You can have yourself represented during the court session, as is explained in Article 728, Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Belgian Judicial Code:
“Defendants must take note that, in accordance with Art. 728, § 1 Judicial Code, the parties, at the time when the case is brought before the court and subsequently, must appear in person or by means of a lawyer. In accordance with Art. 728, § 2 of the Judicial Code, before the Justice of the Peace (“Justice de Paix”), the Court of Commerce (“Tribunal de Commerce”) and Labour Tribunals (“Tribunaux du Travail”) parties may also be represented by their spouse or relatives, holders of a written power of proxy and especially admitted by the court”.
If you have to appear before the Court of First Instance (“Tribunal de Première Instance”), this rule does not apply. You will have to appear yourself or be represented by a lawyer.
Opposition: If you were not present at the session at which you were summoned by a writ of summons or application and a default judgment was rendered against you, you can file opposition. Such an opposition is to be instituted by judicial officer’s writ mentioning the reasons why you disagree with the judgment rendered. To this end you will consult a lawyer, a House of Justice (“Maison de Justice”), Legal Aid Centre (“Wetswinkel”) or a judicial officer (Article 1047 of the Belgian Judicial Code).
Appeal: If you were present at the session at which you were summoned by a writ of summons or application and a judgment was rendered against you after hearing both sides of the argument, you can file an appeal. Such an appeal is to be instituted by judicial officer’s writ mentioning the reasons why you disagree with the judgment rendered. To this end you will consult a lawyer, a House of Justice (”Maison de Justice”), Legal Aid Centre (”Wetswinkel”) or a judicial officer (Article 1050 of the Belgian Judicial Code). In some cases (e.g. minor claims) appealing is not possible. This is the case when the judgment states that it was ‘given in final instance’.
The aforementioned information regarding the possibilities for opposition and appeal apply to civil cases: judgments rendered by the Justice of the Peace (“Justice de Paix”), the Court of First Instance (“Tribunal de Première Instance”) adjudicating civil cases, the Court of Commerce (“Tribunal de Commerce”), the Labour Court (“Tribunal du Travail”).
If, however, you were sentenced pursuant to a judgment rendered in a criminal case (these are judgments rendered by the Police Court – “Tribunal de Police” - or the Court of First Instance – “Tribunal de Première Instance” - adjudicating minor criminal cases) you also have the possibility of filing opposition or appeal.
However, you should take into account that the period for filing opposition or appeal is 15 days (and not 1 month as in civil cases).
The opposition is filed by means of a judicial officer’s writ: you need to submit a copy of the judgment and the service notice of this judgment to the judicial officer who will write up and serve a deed of opposition. You are not required to mention the reasons for filing opposition in the judicial officer’s deed.
On the other hand, appeals have to be filed by means of a formal declaration at the registry of the court passing the judgment, within 15 days following the service of the judgment.
Art. 1408. <Act 1993-01-14/34, art. 6, 011; Entry into force: 1993-03-02>
§ 1. Besides items exempt from attachment by special laws, no attachment may likewise be imposed on the following items:
1° the requisite bed and bedding of the person against whom attachment is imposed and of that person’s family, the clothes and linen strictly necessary for their personal use as well as the furniture necessary to store these items, a washing machine and clothes iron for the upkeep of the linen, the appliances necessary for heating the family home, the table and the chairs enabling the family to have meals together, as well as the dishware and household items absolutely necessary for the family, a furniture item in which to store the dishware and the household items, an appliance with which to prepare warm meals, an appliance in which to store food items, one lighting device per inhabited room, the objects necessary for family members with a disability, objects destined for use by the children under their care living under the same roof, pets, objects and products necessary for personal care and maintenance of the living quarters, the tools necessary for the upkeep of the garden, except for luxury furniture and luxury items;
2° the books and other items necessary for the continuation of studies or professional training of the person against whom attachment is imposed or of the children under their care living under the same roof;
3° the goods which the person against whom attachment is imposed absolutely needs for his profession, up to a value of (2,500 EUR) at the time of the seizure and as selected by the person against whom attachment is imposed, except in case attachment is imposed for the purpose of recovering payment of the price of these goods; <RD 2000-07-20/58, art. 2, 037;Entry into force: 01-01-2002>
4° the objects necessary for performing a religious service;
5° the food and fuel which the person against whom attachment is imposed and that person’s family need for a month;
6° a cow, or twelve sheep or goats, as selected by the person against whom attachment is imposed, as well as a pig and twenty-four items of fowl, along with the straw, feed and grain necessary for the bedding and feeding of this livestock for one month.
Art. 1408. <Act 1993-01-14/34, art. 6, 011; Entry into force: 1993-03-02>
§ 3. Any difficulties pertaining to the application of this article are settled by the attachment court on the basis of the official record of attachment, which contains the remarks of the person against whom the attachment is imposed, to be submitted to the judicial officer on pain of expiry, are served either at the time of the seizure, or within five days following the service of the first deed of attachment.
Upon submission at the registry of the official record of attachment by the judicial officer or by the party who first takes action, within fifteen days following the submission of the copy of said official record or, if there is cause, of the service of the attachment to the debtor, the attachment court will determine the date and time of the investigation and the settlement of the difficulties, having heard or summoned the creditor and the debtor in advance. The court clerk shall summon the parties and notify the acting judicial officer.
The proceedings cannot be continued if the submission of the copy of the official record mentioned in the previous paragraph did not take place.
The claim shall suspend enforcement, but the goods shall remain under attachment until a ruling is made.
The attachment court shall prioritise ruling in this case above all other cases, both in the presence and in the absence of the parties; no opposition to or appeal against its decision shall be possible; the proceedings may be resumed immediately.
Art. 1526 (2) <added to Act 1993-01-14/34, art. 15, 011; Entry into force :1993-03-02> The debtor against whom an enforceable attachment is imposed can amicably sell the attached goods in order to utilise the proceeds to pay off the creditors.
(On pain of expiry) the debtor must inform the judicial officer of the proposal made by him within ten days of receiving the service of the attachment. <Act 2000-05-29/36, art. 11, 1°, 035; Entry into force: 01-07-2001>
(Should the judicial officer be of the opinion that these offers are insufficient or should the creditor prove that they are insufficient, the request for amicable sale shall be disregarded.) < Act 2000-05-29/36, art. 11, 2°, 035; Entry into force: 01-07-2001>
Except if the refusal to consent to the sale is motivated by the intention to aggrieve the debtor, the creditor cannot be held liable.
The transfer of the ownership of the good is subject to the payment of the price thereof to the judicial officer, within eight days following the acceptance of the purchase bid. Failure to observe this time limit may lead to the immediate public auction of the goods.
Upon payment of the price to the judicial officer, the latter shall write up an official record of the amicable sale, mentioning the identity of the buyer and seller, the price paid and the description of the sold goods. A copy thereof shall be made available to the buyer.
(The official record is transferred to the central database of reports in the form of a report as mentioned in article 1390, § 1) <Act 2000-05-29/36, art. 11, 3 °, 035; Entry into force: 29-01-2011>
Art. 1514 <Act 2000-05-29/36, art. 9, 035; Entry into force : 29-01-2011> Any party claiming to be the owner of all or part of the goods seized may file opposition against the sale by means of a writ served upon the seizing party, upon the debtor against whom the attachment has been imposed and upon the judicial officer, and containing a writ of summons of the seizing party and of the debtor against whom the attachment has been imposed, while mentioning in the writ, the proofs of ownership, on pain of nullity. [1The writ shall also mention the other seizing parties who have likewise seized these goods, along with all information relevant to the summons mentioned in the third paragraph.]1
The claim shall suspend enforcement (only as pertains to the seized goods) A ruling shall be passed on the matter by the attachment court. <Act 2003-03-27/65, art. 3, 043; Entry into force: 29-01-2011>
The court clerk shall provide a copy of the summons to any other attaching parties [1mentioned in the writ of summons]1 by way of a court letter, which will also contain an invitation to appear before the court to join the case.
The ruling is deemed to have been rendered vis-à-vis all parties and after having heard all of the parties’ arguments. The claimant who is found to be in the wrong is, should there be cause, ordered to pay damages to the seizing party. [1Any persons summoned by court letter shall thus become party to the proceedings, unless they oppose this during the court session. The court clerk shall also notify the recipient of this fact in the court letter.]1
By the next first working day at the latest, the judicial officer upon whom the recovery was served shall notify the central database of reports of the matter, so that the report of seizure in question may be completed by mentioning the interim dispute, the identity of the recovering party and, if applicable, the latter party’s counsel, as well as the judge before whom the recovery proceedings were brought.
By the next first working day following the pronouncement at the latest, the registry of the court before which the case was brought shall communicate to the central database of reports the operative part of each ruling passing judgment on the claim so that the central database of reports may state in the report of seizure in question what the outcome was of the recovery claim.