What happens at a family law trial?Updated September 1

The trial is your opportunity to present evidence that proves what you said and asked for in your court forms. Your evidence can include witnesses or documents that support your case or that goes against your partner's case.

Family court illustrations

Judges decide family cases on their own without a jury. They make decisions using the family law rules and laws and the evidence you give. There are Family Law Rules that tell you what is needed at every step in a court case. Rule 23 Evidence and trial tells you how to prepare for your trial and how to give your evidence.

Judges make decisions using a test called the . This means that your evidence has to be more believable than your partner's evidence.

Judges are neutral and impartial. They don't take sides and can't give you legal advice.

Trials are usually open to the public. This means there may be other people in the courtroom when your trial is going on.

Before your trial begins, the judge first deals with any preliminary or procedural matters. Then you and your partner take turns giving your evidence.

You should stand up when speaking to a judge. Remove your hat and don't chew gum when you're in court. And, turn off your cellphone.

This family law court process flowchart explains each step in a family law court case. It tells you what happens and what you have to do if you start a court case or if you're responding to a court case your partner started.

Read the question How do I prepare for a family law trial?, for information on how to get ready for your trial.

You can talk to a lawyer who can explain the court process and help you through it. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide “unbundled services” or “limited scope retainer” services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.

You can also ask questions about the trial process if they are available in your court location. Duty counsel can't represent you at trial but may be able to help you with general questions.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

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