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Separation and divorce

What to expect on the day of a court hearing

Do you have an application to present to the court or have you received a judicial application that includes a "Notice of Presentation"?

If you’re not represented by a lawyer, it’s important to know what steps to follow on the day of a court hearing, especially if this is your first time in court in the context of a separation or a divorce.

COVID-19

The health guidelines currently established by the public health authority may affect how some courthouses operate. For example, special health procedures may be imposed if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Some steps may also have to be completed over the phone rather than in person.

Contact your courthouse to find out if special measures apply to your situation.

Steps to follow when a judicial application is presented in court


1.Confirm your attendance in advance

Some courthouses ask you to call them the day before your court date to confirm your attendance.

Not all courthouses operate like this, so you may not have to complete this step.

To find out if you have to confirm your attendance in advance, check your Notice of Presentation. If it states that you have to participate in the “calling of the provisional roll by telephone”, this means that you have to confirm your attendance in advance by following the instructions.

If you’re not sure, you can also call the civil court office at the courthouse to find out if you have to complete this step.

2.Locate your courtroom 

On the day you need to be in court, you’ll most likely present your application in a room called the “Practice Court”.

The room number and the time you have to be there are indicated in the Notice of Presentation. If you’re unable to locate the room, feel free to ask people around you for help. Most courthouses have a service desk at the entrance, called a “Court Office”, which can also help you find the right room. Some large courthouses, such as the one in Montreal, also have information offices.

Important

Make sure that you’re on time because a decision can be rendered even if you’re absent.

You may be delayed by security checks at the Montreal courthouse. Allow an additional 30 to 45 minutes to clear security.

Once you’ve located the room, you will have to wait outside until you’re called to participate in the “Calling of the roll”.

3.Participate in the calling of the roll

The calling of the roll allows you to confirm your attendance in court and the reason you're there. This is sort of like “triage” at the courthouse.

Depending on which courthouse you’re in, the person who calls the roll will be either a judge or a special clerk. This person will address everyone who wishes to present an application to the Court that day and everyone who has received a Notice of Presentation, one by one.

When your case is called, you can enter the room. In some courthouses, someone will come to get you. In others, you’ll be called over an intercom.

Once you’re in the room, present yourself before the judge or the special clerk and explain what you’ve come to ask for that day. For example, you’ve come to:

  • be heard by a judge that same day to obtain a judgment on support,
  • be heard by a judge that same day to obtain a judgment on custody of your child,
  • oppose an urgent application you received,
  • turn your out-of-court settlement into a judgment,
  • postpone the hearing date of an urgent application,
  • set the date for the final hearing in your case.

Once you’ve explained the nature of your requests to the judge or the special clerk, he or she will probably ask you some questions. For example, if you and your ex can’t reach an agreement, you’ll be asked to specify how much time you’ll need to present your arguments to the judge.

If you participated in the provisional calling of the roll by telephone (see Step 1), this step will go faster because you will have already answered several of these questions.

Not sure what to ask for?

If you’re unsure, you can ask to “suspend your case”. The judge or the special clerk will then move on to the next case on the list and you’ll be able to go back before him or her after all the other cases have been called. This will give you time to clarify your requests and talk with your ex to try to reach an agreement.

4.Follow the instructions from the judge or the special clerk

Once you’ve answered all the questions posed by the judge or special clerk, he or she will give you instructions on the next steps. For example, you may be asked to:

  • return to the same judge or special clerk after the calling of the roll so that he or she can decide your application,
  • go to another room so that a judge can hear your application.

Be sure to listen carefully to the instructions the judge or special clerk gives you, and don’t hesitate to ask questions if the information isn’t clear.

The next steps will depend on the type of application that has brought you to the Court that day and on the instructions from the judge or the special clerk.

Inside a practice room

In Quebec, the layout and operation of practice rooms vary from one courthouse to another. Here is a graphic representation of the main participants and elements that are common to all rooms.

Click the buttons to find out more about the main participants and their respective roles.

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Warning

The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.

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