placements under supervision of underage children). Bankruptcies are also settled by means of a disposition.
Appeals in higher courts and cassation orders

Appeals against court decisions are dealt with by the Courts of Justice in the Netherlands. In 2012, they dealt with 15 thousand cases. Ultimately, appeals (cassation orders) against decisions made by lower courts are dealt with by the Supreme Court, the highest court in the Netherlands. The so-called civil chamber of the Supreme Court dealt with nearly 600 appeals in 2012.

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