What happens at a family law trial?Updated September 1

2. Give your evidence

Your evidence includes your witnesses, including yourself, and documents. The  goes first, then the .

Introduce your evidence

Before you can use a document or other piece of evidence at trial, someone has to identify it by telling the judge who made the document and what it's about. This can be you, your partner, or another .

You should have the original and at least 3 copies of each document. These documents can include affidavits, financial statements, letters, photographs, receipts, or reports. If no one objects, the document becomes an exhibit.

Direct examination

You decide the order of your witnesses. When your witness takes the stand, they swear, affirm, or promise to tell the truth.

You examine each of your witnesses by asking questions to get answers that support your case. This is called  or .

Questions on direct examination are generally open-ended. This means they don't tell the witness what to say.

Questions that tell the witness what to say are called leading questions. You cannot ask leading questions on direct examination.

What to do: What to avoid:
Ask open-ended questions that start with who, what, where, when, why, how, or please describe. Don't ask leading questions that tell the witness what to say.
Keep your questions specific, simple, and clear. Don't ask broad, long, or confusing questions.
Try to ask your questions in order. Don't ask for their opinion unless they are an expert witness.

Cross examination

You and your partner can cross-examine each others witnesses. Leading questions are allowed during . The purpose of cross-examination is to test how true and reliable the witness' answers are.

What to do: What to avoid:
Ask leading questions that tell the witness what to say. Don't argue with the witness.
Keep your questions specific, simple, and clear. Don't ask broad, long, or confusing questions.
Try to start with general questions, then get more specific. Don't ask questions that hurt your case.
Ask questions to show the witness is not telling the truth. Don't ask for their opinion unless they are an expert witness.

Re-examination

You can then  your witness to make clear anything that came up during the cross-examination. But, you can't raise any new issues.

Objections

At any time during the questioning of a witness, you can object to questions being asked or to documents being given to the court. You must explain the reason why the judge shouldn't hear the evidence. For example, if the witness is asked:

  • leading questions on a direct examination
  • for their opinion and they are not an expert witness
  • questions that are not relevant
  • questions that are repetitive

New issues

If new issues are raised, you and your partner can respond by calling more witnesses or recalling witnesses who have already testified. These witnesses can be examined, cross-examined, and re-examined.

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