Separation and divorce
10 questions and answers on Court etiquette
Whether you’re in the hallways or in the courtroom, there are rules that you must follow while at the courthouse. How do you dress? How do you talk to the judge? Are cellphones allowed? Here are 10 frequently asked questions about courthouse rules.
You cannot enter a courthouse with any weapons. In addition, if you bring any illegal substances into the courthouse, you could be charged.
Security agents can also refuse entry for other things like alcohol or certain medications.
You can use your cellphone or other electronic devices in the hallways of the courthouse.
However, you must turn them off when you enter the courtroom. In addition, you’re not allowed to record what happens in the courtroom or take photos.
If you’re attending a hearing, you must be properly dressed. You should try to pick clothes that are neat and simple and avoid t-shirts.
You must also take off your hat while in the courtroom. This rule doesn’t usually apply to religious head coverings.
A judge may refuse to hear your case or ask you to change if they feel you are not respecting the dress code.
You must arrive on time in the courtroom. It can be a good idea to show up a little early at the courthouse. This will give you time to find the room and to re-read your documents, if necessary.
It’s important to remember that there are security checkpoints at some courthouses, like at the Montreal courthouse. This means there could be lines of people waiting to be checked.
If you have a lawyer or you’re testifying in a case for another party represented by a lawyer, they might also ask you to arrive early.
Inside the courthouse, you can be accompanied by a friend, a family member, or a social worker, for example.
However, cases involving family matters are held “in camera”, which means they are closed to the public (divorce applications, custody cases, etc.). Therefore, the person accompanying you cannot enter the courtroom, unless the judge authorizes it.
You can eat at the courthouse cafeteria if there is one or in the hallways.
However, you cannot bring any food or drink into the courtroom. Chewing gum is also not allowed. There are pitchers of water available for the parties inside the courtroom.
If you want to speak to the judge during the hearing, you must ask them for permission to speak or wait for them to address you.
Unless you are examining a witness, you must speak to the judge and not to the opposing party.
You should speak loudly and clearly.
If you have a lawyer, they will generally do most of the talking for you.
You should be respectful, polite and calm toward the judge and the court staff.
When you address a judge, you may call them “Mister Justice” or “Madam Justice”, followed by his or her last name.
There are scheduled breaks during a hearing (one in the morning, lunch, and one in the afternoon). If you need an extra break, you can ask the judge for one. If you have a lawyer, they will ask the judge for you. The judge will decide depending on the circumstances.
The consequences depend on how serious the infraction was. For example, you can receive a warning, be asked the leave the courtroom, or even be refused access to the courthouse.
In more serious cases, you could be charged with contempt of court.
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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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