What happens at a civil court case

Last updated: 12 March 2018

Where cases take place

Sheriff courts

Sheriff courts deal with most civil court cases. They are located in most parts of Scotland and the sheriff is a qualified advocate or solicitor.

Examples of civil cases the sheriff court can deal with are:

  • separation, divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership
  • residence or aliment (another name for maintenance, where one family member pays regular sums of money to maintain another) disputes
  • adoption
  • tenant/landlord problems including evictions
  • debt
  • bankruptcy or liquidation
  • claims for money

The sheriff will hear the case and make the final decision alone.

Court of Session

The Court of Session in Edinburgh is the highest civil court in Scotland. It has 2 parts:

  • the Outer House, which deals with complex divorce or civil partnership cases, and cases when a large amount of money is being claimed for compensation in personal injury claims or broken agreements

  • the Inner House, which deals with people who are appealing against decisions of either the Sheriff Court or the Outer House of the Court of Session

The case is normally heard and the final decision made by a judge sitting alone, although sometimes in the Court of Session, a jury is involved and makes the decision.

UK Supreme Court

If you're not satisfied with the decision of the Inner House of the Court of Session you may be able to appeal to the UK Supreme Court. This is the final court of appeal for all civil cases. Appealing a case to the UK Supreme Court can be very expensive.

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What happens at a civil court case
Where cases take place