System of the Danish jurisdiction


published on 4 May 2021 | reading time approx. 5 minutes

International jurisdiction

The international jurisdiction determines whether the courts of a state are appointed to make a judicial decision. With regards to cases involving foreign EU member states, in most cases the legislation that applies to other member states in accordance with the EU rules on jurisdiction in civil matters, also applies in Denmark.

As for the scope of application, the Brussels I a Regulation includes comprehensive provisions concerning the international jurisdiction of the courts of the member states to decide on civil and commercial dispute where there is an international element. The Regulation applies between all member states including Denmark. However, due to its legal reservation, Denmark has not acceded to the Brussels I a Regulation directly, but has instead entered into a parallel agreement, so that the rules of the regulation still apply in Denmark.

Principally, the courts of the member state in which the defendant has his place of residence are authorized on an international basis in case of a dispute.


There are multiple branches of courts in Denmark. The most important are as follows:

  • The Supreme Court (Højesteret) which functions as the highest civil and criminal appeal court for principal cases,
  • the two High Courts (Landsret) can function either as a first instance court in principal matters or as second-instance appeal court,
  • the Maritime and Commercial Court (Sø- og Handelsretten) handles bankruptcy cases and other similar civil cases,
  • the Land Registration Court (Tinglysningsretten),
  • the 24 district courts (Byretten) and
  • the Special Court of Indictment and Revision (Den Særlige Klageret), which rules on disciplinary cases regarding judges and other legal staff.

There are also administrative boards, who rule in smaller matters, but these rulings can be appealed at the courts.

As a general rule, a judgment by a court can be submitted to the next higher court for review (stages of appeal). For this purpose, an appeal must be lodged. If a verdict of the 1st instance is appealed against, the next higher court must review the entire case once more in the 2nd instance. Access to The Supreme Court is normally restricted to cases with value as precedential cases and granted by The Appeals Permission Board (“Processbevillingsnævnet”).

The stages of appeal of the branches of courts are structured as follows:

  • 1. Ordinary jurisdiction: District Court, Hight Court, Supreme Court;
  • 2. Administrative jurisdiction: Administrative Board, District Court and then it follows ordinary jurisdictions;
  • 3. The Maritime and Commercial Court: depending on case’s precedential value the next stage of appeal is either the High Courts or the Supreme Court.

Legal costs

Legal costs are the direct expenditures of the parties accruing from the prosecution of a legal dispute.

Danish law requires the claimant to pay a court-fee for submitting the claim, which starts at DKK 500. If the sum claimed exceeds 50,000 Danish krones, the court fee is 750 Danish krones and 1,2 per cent of the amount claimed exceeding 50,000 Danish krones.

However, on 21 October 2020, the Minister of Justice submitted a proposal for a new law on court-fees. The bill contains a number of significant changes to the rules on court-fees, including a simplification of the applicable rules.

The changes consist of:

  • Adjustment of the court fee for litigation and the court fee for main proceedings. That is, the court fee for litigation will be a fixed, smaller fee. The fee will in principle be DKK 750 for cases with a value of no more than 100,000 and 1,500 Danish krones for cases with a value of more than 100,000. The court fee for the main hearing will have to be determined on the basis of fixed rates that depend on the value of the case. The rates range from 3,000 Danish krones (for cases with a value of between 100.001 – 250,000 Danish krones) to 160,000 (for cases with a value of more than 6,000,000 Danish krones). The court fee will generally have to be paid when the court determines the time for the main hearing;
  • Abolish percentage-based court fees;
  • Abolition and increase of certain types of court fees.

The new law is expected to enter into force on 1 April 2021.

The extrajudicial fees primarily consist of the fees for the attorney-at-law, expenses for witnesses, legal experts etc. and any expenses of the respective party.

Obligation to bear costs/reimbursement of costs

Having clarified the question of what scope of legal costs arise, it is worth considering which party bears the costs at the end of the judicial procedure.

General regulations applying to ordinary jurisdiction

In its judgment, the court determines which party bears the legal costs. The legal costs arising during the judicial procedure are the extrajudicial fees of the parties involved (see above). Provided that the plaintiff is successful in his legal proceedings, the respondent bears all the reimbursable expenses of the plaintiff accruing in the process. However, if the plaintiff is not successful, he does not only bear his own expenses, but also the reimbursable fees of the respondent. If the plaintiff is only partially successful in the judicial procedure, the legal costs are allocated proportionally, or each party bears its own costs. The legal costs awarded by the Court, however, rarely cover the actual costs of, for example, the lawyers' fees.

Administrative jurisdiction

In these jurisdictions the counter party is normally a public body (Municipality, County Administration, Tax Authority and the like). The successful party cannot claim his legal costs from the unsuccessful party.

Average duration of legal proceedings

There is no generally binding answer as to how long legal proceedings may take. The average duration of legal proceedings regarding civil matters at the district courts are 10 to 17 months (2019). In the High Courts, the average duration of legal proceedings was 12 to 44 months (2019). Taking this into consideration, the average duration of legal proceedings in the 1st instance (44 months) was longer than those in the 2nd instance (12 months).

In concrete view, the duration of proceedings of a possible 3rd instance (appeal to a Supreme Court) is not taken into consideration, which may lead to another extension of the proceedings.

Provisional legal protection

Provisional legal protection is granted by the enforcement court and can be appealed in the High Courts. All types of provisional legal protection have in common that they do not finalise a decision and generally do not permit the creation of a fait accompli (prohibition of the anticipation of the principal matter). Such being the case, they ensure the efficiency and viability of a subsequent decision in the principal proceedings, but can only be used when a claim cannot be seized for security or when there is reasonable doubt that the opportunity will worsen. Provisional legal protection can only be claimed for the time during which a right within the framework of the principal matter is being claimed or is (still) valid to be claimed. The standard of review is reduced during provisional legal protection. The type of presentation deviates from the principal proceedings. The court is able to make a judicial decision by order without an oral or any other type of hearing.

Recognition and enforcement of European titles and foreign arbitral awards

In accordance with Brussels I a Regulation, the judicial decisions issued in a member state are acknowledged by the other member states without the necessity of any specific proceedings. A review of the judicial decision in the corresponding member state does not take place in the matter. With Brussels I a Regulation having entered into force, the validation process (exequatur) has been abolished.

Enforcement measures usually aim for the collection of dept, however, they may also involve the fulfillment of other obligations (obligation to act or cease and desist). Regarding trans-border civil matters, a judicial decision must be enforced in accordance with the domestic regulations and procedures of the state in which the enforcement is executed (usually the state in which the obligor and his assets are located). In practice, a title of execution (e.g. a verdict or a settlement deal) as well as a certificate in compliance with Art. 53 Brussels I a Regulation must be presented in order to achieve the enforcement. The legal proceedings of the enforcement and the executing authorities (courts and enforcement authorities) are appointed by the domestic law of the state, in which the enforcement is aimed to be achieved.

In Denmark, the recognition and declaration of the enforceability of a foreign arbitral award essentially conforms to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Provided that the foreign arbitral award is acknowledged and declared as enforceable, the compulsory execution proceedings themselves comply with the corresponding national law.

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