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What to Expect in Family Court – Guide

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How should I act in the Courtroom?

There are a few things that are important to remember when you go to court:

What does the courtroom looks like?

Courtroom Layout

Courtroom Layout

In the courtroom, the judge sits on a dais (a platform) at the front of the room. There will also be a court clerk and a court reporter in the courtroom. Please be aware that a family law case is open to the public and that everything said or done in the courtroom is recorded. You may also see people walking in and out of the courtroom.

There are two tables in front of the judge called counsel tables. They are for the applicant and the respondent in the case. The applicant and respondent are parties in the case. You are either the applicant or the respondent. Usually, the parties sit there with their lawyers. If you don’t have a lawyer and you want to bring someone to sit with you at these tables, make sure that you ask the judge for permission to do this. However, if that person is going to be a witness, the judge won’t allow that person to sit with you. You should try to choose someone who is not going to be a witness.

What do I wear?

  • You should try to dress in good clothes for court. Ask anyone coming with you to dress neatly, too.
  • You should not wear clothes that have inappropriate words or pictures on them.

Manners

  • Turn your cellphone to vibrate only or turn it off.
  • Always be respectful and polite to everyone in the courtroom, including the other party. Try to remain calm.
  • When you speak to the judge, say either “Your Honour” or “Justice” before the judge’s last name.For example, you can say, ”Justice Smith” or “Your Honour”.
  • You must stand up when a judge enters or leaves the courtroom. You should also stand when you are speaking to the judge.
  • When you are speaking to a witness, you should say either “Mr.”, “Ms.” or “Doctor” before their last name and not use their first names. For example you can say, “Mr.Smith” but not “Joe”.
  • When you want to speak during the trial, talk directly to the judge. Do not talk to the other party or courtroom staff.
  • Do not interrupt when the judge or the other party is speaking. Only one person is allowed to speak at a time.
  • Do not speak to the other party and tell them that you don’t agree. The judge will give you time to disagree when it is your turn to speak. The judge will tell you when it is your turn to speak.
  • Do not swear in court. Do not use rude gestures.
  • Do not argue with the judge in court.
  • Be polite to everyone in the courthouse.
  • Do not chew gum.

Take Notes!

  • You should take notes during court so that you may respond to any issues raised by the other party when it is your turn to speak to the judge.
  • If you disagree with something the other party tells the judge, write it down.
  • If you object to the other party’s questions to witnesses, write down your objection, and then stand up. This tells the judge that you have something to say.

Important to Remember!

  • Don’t stand up if you disagree with the other party’s or the other party’s witnesses’ answers to questions or if you think that the other party or their witnesses are lying. Write it down.
  • If you can’t hear a witness, the other party, a lawyer or the judge, you should stand up and let the judge know when he or she gives you permission to speak.
  • You may not record your hearings unless you ask the judge and receive permission before the hearing starts.

Be on time

  • Court is usually open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The court usually takes a break for lunch at 1:00 p.m. There will also be a break in the morning and in the afternoon. These hours may change. The judge will decide if your case starts earlier or later or ends earlier or later. Please make sure that you and your witnesses are on time for your hearing.Make sure that you return to court on time after the breaks.

Legal Advice

  • The judge cannot give you any legal advice because the judge must be fair and impartial when hearing your case. You should consult a lawyer or duty counsel at your local courthouse. If you have any questions about court procedure during your trial, however, you may ask the judge.