Litigation 2024 Comparisons

Last Updated December 05, 2023

Contributed By Riquito Advogados

Law and Practice


Riquito Advogados provides legal services to a wide range of clients in various industries, with a special emphasis on corporate clients. The firm has five qualified lawyers and offices in the Macau SAR and Lisbon, Portugal, and its key practice areas include corporate/mergers and acquisitions, contracts/contractual investment, restructuring, litigation and arbitration, intellectual property, foreign investment, corporate finance, real estate, aviation, private equity, project finance, labour law and taxation.

The Macau Special Administrative Region (Macau SAR) legal system is governed by civil law. Its judicial system is composed of the courts and the public prosecutor’s office.

The courts exercise full judicial authority, with the Public Prosecutor’s Office as an independent judicial body whose main duties are to uphold the law, representing the Macau SAR (and other entities) in court, and conducting criminal investigations.

Judicial System

The Macau SAR’s judicial system is based on an adversarial model. 

A court, however, can order evidence to be produced that it deems relevant to the decision, but no court can take the initiative to resolve a dispute unless one of the parties requests it. The court may only consider the facts submitted to it by the parties (with the exception of those that are public and evident and those it becomes aware of while performing its duties and those that are relevant to determining whether the parties are acting with fraudulent intent). 

Throughout the proceedings, the adversarial principle must be observed, which ensures that no decisions can be taken until the relevant parties are called to provide their views and evidence. Throughout the proceedings, each party will have the right to state their position in respect of any of the parties' actions and evidence submitted to the court. There are, of course, exceptions to this principle, which are intended to ensure the effectiveness of the decision. An interim decision may be made in these situations and the party against whom the decision is taken will have the opportunity to submit its defence and evidence after the decision, which will then be reviewed by the court accordingly.

The court operates in strict compliance with the principles of impartiality and objectivity, and its decisions are based solely only on the laws. The parties should be treated equally. The particular procedure will depend on the type of action sought by each party. 

Civil Proceedings

The initial stage of the proceedings is based on initial written submissions. The court will review the parties' submissions and documentary evidence and, if further evidence is required, the matter will be submitted to trial. The trial hearing is fundamentally of an oral nature, where witnesses, experts and the parties' depositions are produced before the court. The court and the parties are admitted, with certain limitations, to interrogate and counter-interrogate the witnesses and seek further clarifications through the judge. Written statements can only exceptionally be admitted and final arguments on matters of fact are produced orally before the court. Closing legal arguments may be produced orally if the parties so agree, otherwise they are to be produced in writing before the final decision is issued.

Each court decision should provide the reasoning that led to it, whilst observing a certain structure to ensure that they are clear and objective, thus allowing it to be reviewed by the parties and by superior courts in case of appeal.

Criminal Proceedings

Criminal proceedings also follow an adversarial principle but with a different structure. The investigation is conducted by the public prosecutor's office, which is an independent judicial body. After the investigation is completed, the public prosecutor’s office will determine whether an indictment is made based on the evidence collected and will submit the matter to trial. During the investigation, the proceeding is mainly inquisitory. However, after the investigation is completed, the defendant will have the ability to contradict and dispute any indictment made by the public prosecutor. For that purpose, the defendant may request the indictment be reviewed by a pre-trial judge before the matter goes to trial, or simply submit its defence to the trial court.

The Macau SAR has an independent judicial system, extending to final adjudication. The structure of the court system is regulated by Law No 9/1999, amended by Law No 4/2019. There are three instances in the Macau SAR, hierarchically organised, which have jurisdiction over its entire territory: 

  • the Courts of First Instance, which include the Judicial Base Court and the Administrative Court; 
  • the Court of Second Instance; and
  • the Court of Final Appeal. 

The Judicial Base Court is organised into different sections, based on the types of matters considered (two pre-trial criminal sections, five criminal sections, three civil sections, one small claims civil section, one labour section and one family section). The civil sections have general competence to try any matters that do not fall within the specific matters attributed to any other sections.

The Administrative Court is competent for matters of administrative law, taxation and customs. 

The Court of Second Instance and the Court of Final Appeal are, as a matter of principle, courts of appeal. The Court of Second Instance is primarily a court of appeal and reviews the decisions from the Courts of First Instance (both the Judicial Base Court and the Administrative Court). It encompasses two sections:

  • a criminal section, which reviews criminal matters; and 
  • a general section, which reviews all other matters. 

The Court of Final Appeal is the highest court in the hierarchy and its primary competencies are to review appeals from decisions of the Court of Second Instance and to standardise jurisprudence. It is currently composed of only one section with a panel of three judges, with competence to review all matters. 

Exceptionally, however, the Court of Second Instance and the Court of Final Appeal may serve as courts of first instance in relation to certain matters, or in certain matters involving certain entities that benefit from a forum privilege.

The proceedings are open to the public, save as otherwise provided by law. This does not mean, however, that any person can inspect the proceedings. Lawyers have the ability to inspect any proceedings and obtain copies. The parties may inspect their own proceedings and obtain copies. Other than that, all other persons must have a legitimate reason to access the contents of the court filings and proceedings.

The court hearings are, however, in principle, entirely public and any person may attend. 

The court may (on its own initiative or by request of any of the parties), exceptionally, establish limitations on the public nature of the proceedings and hearings when the matters involved may offend the parties' or other persons' dignity, their privacy, public policy or undermine the effectiveness of the decision to be issued. The law expressly states that certain proceedings (such as marriage annulment, divorce, filiation, and injunction) may only be accessed and inspected by the parties and their attorneys. Pending injunction proceedings, which should be decided ex parte, may only be inspected by the applicant and its attorneys until the decision is taken. 

Criminal proceedings and hearings, on the other hand, should remain secret during the investigation and pre-trial stages, shifting to public (with the meaning referred to above) once they are submitted to trial and the trial hearing date is scheduled, thus allowing any person to attend the hearings, save when, exceptionally, restrictions are imposed to preserve people’s dignity, public policy and public order. The hearing in which the verdict is to be announced is always public.

Legal representation in court is required for most cases.

Civil actions with a tax value exceeding MOP100,000, appeals, proceedings initiated in the higher courts, and enforcement proceedings exceeding MOP1 million or (in cases where objections are raised or any other issues require the declaration form of procedure) enforcement proceedings exceeding MOP100,000, always require legal representation. 

In administrative actions and criminal proceedings, legal representation is always required. 

Only lawyers admitted to the Macau Lawyers Association (irrespective of their nationality) are allowed to represent the parties in a court of law. All lawyers have the same rights of audience before any courts in Macau SAR.

Trainee lawyers admitted to intervene in judicial proceedings are admitted to represent the parties in proceedings when legal representation is not mandatory, in criminal proceedings and with regard to specific issues where no points of law are raised. 

When legal representation is not mandatory, the parties can represent themselves or be represented by a trainee lawyer.

According to Macau SAR procedural rules, the proceedings' relevant party shall be responsible for the payment of court fees and expenses, and the transferal of payment liability for court costs and expenses is not foreseen. As such, neither a specific regime for third-party funding, nor a legal entity as a third-party funder is provided for in law. However, payment may be settled by other individuals or entities at the last day for voluntary payment. 

Enforcement of unpaid court bills shall be brought against the responsible party.

The above-mentioned does not hinder out-of-court contractual arrangements with third parties in respect of the payment of court bills, despite note being enforceable vis-à-vis the court.

There are no provisions in the Macau SAR legal system regarding third-party funding of litigation and, consequently, any agreement on the matter will not be effective vis-à-vis the court. In other words, the court will always issue the bill to the name of one of the parties to the plea and will enforce the bill against that party only.

The above does not prejudice the validity of out-of-court agreements between either party with third parties, but these will only be effective vis-à-vis such parties, not the court. However, it is not a common practice in Macau SAR.

On the other hand, the law allows a third party to settle an outstanding court fees bill, without the consent of the party responsible to it. In such case, unless such payment was in bath faith, the third party is legally entitled to be reimbursed by the responsible party.

See 2.2 Third-Party Funding: Lawsuits.

See 2.2 Third-Party Funding: Lawsuits.

There is no limit as to the nature of the costs that can be settled by a third party, when that payment is allowed (see 2.1 Third-Party Litigation Funding).

Contingency fees are not applicable to the Macau SAR jurisdiction.

Time limits are not applicable to the Macau SAR jurisdiction.

Pre-action conduct is not imposed by civil procedural rules unless required by statute, such as when a creditor seeks performance of a certain obligation (in which case the creditor must serve notification to the debtor before starting legal action), as it serves the purpose of converting a situation of delay into a case of non-performance of an obligation.

The standard statute of limitation to start a civil suit in the Macau SAR is 15 years, but for certain specific rights or entitlements (eg, lease rents, interest or dividends) a shorter statute of five years applies.

There is a special set of statutes, the lapse of which does not prevent the plaintiff from bringing the claim to court but renders the performance of the relevant obligation as presumed. This presumption is only waived with the confession of the non-performance of the obligation by the debtor. In general, these statutes are of six months (for credits held by housing, food and beverage businesses and for payments related to housing, food and beverages only) and two years (for credits held by self-employed professionals, for example).

The general factors that determine the competence of the Macau SAR courts for a civil suit are the following:

  • some or all of the facts that substantiate the claim were performed in the Macau SAR;
  • the defendant is a non-resident and the plaintiff a resident, but only if, in abstract terms, the courts of the defendant’s country of residency would be competent to judge similar proceedings if they were started in that jurisdiction by the defendant against the plaintiff; and
  • the right or entitlement being claimed can only be effective by means of legal action started in the Macau SAR, provided that there is a strong connection between the proceedings and the jurisdiction, in terms of the people or the assets involved.

The Macau SAR courts' competence for certain types of actions is subject to other requisites (eg, they are competent for proceedings for the recovery of debts if the obligation is to be performed in the Macau SAR or the defendant is domiciled in the Macau SAR). 

The Macau SAR courts have exclusive competence to try legal proceedings, in respect of erga omnes rights, over real estate located in the Macau SAR and in respect of the bankruptcy or insolvency of entities which have their registered office in the Macau SAR.

A lawsuit is initiated by submitting a statement of claim (petição inicial), which identifies the court where the action is filed, the parties (including their names and domicile), and the adopted form of proceeding, and describes the facts and legal grounds of the claim, its request(s) and tax value. At this stage, the plaintiff should append all fact-supporting documents to the statement of claims, and present the list of witnesses as well as request other evidence to be produced.

The party can submit additional statements (articulado superveniente) if any ulterior fact constitutes, modifies or extinguishes the rights in discussion.

Typically, when no grounds for preliminary rejection of statement of claim are found, the defendant will be summoned, by means of double-registered mail, or through their attorney or another judicial representative, per request of the plaintiff.

If delivery of the mail is unsuccessful, summoning will be made directly by the court clerk before the defendant.

If the defendant's location is unclear, summoning will take place by means of edicts and announcements, which will be drafted in the presumed language of the defendant, or in the Macau SAR official languages.

A party can be sued outside the jurisdiction, in which case the court shall summon the defendant as per international conventions applicable to the Macau SAR. If none is applicable, the defendant will be summoned by double-registered mail. If it is not possible to summon the defendant by post, they will be summoned by rogatory letter (which shall be served with the assistance of the courts of the country of residence of the defendant). 

If the defendant does not respond to a lawsuit, nor constitute attorneys or intervene in any form in the proceedings, the court shall first verify if the summons was carried out in accordance with the legal rules. The court will summon the defendant again if irregularities are found. 

If the court considers the defendant duly summoned, the facts alleged by the plaintiff will be considered admitted by the defendant (with certain limitations) and the action will proceed for submission of the final arguments and judgment.

Associations or foundations (the purpose of which relates to the interests in dispute), the Public Prosecutor's office, and any citizen entitled to civic and political rights, are permitted to initiate lawsuits for protection of the following collective or representative interests: 

  • public health; 
  • environment; 
  • quality of living; 
  • cultural heritage; 
  • the public domain; 
  • the protection of goods and their consumption; and 
  • services provision. 

All of these entities are equally able to initiate these actions.

Court fees and costs can be estimated in advance by lawyers, depending on the nature and expected complexity of the proceedings.

At the request of clients, lawyers will also provide an estimation of their fees, the calculation of which is subject to multiple factors, such as: 

  • the time spent; 
  • the complexity of the case; 
  • the importance of the services provided; 
  • the financial situation of the interested party; 
  • the results obtained; and 
  • the general practice of the lawyers.

Pending proceedings, parties may request interim relief measures and they may also submit an array of specified or unspecified requests to the court, depending on the particulars of the case. These include requests: 

  • to submit further evidence; 
  • to claim against the decision on the facts established and not established before trial; 
  • to dismiss certain requests of the other party; 
  • to seek the annulment of certain procedural actions; and 
  • to request the intervention of other entities as parties to the proceedings.

Certain remedies are available, such as the suspension or the obstruction of a judge in the case, or the request for the declaration of the other party, or its legal representative, as a mala fides party.

Upon receiving the written submissions, the court may immediately make an award based on the merits of the case, if it considers the information and evidence available up to that stage may allow it to decide without further trial.

Please refer to 4.2 Early Judgment Applications.

Furthermore, a party may submit an application for the early termination of the proceedings: 

  • if they come to a standstill for three years due to either party’s negligence in carrying out the required actions; or
  • if, by virtue of certain ulterior facts or circumstances, the proceedings are no longer useful to the parties.

If certain requirements are met, interested parties besides the plaintiffs or defendants are allowed to join a lawsuit, thus assuming the position of main parties, or parties ancillary to the main parties.

Interested parties who share the same interest as the plaintiff or defendant may intervene as a main party at their own initiative or at the request of any existing (main) parties. 

Third parties against whom the defendant may have a reimbursement right, and who may have a justified interest that the final decision be favourable to one of the parties, may intervene as ancillary parties.

A third party may also request to join a lawsuit to claim their own right, which may be fully or partially incompatible with the claim of the plaintiff or the defendant.

There is no specified motion for security for the defendant’s costs, although it may be awarded subject to particulars.

Generally, the parties are requested to make a deposit for part of the fees and costs applicable to the claim and counterclaim, appeals and other submissions. 

Besides the deposit for expenses, applicants and respondents shall be liable for 25% of the following applicable fees:

  • initial deposit (due upon submission of the application); and 
  • deposit for trial (due upon the scheduling of the trial, or before the issuance of a written decision).

As general rule, final judgment shall be issued within 20 days from the closing of the final arguments, and decisions on other applications/motions within ten days. But these deadlines are, in most cases, exceeded.

Other specific rulings may be subject to different deadlines (eg, injunctive relief shall be issued within two months or 15 days, the latter when issued ex parte).

Either party can request that the application be dealt with on an urgent basis if the circumstance gives grounds for such urgency.

Unlike most common law jurisdictions, pre-trial discovery procedure is not available in the Macau SAR; instead, certain mechanisms such as depositions, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, expert evidence and judicial inspection are available. 

These mechanisms, however, are not as wide-ranging as those in common law jurisdictions, nor do they follow the same rules. In principle, each party has the burden to state and produce relevant facts and evidence, in as detailed a manner as possible, since amendments after submissions encounter significant limitations. 

Depositions are used to obtain the other party’s confession, whereas interrogatories are used to produce witness evidence, both being provided orally during the trial hearing.

Requests for the production of documents may be addressed to the other party(ies) and to non-parties in acknowledgment of possession. It is necessary to identify the document(s) and their relevance to the case before the court will issue an order to the relevant party to surrender such documents. Refusal to co-operate may be sanctioned with fines, without prejudicing other compulsory measures. A refusal by litigants will be evaluated by the court in the light of the evidence and, in certain circumstances, may lead to an inversion of the burden of proof regarding certain facts. If the party claims that it does not hold the requested document, the applicant has the burden of demonstrating that this claim is false.

Discovery mechanisms shall be requested by the parties (any parties) and are administered by the court, provided that they do not offend anyone’s physical or moral integrity or pose an intrusion to their private life, including their domicile, correspondence and any other forms of communication. 

It is possible to obtain discovery from third parties not named as a plaintiff/claimant or defendant. In principle, as long as it is relevant to establishing the facts, any party who is aware of any facts, or is in possession of any evidence, is bound to co-operate with the court upon request, by providing witness statements or producing documents.

Witness statements are provided during the trial hearing. The witness list is submitted along with the initial pleading or modified after the court has issued the decision regarding the classification of proven facts and facts to be proven by considering the submissions of both parties (until 30 days before the hearing). The witnesses are identified by their names, professions, addresses and other necessary circumstances.

There are limitations as to the maximum number of witnesses allowed but the court does not exercise previous control over the witnesses' knowledge of the facts or respective relevance. Witnesses called by the court must attend the hearing and the Macau SAR might be compelled by the court when necessary, without prejudice to certain individuals’ right to refuse to testify or prerogative to provide their statement in writing. The parties have the responsibility to ensure that any witnesses living outside the Macau SAR attend the hearing to provide their statements, unless the party requests the court to issue a collaboration request to the relevant foreign authorities to obtain a witness statement.

Should, during the hearing, any party become aware of additional relevant witnesses, it may make a request to the court for admission, which is subject to its discretion.

The court may order, upon the request of either party, a third party to produce documents. This request can be included in the initial submission(s) or later, together with the evidence submission, which is to be presented after the court has established the facts proved or to be proven. The party needs to identify the document and explain its relevance. The court will decide after hearing all parties. 

See 5.1 Discovery and Civil Cases and 5.2 Discovery and Third Parties

As a general rule, parties shall produce the relevant documents with their respective submissions, but, without prejudice to rules on mala fides, documents can be submitted at a later stage, although likely subject to the payment of fines.

See 5.1 Discovery and Civil Cases and 5.2 Discovery and Third Parties.

Lawyers and certain other professionals are subject to legal privilege. In particular, client-attorney privilege is well protected under the Macau SAR law and only in very limited and exceptional circumstances can the court allow testimony which breaches this privilege. The duty of secrecy may also be lifted by the Macau Lawyers Association upon a voluntary request by the lawyer involved, when it is justified for the purposes of defending the rights and legitimate interests of the lawyer or their clients.

Any evidence obtained in breach of professional privilege is considered null and thus cannot be used in court. 

There is no distinction, as regards privilege, between external and in-house counsel, provided they are both lawyers registered with the Macau Lawyers Association. 

Documents and other materials may be refused to be disclosed when their disclosure: 

  • may cause the violation of a persons' moral or physical integrity; 
  • may cause an intolerable violation of someone’s privacy, domicile, correspondence or other means of communication; 
  • may cause a breach of legal privilege or secrecy; or 
  • implies a general disclosure of business books, which is subject to certain restrictions.

In general, injunctive relief measures can be awarded when there is a justified concern that a certain right may be harmed in a serious and barely recoverable manner. Such measures can be of a conservatory nature, such as when the interested party seeks to arrest their debtor’s assets for future enforcement, or of an anticipatory nature, when the interested party seeks to obtain their claim (in total or in part) in advance of the court’s final ruling. Parties can request interim relief in either pending proceedings or before starting legal proceedings.

Specified Interim Injunctions

Without prejudice to the request of unspecified interim injunctions, the Macau SAR's Code of Civil Procedure provides an array of specified interim measures, including:

  • provisional restitution of certain asset(s);
  • suspension of corporate resolutions; 
  • provisional alimony; 
  • provisional compensation; 
  • arrest and deposit of assets; and 
  • embargo of works. 

Unspecified Interim Injunctions

Besides the aforementioned, interested parties may seek to obtain any other (unspecified) forms of injunctive relief. 

The general requirements for the award of injunctive relief are: 

  • likelihood of the existence of the claimant’s right (fumus boni juris); and 
  • likelihood of the occurrence of damage to it (periculum in mora). 

Notwithstanding the above, the relief will not be awarded if it will cause significantly more damage than it is meant to prevent. 

The court may authorise the substitution of the interim relief measure for the provision of a bond deemed adequate.

Injunctive relief measures may be requested in the Macau SAR in connection with foreign legal proceedings, depending on the existence and terms of international conventions or agreements for judicial co-operation between the jurisdictions involved.

Injunctive relief proceedings are of an urgent nature, and their handling shall supersede any non-urgent actions. Their urgent nature also means that the required actions and hearings also take place during court holidays.

As a general rule, injunctive relief shall be decided upon within two months from the application for it, but when the proceedings run on an ex parte basis, this time limit is reduced to 15 days.

By default, injunctive relief is not awarded without the respondent having the opportunity to submit their defence and being present at the hearing. That will not be the case when it may represent a serious risk for the effectiveness of the measures being requested; in such cases, the injunctive relief is decided on an ex parte basis. 

Certain forms of interim relief, specifically foreseen in the Code of Civil Procedure (such as the arrest of assets), are awarded on an ex parte basis by default, irrespective of any risk to the effectiveness of the measure.

If the injunctive relief is found to be unjustified or expires because of an action or omission attributable to the applicant, they will be liable for damages suffered by the respondent if the court finds that they (the applicant) did not act with the required prudence.

Therefore, irrespective of a request by the respondent, the judge may award the relief, subject to the provision of bond by the applicant.

Subject to their competence for the main proceedings (multiple factors or circumstances justify the competence of the local courts), injunctive relief can be requested and awarded by the Macau SAR courts.

Enforcement of injunctive relief awarded by the Macau SAR courts in foreign jurisdictions depends on international conventions or agreements for judicial co-operation and recognition of judicial or arbitration decisions, between the Macau SAR and those jurisdictions.

Under special circumstances, injunctive relief measures may be awarded against individuals or entities who are not parties to the main proceedings to which the injunctive relief is ancillary (third parties). This will be the case when the assets to be arrested are in the possession of an individual who is not the debtor. This third party will be a respondent to the injunctive relief proceedings, but not to the main proceedings where the claimant will be requesting that the court convict the defendant to settle the debt.

Breach of injunctive relief entails criminal liability for qualified disobedience, which is subject to imprisonment for up to two years, or criminal fine of up to 240 days.

A day-fine is a criminal sanction used as an alternative to imprisonment. The number of days of the fine varies with the type of crime as well as the particulars of its commitment, from a minimum of ten and up to 360 days. 

The daily rate of the fine ranges between MOP50 to MOP10,000, which is determined by the judge in accordance with the proportionality principle and the financial condition of the offender.

See 6.7 Consequences of a Respondent's Non-compliance.

Case management hearings are allowed by the Code of Civil Procedure, but are not common practice in the Macau SAR, where most of the ruling is made in writing by the judges. An attempt at conciliation may take place prior to the trial, at the request of the parties or by a summons to appear before a judge. A summons to appear before a judge may also be issued at any other stage of the proceedings, provided the parties have not previously requested an attempt at conciliation and the summons is issued no more than once.

According to Macau SAR’s Code of Civil Procedure, trial by jury is not available. Instead, civil court proceedings are either decided at first instance by one single judge or by a panel of three judges, depending mostly on the value of the proceedings. 

In the superior courts, judgments are in general issued by a panel of three judges, although the presiding judge has powers to rule by themselves on procedural matters and, in limited circumstances, decide on the merits. 

All relevant evidence should be submitted or requested during the written submissions stage. The parties have a further opportunity to amend and complement these requests, when the court (after the written submissions and prior to the trial) decides on the facts that are already established and those which need further assessment during trial. Documents, witnesses and other evidence may be further added during trial, with limitations.

Depositions from the plaintiff and the respondent, expert testimony and the hearing of witnesses will typically take place during the trial, unless circumstances make it impossible to do so, in which case they will be produced beforehand (including in writing). 

The key principle, in terms of admission of evidence, is that no evidence shall be considered without the counterparty having an opportunity to analyse and contradict it.

The court and/or any of the parties may select a subject or matter which they feel requires expert opinion or guidance due to its highly specialised nature and request that such expertise be provided, for the purpose of which one or more experts will be appointed. In this event, although the expert’s report is produced out of court and delivered before the trial, the expert may be called to testify before the court during the trial regarding any question or request for clarification arising from their report.

In certain circumstances, the court may order the production of a second expert opinion.

See 1.3 Court Filings and Proceedings.

Furthermore, although hearing and trial minutes are produced in writing, detailed transcripts are not prepared or kept.

Audio recording of testimonies may be requested by the parties, or ordered by the judge; however, when such testimony is not made before the court, recording is mandatory.

Minutes and recordings will be kept in the court file and access to it is generally granted to parties, lawyers and persons with a justified interest, without prejudice to limitations when access is deemed to violate an individual’s dignity and privacy, offend morality, or jeopardise the court’s final judgment.

Stemming from four centuries of Portuguese administration, the Macau SAR’s legal system is typically inquisitorial, with great emphasis being put by the Macau SAR’s Code of Civil Procedure on the court's duty to provide for the harmonious and prompt progress of the proceedings, from inception to completion. Besides assuring the legality of the parties' procedural actions, the judge has the power to order actions that may be necessary to ensure the fulfilment of procedural requirements or to invite the parties to do so, as well as the power to perform or order actions that they deem necessary for the establishment of the relevant facts and for a fair trial and judgment. The judge has also the power to adjust certain rules of procedure, when they deem this to be adequate considering the particulars of the case. 

The judge is also in charge of presiding over hearings and trials, where they supervise all of the intervening parties' actions, and ensure the compliance of rules and their legality so as to keep order, when and where necessary or convenient.

Although the Macau SAR’s Code of Civil Procedure provides for strict deadlines for filing pleadings, performing procedural acts, and the like, there is no general timeframe for proceedings and their length may vary depending on a variety of internal and external factors, including: 

  • the complexity of the subject matter; 
  • the constancy of all those involved; and
  • the absence of interruptions, such as the hearing of intermediate appeals with suspensory effect.

Notwithstanding a general deadline of 20 days to issue the final judgment, counted from the day of closing of arguments, this deadline is in general exceeded by the courts.

The parties may choose to settle their differences before the judge or out of court, in which case they must, however, communicate this agreement to the court and discontinue the proceedings. In any event, the judge needs to endorse the settlement by confirming each party’s capacity to settle and whether the matter under discussion is available for settlement.

If a settlement is reached between the parties before the judge, as well as if its terms are communicated to the judge for endorsement, they will become part of the proceedings and therefore subject to the general rules and principles alluded to in 1.3 Court Filings and Proceedings and 7.6 Extent to Which Hearings are Open to the Public, regarding publicity. The parties may, however, choose to keep certain terms and conditions of the settlement confidential.

Settlement agreements are enforceable under the general terms and provisions of the Macau SAR Code of Civil Procedure. The terms for enforcement will depend on whether the terms of the settlement were disclosed in full, or only in part, to the court. If the matter to be enforced was endorsed by the court, the enforcement will follow the rules of enforcement of court decisions; if not, it will follow the rules for enforcement of contracts.

Settlement agreements endorsed by the court as res judicata may only be set aside by an extraordinary appeal, whereby the settlement will be declared null and void as a result of the res judicata ruling. 

The above does not prevent the parties from reaching an out-of-court agreement whereby they agree to settle the matter subject to the previous proceedings on a different manner.

In civil declaratory proceedings, the court will: 

  • declare the existence of the claimant’s rights or entitlements; 
  • order the defendant to perform an action or fulfil a legal or contractual obligation; or 
  • declare the constitution, modification or annulment of a particular legal relationship, contract or act.

Depending on the nature and particulars of the claim, the court may order remedies such as indemnity, compensation, or restitution of assets or monies.

In certain circumstances, the court may also determine the payment by the defendant of a certain amount for each day, week or month of delay in the performance of a certain action (or omission) or the fulfilment of a certain obligation.

As general rule under the Macau SAR law, a successful party cannot be awarded in excess of the damages suffered as a result of breach of legal or contractual rights or obligations. The scope of indemnity is defined by causation: it comprehends any and all damages that were caused by the relevant illegal and faulty actions (principle of adequate causation).

Both losses - which include pecuniary damages (danos patrimoniais) and personal damages (danos não patrimonais) - and loss of profits (which is the net increase of the claimant’s assets that they fail to obtain due to the injury event) are included in the legal scope of indemnity. 

Losses and loss of profits can be present or future, but the latter are only subject to indemnity when it can be established that they will effectively occur in the future (if the respective amount cannot be determined at the time of the issuing of the award, its liquidation shall be referred to a later stage, when such losses become determinable).

The parties may, however, agree in advance to the amount of compensation to be paid in case of default, delay or defective performance of certain obligations, in which case the compensation to be awarded may be higher or lower than the damages that would result from the application of the principle of adequate causation, unless the court finds them excessive.

Furthermore, the successful party may be entitled to further compensation if the counterparty acts in the proceedings in bad faith, which is the case when the unsuccessful party, with fault or gross negligence:

  • submits a claim or defence being aware of the lack of respective merits;
  • changes or omits facts relevant for the decision;
  • commits a serious offence to the obligation to co-operate with the court; or
  • uses the proceedings or certain procedural mechanisms for censurable purposes.

Notwithstanding the above, court orders in general, and in indemnity claims in particular, are limited to the request made by the successful party. In order words, they cannot rule in excess of the party’s claim, either in the nature or in the specific amount of damages requested.

In respect of pecuniary obligations, interest is due from the day the debtor is considered to be in delay (mora) of the delivery of the obligation. Therefore, if the debtor is considered to have been in delay since before judgment, pre-judgment interest will be available.

If the obligation needs to be liquidated by the court, such as in the case of an indemnity claim (where the court has to assess the damages subject to indemnification pursuant to the principles described in 9.2 Rules Regarding Damages), interest will only be due post-judgment.

Judgments and orders are enforced by further court procedures and, where necessary, by court officials. There is no procedure for direct enforcement (ie, not involving the court) by the successful party against the counterparty. In the case of non-voluntary compliance with an award, the successful party must initiate enforcement proceedings, as the court will not enforce a judgment automatically. 

The nature of enforcement proceedings will vary in accordance with the particulars of the judgment or order to be enforced. 

Enforcement proceedings will proceed according to the following steps:

  • submission of claim for enforcement based on court order/judgment;
  • submission of defence to enforcement proceedings within 20 days;
  • enforcement through, for example, seizure of assets, rights or entitlements; and
  • discharge of judgment/order.

Depending on the type of order or judgment to be enforced, the main means of enforcement may consist of:

  • seizure and auctioning of assets (the assets can also be sold through negotiation by an expert appointed by the court): if a third party is liable for the debt the court proceedings for the enforcement have to be commenced against that third party;
  • seizure of earnings;
  • forced sale;
  • charging orders;
  • periodical penalty payments; or 
  • attachment of a third-party debt owed to the debtor (eg, a debtor's bank account).

Unless otherwise provided for in international agreements in force in the Macau SAR, judgments and arbitral awards from a foreign country can only be enforced in the Macau SAR after revision and confirmation by its courts.

Such confirmation is not necessary when the foreign judgment is used in the Macau SAR only as evidence of certain facts in court proceedings.

Confirmation is subject to the following requirements:

  • the document is authentic and the decision is written plainly;
  • the judgment is res judicata in the country of issuance;
  • the matter does not fall within the exclusive competence of the Macau SAR courts and the issuing court’s competence was not fraudulent;
  • the matter has not been previously submitted to litigation, nor has it been previously decided as res judicata in the Macau SAR;
  • verification of the regular summoning of the defendant and that the due process principles have been observed; and
  • the decision will not cause a result that goes against public policy. 

The defendant is summoned and has 15 days to offer a defence, whereas the claimant may submit rejoinder within ten days.

Besides the non-verification of any of the above requirements, the defendant may also oppose the confirmation on the following grounds:

  • there is a judgment decided as res judicata that the award pending confirmation was issued under prevarication or corruption of the judge;
  • there is a document that the defendant was not aware of or was unable to use during the initial proceedings, which would by itself be sufficient to lead to a decision more favourable to them; and
  • there is a previous judgment decided as res judicata which is contrary to the decision under confirmation.

Before submission to trial, the proceedings are further analysed by the public prosecutor.

The Macau SAR Code of Civil Procedure provides for ordinary and extraordinary appeals. Two types of ordinary appeals exist: an appeal can be filed to the Court of Second Instance from a judgment by a Court of First Instance, and to the Court of Final Appeal from a judgment by the Court of Second Instance. 

Beyond these are found so-called extraordinary appeals. 

  • In the form of a petition to review a judgment (eg, when a defendant’s confession is found to be null and void by a later judgment, although it served as justifying grounds for a previous one) and opposition by a third party. 
  • In the event of collusion between the original complainant and plaintiff with the goal of being granted a favourable judgment, under false pretexts and at the expense of someone who was not directly involved in the proceedings.

An ordinary appeal can only be filed provided that: 

  • the value of the lawsuit is superior to the value of the jurisdiction of the court (alçada) whose judgment is under appeal (at present, MOP100,000 for a Court of First Instance and MOP1 million for the Court of Second Instance); and 
  • the value of the losses incurred by the losing party is superior to half of the value of the jurisdiction of the court whose judgment is under appeal. 

However, should the Court of Second Instance uphold the judgment of the Court of First Instance, irrespective of the reasons, no further appeal can be filed with the Court of Final Appeal, unless that judgment is against previous mandatory jurisprudence of the Court of Final Instance.

The right to appeal on certain matters, such as in respect of the court’s jurisdiction for the proceedings or on grounds of breach of mandatory precedent, is not subject to the limitations set out above.

Within ten days after being notified of the final judgment, the losing party must apply for a leave to appeal with the issuing court. Provided all requisites are met, the court issues an order to that effect and duly notifies the appellant, who will then have 30 days to file the statements of appeal. The appellee enjoys a further 30 days to file the counter-statements of appeal.

The primary goal of an appeal is to provide for the review of a lower court’s judgment; the appellant is accordingly limited to what was brought before that lower court by both plaintiff and respondent during the original proceedings. When hearing an ordinary appeal, the Court of Second Instance, although in principle bound to the statements of appeal’s subject matter, enjoys broad room for manoeuvre and may examine and decide on matters of fact and matters of law. It can choose to: 

  • alter the judgment of the Court of First Instance; 
  • declare that judgment null and void;
  • order the judgment's grounds to be further substantiated, should they be incomplete or missing; or 
  • order the retaking of evidence when deemed necessary to ascertain the truth. 

The Court of Final Appeal is also bound to the statements of appeal’s subject matter and the scope of its revision is generally limited to legal arguments, such as:

  • situations of wrongful interpretation or application of the law by the Court of Second Instance;
  • where the judgment is null and void; or 
  • where any lower court’s judgment was decided against a mandatory precedent. 

The revision of the facts established, and not established, is not included per se, but only when it is argued that a certain fact was judged as established, or not, in breach of legal provisions.

The right to appeal is only subject to the requirements/limitations expressly provided for in the Macau SAR Code of Civil Procedure and described in 10.2 Rules Concerning Appeals of Judgments.

Appeals are granted, or not, based on the facts established and not established at the time of their issuance. If the appellate court believes such facts require further substantiation, or that there are other facts that must be considered, it shall order further trial to determine those facts.

Depending on the findings of the appellate court regarding the lower court’s judgment, it may decide: 

  • to overturn it; 
  • to order its reform; or 
  • to order the execution of further procedural steps deemed necessary, including the retaking of evidence, the taking of further evidence, or even to order the repetition of the trial before the same court.

As a general rule, the court costs and fees are paid by the losing party, or, in the event that neither party won, by the party who has benefited from the proceedings. 

The successful party is entitled to have their court fees - and costs paid in advance - reimbursed, as well as some compensation for legal fees incurred. Unless the court finds that a party has acted in bad faith, this compensation is determined by the court in an amount up to half of the total court fees. If a party is found to have acted in bad faith, the court may determine the compensation for the legal fees incurred by the other party in full, as well as compensation for other costs and damages suffered as a result of those actions.

The outcome of the proceedings is the most relevant factor to be considered when awarding costs. Costs are paid by the losing party. 

If the proceedings terminate pending judgment, an array of factors may determine the responsibility for the costs, such as whether either party has yet benefited from the proceedings, or if the termination is a result of an action attributable to one of the parties. In cases of settlement, without prejudice to an agreement otherwise, the costs shall be settled in equal parts. If either party withdraws or confesses the claim, the costs shall be paid by that party.

Actions which are deemed to have been useless shall be paid for by the requesting party.

Court costs are subject to interest after expiry of the deadline for voluntary payment (20 days from the notification of the bill of costs).

Such interest is in the amount of 1% per month of the unpaid costs.

The main alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism currently available in the Macau SAR is arbitration. Although certain legislation refers to mediation, it does not regulate mediation or conciliation as standalone processes. 

However, certain institutionalised arbitration centres provide mediation and/or conciliation processes, and almost every arbitration regulation provides for a conciliation hearing where a settlement is attempted before the matters go to trial. For example, the WTC Macau Arbitration Centre provides autonomous mediation in relation to disputes arising in the context of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) on trade services between the Macau SAR and the People’s Republic of China as well as an autonomous conciliation process to which any matters can be submitted; and the Real Estate Administration Arbitration Centre provides for a mandatory conciliation phase before the matter is finally referred to arbitration.

In the existing framework, there are neither general compulsory arbitration provisions nor sanctions for unreasonable refusal of ADR.

There are currently three institutional arbitration centres in the Macau SAR: 

  • the Consumer Conflicts Arbitration Centre; 
  • the WTC Macau Arbitration Centre; and 
  • the Macau Lawyers’ Association Arbitration Centre.

The WTC Macau Arbitration Centre and the Lawyers’ Association Arbitration Centre are able to take arbitrations on any matters that may be submitted to arbitration while the others are limited to specific matters and, in certain cases, by the value of the dispute (the consumer Conflicts Arbitration Centre and the Private Funds Conflicts Arbitration Centre can only accept arbitrations for disputes not exceeding MOP100,000).

A new Arbitration Law (Law 19/2019) came into force in the Macau SAR on 3 May 2020. It is fundamentally inspired by UNCITRAL Model Law on international commercial arbitration (with the amendments approved in 2006) and revokes and unifies the currently existing dual arbitration regimes in the Macau SAR, thereby replacing the previous parallel regimes: 

  • the Domestic Arbitration Law (Decree Law No 29/96/M); and 
  • the International Commercial Arbitration Law (Decree Law No 55/98/M). 

Although the new law is applicable to arbitrations commenced after such date, arbitral agreements signed before the entry into force of Law 19/2019 that expressly refer to any of the former regimes may be conducted in accordance with such procedures if the other party does not oppose it within 15 days from receiving the arbitration proposal.

The recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards is governed by Law 19/2019 by the Macau SAR’s Code of Civil Procedure. There are, however, specific agreements for the recognition and enforcement of arbitration awards between the Macau SAR and the Hong Kong SAR as well as between the Macau SAR and the PRC.

Matters not susceptible to settlement agreements may not be submitted to arbitration, such as:

  • disputes whose respective objects involve inalienable rights (ie, rights in respect of which the parties may not surrender, negotiate or transfer (such as parental relations));
  • matters that are by law submitted to the jurisdiction of the judicial courts, such as matters in relation to real estate rights over land located in the Macau SAR and the bankruptcy and insolvency of corporations with registered offices in the Macau SAR;
  • the effective enforcement of any awards;
  • matters that have already been decided by a res judicata award (except in relation to aspects of its implementation which are not covered by the award); and
  • matters in relation to which the Public Prosecutor has to intervene in representation of individuals who lack legal capacity to act.

The arbitration award issued in arbitration proceedings may only be challenged by annulment on the following grounds.

  • Lack of legal capacity of any of the parties to enter into the arbitration agreement.
  • Unenforceability of the arbitration clause according to the agreed jurisdiction (or according to the Macau SAR law, in case of omission).
  • Impossibility of a party to exercise their respective rights during the arbitration proceedings due to inadequate information of the appointment of the arbitrator or of the arbitration process, or due to any other reason.
  • The arbitration award falls outside or exceeds the scope of the arbitration agreement.
  • Irregular constitution of the arbitration tribunal according to the arbitration clause (save when the provision is non-compliant with the Macau SAR law) or according to the Macau SAR law, in case of omission.
  • Insusceptibility of submission to arbitration of the subject matter of the decision in accordance with the Macau SAR law.
  • Contrary to public order.

Annulment proceedings should be submitted within three months from the date the award has been notified to the relevant party or - if any rectification, interpretation, clarification or additional complementary decision has been requested - from the issuance date of the decision on the latter.

The enforcement of domestic arbitration awards does not require any previous confirmation by the Macau SAR courts and they are considered equivalent, for enforcement purposes, to judicial awards.

The recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards take place through separate proceedings, which fall within the competence of the Court of Second Instance. 


The general requirements for confirmation of the award are fundamentally formal by nature, but there are a few exceptions, namely:

  • previous submission of the matter to litigation in the Macau SAR or previous decision as res judicata by the Macau SAR courts;
  • non-exclusive competence of the Macau SAR courts to rule over the subject matter;
  • verification of the regular summoning of the defendant and the observation of due process principles; and
  • decision will cause a result that goes against public policy. 

The defendant may oppose the confirmation proceedings on the following grounds:

  • lack of legal capacity of any of the parties to enter into the arbitration agreement;
  • unenforceability of the arbitration clause according to the agreed jurisdiction (or in accordance with the law of the state or region where the decision was reached, in case of omission);
  • impossibility of a party exercising their respective rights during the arbitration proceedings due to inadequate information of the appointment of the arbitrator or of the arbitration process, or due to any other reason;
  • the arbitration award falls outside or exceeds the scope of the arbitration agreement;
  • irregular constitution of the arbitration tribunal according to the arbitration clause, or according to the law of the state or region where the award was rendered, in case of omission;
  • the arbitration award has not yet become binding to the parties, or has been annulled or suspended by a court of the state or region in which, or under the law of which, the arbitration award was rendered;
  • insusceptibility of submission to arbitration of the subject matter of the decision in accordance with the Macau SAR law; and
  • decision is contrary to public order.


After being confirmed by the Court of Second Instance, the award may be enforced through the Court of First Instance. The proceedings will commence with the seizure of the defendant’s assets before the defendant is called to oppose the enforcement or the seizure of certain assets. 

A reform proposal of the Macau SAR’s Code of Civil Procedure - regarding duration of proceedings, procedural steps and situations that cause delays in procedure - is under preparation and may be submitted to the Legislative Council soon.

Riquito Advogados

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Macau SAR

+853 2838 9918

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Law and Practice in Macau SAR, China


Riquito Advogados provides legal services to a wide range of clients in various industries, with a special emphasis on corporate clients. The firm has five qualified lawyers and offices in the Macau SAR and Lisbon, Portugal, and its key practice areas include corporate/mergers and acquisitions, contracts/contractual investment, restructuring, litigation and arbitration, intellectual property, foreign investment, corporate finance, real estate, aviation, private equity, project finance, labour law and taxation.