5. Go to court

What happens at the first court date in my child protection case?
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5. Go to court

Before your first court date, make sure to confirm what time the case starts.  Plan to get there at least 30 minutes early. It can take time to find your courtroom.

It can also take time to speak with duty counsel. This is important if you don't have a lawyer.

Duty counsel is a lawyer at the family court who can help you, if your income is low enough. They can give you basic information and advice. They may also be able to help you get a Legal Aid Certificate. They can't draft documents for you. You have to get your own lawyer to help you with your documents.

Before you go to court:

  • Wear clothes that are suitable. For example, don't wear clothes with language or images that are not appropriate.
  • Bring all the documents you need.
  • Be prepared to go through security.

How to behave in court:

  • Don't bring any food or drink in the courtroom. Only water is allowed.
  • Don't chew gum.
  • Remove your hat.
  • Turn off or put on silent cell phones and any other electronic devices that might make noise.
  • Be respectful and polite to everyone.
  • Stand when the judge enters or leaves the courtroom and when you speak to the judge.
  • When you speak to the judge, say "your Honour".
  • Speak directly to the judge, not to your partner, except when you are examining a witness.
  • Refer to other people in the courtroom by "Mr.", "Ms.", or "Doctor". Don't use first names.
  • You can take notes during court so that you can properly respond to any issues that are raised.
  • If you want to speak during the hearing, talk to the judge. Don't talk to anyone else.
  • Don't interrupt when the judge is speaking.
  • Don't interrupt when another person is speaking unless you want to object to a question that isn't appropriate when a witness is being examined.
  • Only one person is allowed to speak at a time.
  • If you have trouble hearing the judge or anyone else, you should let the judge know.
  • Any documents you wish to give to the judge must be handed to the Court Registrar.
  • The judge can't give you legal advice because the judge must be fair and impartial and not take sides. But, if you have any questions about the court process during the hearing, you may ask the judge or duty counsel.

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Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General
Reviewed: October 31, 2018

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