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We asked Evan Clemence, a family law lawyer at Gelman & Associates, what happens when you go to Court during a divorce in Ontario. Please be advised that these answers are not intended as legal advice, but rather as an introductory overview on a legal subject. For legal advice regarding the divorce process in Ontario, we recommend consulting with an Ontario family law lawyer. 

For more information regarding what happens when you go to Court during a divorce in Ontario, contact us today and schedule your consultation.

Starting a Court Case: Filing Documents and Paying Fees

Starting a Court case usually involves filing an Application, a Financial Statement for Financial Issues, and an Affidavit relating to parenting matters, if applicable. 

If your case includes a property claim, there may also be a fee to the Ministry of the Attorney General. For an overview of fees and documents that may be relevant to your claim, contact a divorce lawyer today for a consultation. At Gelman & Associates, we strive to provide clear guidance every step of the way. 

Serving Court Documents to Your Spouse

Formal documents issued by a Court, such as the first set of pleadings, must be served to the recipient spouse as a physical copy. According to Ontario family law on serving your documents, this must be done by a third party over the age of 18, and it must be done in person.

Once the case begins, the Family Law Rules allow for alternative methods of document delivery, such as email, mail, or fax. For more information, contact our divorce lawyers at Gelman & Associates today.

Preparing for Your First Court Appearance: What to Expect

In family law, a specific type of appearance known as a “first appearance” or “Rule 39 appearance” may be applicable to fast-track cases that involve only spousal, child support, or parenting issues. In this type of appearance, you may meet with a Court Clerk to schedule a future date before a Judge. No decisions are made at this stage unless all required documents have been filed.

If your case is not on the fast track, your first appearance may be a Case Conference before a Judge. Here, you may discuss issues pertaining to your case. The Judge may make some Orders during a Case Conference, but this is not where they will decide on contested issues such as parenting arrangements, child support, or spousal support. The judge may instead provide guidance, recommendations, and procedural Orders to help streamline your case.

The purpose of a Case Conference is to encourage parties to try and reach an agreement amongst themselves. If they cannot reach consensus, a hearing date may be granted for the Judge to decide.

The Court process can be particularly frustrating for individuals seeking immediate action, as there is often a significant waiting period. 

Representing Yourself vs. Hiring a Lawyer

You are free to choose to represent yourself in a Court of law, or hire a lawyer to do so on your behalf.

If you choose to represent yourself, you may wish to consider consulting a lawyer through unbundled legal services, also known as limited scope retainers. This arrangement allows you to have legal representation without the lawyer being your Lawyer of Record. They may offer you legal advice, and may even appear as an Agent for one court date, should you so need.

The main risks of representing yourself include:

  • You may not understand the nuances of Court rules and procedures
  • You may face difficulties filing appropriate forms, confirming attendance, and effectively participating in the case
  • As an individual implicated in the case, you may face challenges concerning your emotional involvement
  • Lack of experience in preparing a legal case may accrue substantial costs, as well as a delayed process
  • And more

A dedicated divorce lawyer may ensure that your documents are filed in a timely manner, that your expectations for Court appearances are clear, and that procedural guidance is followed. If you would like to discuss the ways in which a divorce lawyer may increase your chances of a favourable outcome, contact us at Gelman & Associates today.

Presenting Evidence and Making Arguments in Court

Different forms of evidence hold different weight in family Court. Videos and recordings made on personal devices are generally disregarded by judges. Instead, evidence is primarily presented through in-court testimony or Affidavits.

Documents such as Applications, Answers, Case and Settlement Conference Briefs, and Offers to Settle are considered submissions rather than evidence. This means that false statements in these documents are not perjury, but can still be challenged.

Cross-Examination and Examination-in-Chief

During a Trial or deposition, individuals may be cross-examined or examined-in-chief. Examination-in-chief refers to a divorce lawyer questioning one’s own client, while cross-examination involves questioning the opposing party or their witnesses.

During cross-examination, the examiner may ask leading questions to try and achieve particular responses. This is not permitted in examination-in-chief, where the lawyer must ask their client or supporting witness open-ended questions. 

It is important to work with a divorce lawyer who understands how to navigate the process of cross-examination and examination-in-chief. We would be more than happy to address your questions and concerns about this part of the Court process.

The Role of the Judge in a Divorce Court Case

The legal grounds for divorce in Ontario are cruelty, adultery, or a one-year separation without reconciliation. The Judge’s responsibilities in a divorce case are to ensure the grounds have been met and that the terms of the divorce are just, especially where children are involved. A Judge may focus on overseeing appropriate child support payments, and ensuring that the separating parties comply with their legal obligations.

Contact Gelman & Associates for a Consultation on What Happens When You Go to Court During a Divorce

If you would like to learn more, or discuss what happens when you go to court during a divorce in Ontario, contact us at Gelman & Associates and schedule a consultation today. We have offices across Ontario in order to provide our clients with better access to justice.

Disclaimer: For specific legal advice on your divorce matter, please consult with a divorce lawyer. The content in this article is not intended to act as legal advice and is instead intended to act as a general overview of a legal topic.

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