Basic courtroom procedure

During a hearing for a civil or family matter, the courtroom follows a standard procedure that’s made up of these steps:

  1. The applicant (or plaintiff):
    • introduces themselves and the other party or the other party’s lawyer – if that party isn’t present
    • explains what it is that they’re asking for
    • summarizes the facts and makes their arguments
  2. The judge may ask questions of the applicant.
  3. The respondent (or defendant) summarizes the facts and makes their arguments.
  4. The judge may ask questions of the respondent.
  5. The applicant responds to facts or arguments raised by the respondent.
  6. The judge makes a decision in favour of one of the parties.
  7. The applicant and respondent thank the judge.

Court applications

In Provincial Court, family court counsellors and duty counsel are available to assist you with your court application.

In the Court of Queen’s Bench, an orders clerk may be available to type your court order.

If you are a self-represented litigant, read the Information for self-represented litigants fact sheet.

Trial courtroom procedure

Trials for civil or family matters follow a standard procedure.

Step 1. Opening statements

  1. The applicant introduces themselves and the other party or the other party’s lawyer.
  2. The applicant gives an opening statement.
  3. The applicant explains to the judge what it is that they’re asking for.
  4. The respondent gives an opening statement.

Step 2. Evidence and witnesses

  1. The applicant gives their evidence.
  2. The respondent cross-examines the applicant.
  3. The judge may ask questions of the applicant.
  4. The applicant calls each of their witnesses in turn and asks them questions.
  5. The respondent cross-examines each of the applicant’s witnesses in turn.
  6. The judge may ask questions of each witness.
  7. The respondent follows the above steps with their evidence and witnesses. (The respondent is responsible for bringing their evidence and documents to trial.)

Step 3. Closing arguments

  1. The applicant gives their closing statement, summarizing the evidence.
  2. The applicant makes arguments about why the judge should decide in their favour.
  3. The respondent gives their closing statement and makes arguments.
  4. The applicant responds to any arguments from the respondent.

Step 4. Decision

  1. The judge makes a decision in favour of one of the parties.
  2. The respondent and applicant thank the judge.