Tips for Self Represented Litigants

Pointers for Representing yourself in the Courtroom

  • Make a good impression. Dress neatly and in clean clothes. It tells the judge that you respect the court and care about your case.
  • Be respectful. Be respectful to everyone in the court and courthouse. This includes the judge, court staff, the other side - and their lawyer and witnesses. How you act is as important as how you look.
  • Arrive early. Be at least 5 minutes early for all of your scheduled hearings. The court is very busy. Make sure that the court clerk knows that you have arrived. If you are late, your case might get postponed, or it might be dismissed.
  • Know what to ask. You can ask court staff for information about the process and what type of information to put on the forms, but they can't tell you what to write on the forms or what to say at a hearing - that's legal advice and you would call a lawyer for that type of help.
  • Come prepared. Make sure you have all of the documents with you at the hearing and bring the correct number of copies with you. Remind your witnesses to be on time for the court case. Make sure you bring your witnesses with you to the hearing and that they are ready to testify in court. Write out the questions you plan to ask and go over them with your witnesses before the hearing.
  • Use a lawyer if you need help. You can use a lawyer if you need help, even if you started the case on your own. There may be other people in the courtroom waiting for their cases to be heard. Listen for your name to be called. When it is called, move to the front of the room and signify that your are present.
  • Do not bring your children to court. Day care is not provided by the courts. Children may not be left unattended. Children will not be allowed in the courtrooms.
  • Wait until the judge speaks to you before talking. Address the other side, lawyers and all witnesses in court by their last name and title, for example, Mr. Jones, Ms Smith. Call the judge "your honour" in Provincial Court and Family Court. In Supreme Court and Appeal Court, call the judge "my lord" if it is a man and "my lady" if it is a woman.
  • Tell the truth.

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