Court operations during COVID-19Courts are conducting family proceedings in different ways. These include in person, audioconference or videoconference, or a mix of in person and remote options, depending on the level of court. For more information, see:
You might have to go to Chambers to get an interim order, a procedural order (like an order to disclose information), or an order to change a final order. You can’t ask for a new final order in Chambers.
Here are some things that might help you get ready to appear in Chambers to ask a judge or master to make a family order.
Chambers applications are based on evidence in written affidavits. Usually, you can't use spoken evidence.
The hearing will be in a courtroom but it won’t be as formal as a trial.
Tips for getting ready
- You’ll feel less stressed if you know what to expect. Try to sit in on a Chambers hearing before your court date to see how things are done. This will also give you a better idea of what to do and say in court. Ask the court registry staff which courtroom to go to so you can watch a hearing. Let them know you're interested in family Chambers.
- Make notes for your presentation to the judge or master to help you remember the points you made in your Affidavit to support your claim. Use the Application Record index to identify and organize your documents. This will also make it easier for the judge or master to follow your presentation.
Tips for your court day
- Take a day off work: you won't know exactly when your case will be heard, so take the whole day off.
- Be early and organized: take all your documents with you (including your Application Record — see the step-by-step guide that applies to your situation) and get there 15 minutes early so you have plenty of time to find the courtroom. When you get to the courthouse, look at the list of cases posted on the bulletin board to find out who'll hear your application. Let the court clerk know you're in court when the courtroom opens (usually at 9:45 am). They sit at the front of the courtroom.
- What to call the judge: call the judge "Justice," "Associate Chief Justice," or "Chief Justice." If your application is heard by a master, call them "Your Honour."
What to expect in court
Here's what happens when you get to court:
- Your case is called. The judge or master will be hearing other applications that day, so there will be other people in the courtroom waiting for their turn. When the clerk calls your case, stand up and go in front of the judge or master. Tell them your name and that you're not represented by a lawyer.
- Each person (the law calls them a party) introduces their case.
- The applicant goes first. They make a short statement about what they're asking the court to order. For example, they might say:
- for an interim order about parenting and support: "I'm applying to the court for orders for guardianship, parenting time, and allocation of parental responsibilities for my children. I'm also asking for child support under the guidelines and spousal support."
- for a disclosure order: "I'm applying to the court for an order that the respondent provide me with his Financial Statement."
- Then the other person (the respondent) gets to give a quick summary (short version) of their side of the issue.
- Each person presents their case. You and the other present (talk about) your own case. The applicant goes first. Chambers applications are often very short. If your application will be more than two hours long, tell the registry that when you file your application. Here are some tips for presenting your case:
- Summarize the facts: give a short version of the facts that are important to your application.
- Give reasons: explain why you should get what you want. For example: "I should have the majority of parenting time because I stayed home with Mark and Mary from the time they were born until they started Grade 1. My husband works five days a week and plays in sports leagues on the weekends. He's asked to visit with Mark and Mary only one day each weekend, and some weekends he doesn't visit with them. I've done most of the childcare since they were born. As a result, I believe Mark and Mary would be happier living with me most of the time."
- Give details: point out the details in your affidavits that support your claims. If you're applying for interim support, show the court how you know the respondent's income is what you say it is. You can do this by showing the judge or master the respondent's last income tax return (which should be attached to their Financial Statement [Form F8]).
- Rely on and refer to your affidavits: the facts you want the court to base its order on must be included in your affidavit. The affidavit is sworn evidence. The judge or master can only consider sworn evidence when they're making a decision. When you refer to your affidavits and financial documents, refer to the tab numbers and page numbers in your Application Record so the judge or master can follow along as you're speaking.
- Refer to the law: if you've done some legal research and have information about the law that supports your application, talk about it when you cover each point. See Researching other family law cases for some tips on how to do this. Bring photocopies of any cases that you want to refer to.
- Ask questions: if you don't understand something, ask questions. The judge or master might interrupt to ask you questions as well. Take the time to answer them.
- Listen: when the other person’s speaking, listen carefully and take notes. Even if you don't agree with what they say, don't interrupt.
- You have a chance to respond. At the end of the other person's presentation, ask the judge or master for a chance to respond to their comments. This is your chance to respond to anything new that the other person brought up. It's not a chance to repeat yourself or raise new issues.
- The judge decides. After that, the judge or master will make a decision. Write down what they say. You'll need this information to write an Order Made After Application (Form F51). Ask the judge or master what date the order will start so you can put the right starting date on it. Sometimes the judge or master will reserve the decision. This means they want to take some time to think about the case and make a decision later. If this happens, a court clerk will call you to let you know when the judge or master has made their decision. It’s often written as a Reasons for Judgment. You need to go to court to pick up these reasons.
Before you leave the courtroom, ask the court clerk to give you back the Application Record.
For more information, see Applications in Supreme Court and A Guide to Preparing Your Affidavit by the Justice Education Society. They were written for civil (non-family) cases, but the process is very similar to the family case process.