There is always some kind of legal problem, lurking around the corner:
- Your rental agreement could be canceled
- You could be fired
- Your landlord could refuse to make important repairs
- You could have problems with the tax authorities
- You could have issues receiving your benefits
- Repairs to your washing machine may not be carried out properly
- Your divorce could be pending
- Your damages may not have been reimbursed following an accident
In other words, since there are so many kinds of legal problem, chances are that you might run into one.
What you need to know about Civil Law:
- Cases involving: amounts lower than € 25,000, employment law cases, and cases involving rent law, light misdemeanors and consumer credit are to be brought before the subdistrict sector of the District Court.
- There is no obligation to have legal representation before the subdistrict sector of the District Court.
- You can choose between representing yourself, or letting yourself be represented by a person with legal training, such as a process-server.
- In all other situations, legal representation is mandatory before the District Court (with the exception of administrative law cases), the Court of Appeals and the Netherlands Supreme Court.
- If you have not arranged it, the magistrates will not accept the case.
What you need to know about Administrative Law:
- Administrative law applies to governmental decisions. These are matters like building permits or benefit payments.
- A lawyer is not required for administrative law issues.
- You may represent yourself.
- For more complex matters, it is wise to consult an expert. A lawyer, for example.
What you need to know about Criminal Law:
- In principle, criminal law does not require legal representation.
- You, as a defendant, may defend yourself.
- If you are taken into custody, you are automatically assigned a lawyer.
- You are, however, free to change lawyers if you wish.
- If you face criminal charges, but are not in custody, you can consult a lawyer.
What you need to know about a Summary Proceeding:
- If you initiate a summary proceeding, you will need to use the services of a lawyer.
- If you are a defendant in such a proceeding, you are not obligated to employ the services of a lawyer.
Some facts about Lawyer’s fees:
- There are no flat rates for the services of lawyers
- A lawyer’s rates vary from one law office to the other
- A lawyer’s rates vary according to the type of case
- It is worth your while to take the trouble to inquire at several law offices, about their (hourly) rates for your type of case
- It is worth your while to ask about the amount of time the lawyer expects to dedicate to your case.
No cure, no pay is not allowed by the code of conduct all lawyers have to abide by
For many people, legal fees can be a problem. If you are facing legal proceedings, or you are about to initiate them, but cannot pay for them (entirely), here is what you can do:
If your income is high, or you have sufficient financial means, you may not qualify for government-financed legal aid. In this case, you must pay the legal fees yourself. You can, however, take out legal aid insurance to help cover your lawyers’ fees. Look out, because there may be a first risk clause.
What you need to know about Interpreters:
- The Dutch courts make use of interpreters for (criminal) law proceedings, police hearings and for asylum seekers
- You can also request the assistance of an interpreter in any other type of case.
- If the court requests the assistance of an interpreter the costs are, in principle, carried either by the state or by the party who is ordered to pay for the civil case.
- If you need the use of a translator/interpreter, ask your legal aid agency where you can find one, and how much they will charge.
- Beware: price and quality are not always consistent.
WHERE TO OBTAIN LEGAL AID ASSISTANCE
Juridisch Loket – Legal Counter
The ‘Juridisch Loket’ is designed to provide you with free legal information and advice on matters regarding:
- Employment issues
- Family issues
- Social security (benefits)
- Rent and housing law
- Alien affairs
- Problems regarding products bought or services rendered (consumer issues)
- Criminal law
- Problems with neighbors
- Permits and driver’s licenses
If you require actual legal assistance, the Juridisch Loket can recommend a lawyer or mediator. They can also inform you of whether you qualify for subsidized legal aid, from either one of these. To find a Juridisch Loket near you, visit www.juridischloket.nl and click on bezoek een vestiging.
Legal Aid Bureaus
It is usually wise to seek the advice, or legal representation, of a lawyer. It is especially important, if the other party involved is employing one. Equally, if you do not qualify for subsidized legal aid, a lawyer is the professional to turn to.
What you need to know about Lawyers:
- Most lawyers specialize in certain types of cases or legal areas.
- You can approach the Netherlands Bar Association for a recommendation. They are an organization to which all lawyers in the Netherlands belong.
- As mentioned earlier, a Juridisch Loket can sometimes recommend a particular lawyer, depending on your case.
- Another useful source of legal advisors, basic legal information and/or lawyers is www.jurofoon.nl.
Many lawyers offer free introductory consultations. The first consultation lasts about thirty minutes. During this time, the lawyer will examine your case and recommend any steps you should take. Be sure to ask in advance whether, and how much, the lawyer will charge you for the first consultation.
What you need to know about Mediators:
- The option of mediation first noticeably entered the ‘conflict scene’ in divorce cases.
- Now it is rapidly gaining popularity in other legal areas, such as: commercial law (including ‘business mediation’), family law, labor law, inheritance law and administrative law.
- It is an attractive approach, that can save you both time and money.
- It is more likely to result in a solution that is a viable compromise, reached by the parties involved. That is, as opposed to one chosen for you by an emotionally distant judge.
- Once a case has gone to court it is not too late to enlist the help of a mediator
- You and/or the other party can decide to go to a mediator, either before or during the court hearings.
- The judge can discuss with you whether employing the services of a mediator might be preferable.
For more information, visit www.gecertificeerdemediators.nl.
What about mediator’s fees?
- No cure, no pay does not apply if you enlist the help of a mediator
- You will owe your mediator his or her fees, as well as the reimbursement of any expenses he or she may have incurred
- In some cases, the first 2.5 hours of consultation are free
- Rest assured, the total costs will almost always be considerably less than what you would end up paying in legal fees if you went to court
- In principle, both parties share the expenses equally
- Still, you may choose to allocate the costs differently
- In many cases, a mediator can also request a toevoeging for you, allowing your mediation expenses to be subsidized
What you need to know about Municipal Counsilors:
- Many municipalities have municipal counsilors (Sociaal Raadslieden)
- Ask your municipality whether they have one
- These councilors can answer many questions regarding: social security, taxes, legislation, regulations and (semi)governmental institutions
- They can also help you to write letters, draw up notices of objection
- They can mediate on your behalf, free of charge
What you need to know about Process-Servers:
- Process-servers offer legal aid
- Their areas of expertise are collecting your debts (up to € 25,000), and answering your financial questions
- You can request the assistance of a process-server in civil cases
What you need to know about Unions:
- All unions have a legal department
- You can consult them for information and advice if you are a union member.
- They offer assistance in employment law cases and social security cases
- Their services are free of charge, if you are a member.
There are a number of other organizations you can turn to for advice and aid as well. You will need to be a member in order to receive assistance from them. Some of the more useful ones are:
- The Consumers Association (Consumentenbond): this association offers advice on consumer issues. This constitutes matters like the renting or buying of products and/or services. They do not offer legal-procedural aid. However, they can mediate in conflicts with manufacturers, or others who provide services.
- ANWB: members of the ANWB are given free legal advice on issues regarding transportation, recreation and tourism. You do not have to be a member if you call in for legal advice following a traffic accident. The ANWB offers its members full legal aid in the case of accidents abroad.
- Vereniging Eigen Huis (Homeowners’ Association): Vereniging Eigen Huis offers its members advice on issues involving home ownership, such as financing, building and legal matters.
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