Question 110: In a divorce case, if being requested to testify, but the witnesses have to pay expenses (such as train fares, car rent, accommodation and living expenses), who will have to bear these expenses?

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The summoning of witnesses at the trial or the collection of their testimony in divorce cases is crucial to clarify the truth about the case. And of course, the witness’ participation in the process of resolving the case will give rise to related costs, such as travel and accommodation expenses and any fee due to work leave to attend the trial, etc. Therefore, the law must clarify the responsibility to pay these costs for the witnesses. Currently, the law prescribes two cases where the witnesses take part in the process of resolving divorce cases: one is requested by the spouses and the other is summoned by the procedure-conducting agency without request of the litigants. And for each case, the responsibility to pay the witnesses’ expenses will be different.

In case the witnesses are summoned by the procedure conducting agency, according to the provisions of the current Civil Proceedings Law. When it is deemed necessary, the Court may summon witnesses by themselves to testify or to take part in the hearing without any request from the litigants[2]. In this case, the Court is in charge of paying the witnesses’ expenses. This cost will be taken from the annual operating budget of the Court.

When a witness is being summoned by the Court following a litigant’s request, 02 cases will occur[4]:

  • The person who requests the Court to summon witnesses shall pay the expenses for the witnesses if the testimony of the witness does not match with the request of the one who requests the Court to summon the witnesses or fails to coincide with the substantive and objective truth of the case. For example, the plaintiff requests the Court to summon a witness. The plaintiff said that the witness allegedly witnessed the plaintiff lending the defendant 20 million VND. However, when testifying in Court, the witness testified that the plaintiff loaned the defendant only 10 million VND. In this case, the plaintiff will have to pay the expenses for the witness because his or her testimony does not match the plaintiff’s request. However, if the witness testifies that the plaintiff granted the defendant 20 million VND, but that later the Court finds out that the testimony is untrue, then, in this case, the petitioner must bear the cost of the witness(es); and
  • In the occurence where the testimony of the witness does coincide with the substantive and objective truth of the case and is also with the request of the one who requested for the Court to summon witnesses, the expenses for the witness shall be borne by the spouse who made an independent claim from that of the person who requested for the witness to be summoned. For example, in the same example as above, if the witness had testified that the plaintiff granted a 20 million VND loan to the defendant and that the witness testifies coincidentally with the substantive and objective truth of the case, then the defendant must bear the expenses of the witness.

[2] Article 99.1 of the Civil Proceedings Code 2015.

[4] Articles 49.1 and 49.2 of the Ordinance No. 02/2012/UBTVQH13 on assessment and expenses valuation and expenses for witness and interpreter in legal procedures.

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