Family Court Illustrations – Superior Court of Justice (print version)

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Court security officer

The court security officer watches what’s happening in the courtroom and can take steps to keep everyone safe if needed. They may come in and out of the courtroom during your hearing. If you’re worried about your safety, talk to the court security officer before your court hearing. 

Support person

Either party may want to have someone with them in court for support. The support person can be a friend, family member, or someone who’s trained to provide help and emotional support. They help you stay as calm and focused as possible.

A support person usually sits at the back of the courtroom and doesn’t take part in the trial or motion. If you would like your support person to sit with you, you need to ask the judge for permission. At a conference, a support person isn’t usually allowed. If you want one, you need to ask the judge for permission.

Observer

Most family law trials and motions are open to the public. This means anyone can sit in the courtroom and watch. For example, this could be a law student. Observers sit at the back of the courtroom and do not take part in the trial or motion.

A conference is usually not open to the public.

Interpreter

Court hearings are held in English or French. If the applicant, the respondent, or a witness doesn’t understand or speak English or French fluently, they can use an interpreter.

If you or any of your witnesses need an interpreter, ask the court for one before your court date. The government pays for the interpreter.

Applicant

The applicant is the person who starts the family law court case. The other person in the case is called the respondent. Both the applicant and the respondent are called parties to the court case. They can each ask the court to make orders about issues like parenting, support, and property.

In most family law cases, both partners are parties but the children are not parties. In some cases, the Family Responsibility Office or Children’s Aid Society might be a party.

Applicant’s lawyer

In court, the applicant’s lawyer helps the applicant tell the judge about their specific family law problems and why the applicant should get what they’re asking for.

In the Superior Court of Justice, lawyers usually wear black robes with white collars for motions or trials. For a conference, they usually wear business clothes.

Respondent’s lawyer

In court, the respondent’s lawyer helps the respondent tell the judge about their specific family law problems and why the respondent should get what they’re asking for.

In the Superior Court of Justice, lawyers usually wear black robes with white collars for motions or trials. For a conference, they usually wear business clothes.

Respondent

The respondent is the person responding to the family law court case started against them by the applicant. Both the applicant and the respondent are called parties to the court case. They can each ask the court to make orders about issues like parenting, support, and property.

In most family law cases, both partners are parties but the children are not parties. In some cases, the Family Responsibility Office or Children’s Aid Society might also be a party.

Microphone

Everyone who takes part in your hearing has a microphone in front of them to record what they say. Later, the court reporter may use the recording to create a transcript, or a written record, of what was said in court.

Court clerk

The court clerk helps the judge with court documents. For example, at a trial the court clerk adds documents that are part of the evidence to the court record.

Court reporter

The court reporter records everything that’s said in court when the judge is present using audio equipment. The recording may be used later to create a transcript, which is a written record of what was said.

 

Holy book / Symbol

Before a witness gives evidence, they must promise to tell the truth. They can promise while:

  • raising their right hand,
  • putting their hand on a holy book such as a Bible, Koran, or Torah, or
  • holding a symbol such as a sacred eagle feather.

All courts usually have some holy books available, and some have a sacred eagle feather. Check with your court. If they don’t, it may be best to bring your own.

Judge’s door

The judge enters and leaves the courtroom through a door near where they sit.

Judge

The judge is in charge of your court hearing. Family law cases are decided by a judge on their own without a jury. They wear black robes, a white collar, and a red sash.

Judges must be neutral. At a trial or a motion, the judge reviews your arguments and all the evidence before making a decision.

At a conference, the judge tries to help you and your partner resolve your family law problems. For example, they might make recommendations to help you reach an agreement, or say what the next step in your case will be if you can’t reach an agreement.

Witness

You usually only have witnesses at a trial. A witness is someone who gives information to help the judge decide a case. They usually do this by testifying in court. You and your partner are usually witnesses at your trial. You can also call others who have information about your case to be witnesses.

If you have a lawyer, they can ask the witness questions. If you don’t have a lawyer, you can ask the witness questions. The judge may also ask the witness questions.

Coat of Arms

Most courtrooms have a Coat of Arms on the wall behind the judge. The Coat of Arms is an official symbol of the government of Canada or the government of Ontario.

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