Litigation is not free, but generates a number of cost issues, some of which arise prior to the commencement of the process, and which must initially be borne by those conducting such proceedings. Subsequently, some of these expenses may be recoverable by the other party: these are known as procedural costs, and arise where the court in its final decision makes a ruling on costs in favor of one party.
Costs are expenditures that parties incur in the legal process (such as payment of court costs, or lawyers and solicitors fees when these professionals are required), or expenses that are considered essential for their defence or to sustain their procedural position (such as those that arise from submitting evidence: expert fees or charges on certain documents, inter alia). The remaining financial expenditure that parties may incur as a result of legal proceedings (such as travel, or to request previous opinions) are considered expenses, and cannot be included in the award of costs.
Cost assessment in ordinary civil declaratory proceedings is by way of objective criteria or maturity, by virtue of which costs are borne by the unsuccessful party. But this criterion is limited by two conditions: on the one hand, it gives the court discretion not to impose costs on the unsuccessful party, if it considers that, in the particular case, that there were serious questions of fact or law as to the outcome (e.g. if there is conflicting case law that supports either position) and in the alternative, when a party is ordered to pay the costs, a quantative limit is laid down – a third of the amount in dispute – in relation to the payment of those costs that are more difficult to calculate (lawyers, experts). In the case of partial expiration, the entire costs cannot be imposed on either party, but rather each must individually meet the costs they have incurred.
When costs are imposed on one of the litigants, and this decision is final, payment can be requested through a motion for the taxation of costs. The processing and the decision for this lies with the court registrar.
Furthermore and finally, the Spanish Constitution requires that justice must be free for anyone who can establish that they have insufficient resources to pursue litigation. The Legal Aid Act 1996 regulates the budgets and the procedure for granting legal aid. Individuals whose income does not exceed twice the minimum wage have a right to free legal aid; though if there are additional family expenses this ceiling can be increased to to those earning up to four times the minimum wage; legal aid can also be granted to entities with legal personality, for instance public utility associations and foundations, if their taxable income does not exceed triple the minimum wage; there is no such limit for the Red Cross and associations of consumers and users. The content of this law basically entitles a qualifiying party to the costs of the proceedings.