Separation and divorce
How is the final hearing conducted?
The final hearing, also referred to as the “trial,” is generally the last stage of the judicial process before you obtain your final judgment. Here’s a step-by-step look at what you need to know about the process.
1) Entrance of the judge and introduction of the parties
The hearing begins when the clerk announces the judge’s arrival. Everyone in the courtroom must be silent and stand when the judge enters the room and then sit down when instructed to do so by the clerk.
The clerk then asks the parties – that is, you and your ex – to state their names. If you’re represented by a lawyer, the lawyer will do it, but if not, it’s up to you. If other people are involved in your case – if your child has a lawyer, for example – they must also state their name.
2) Presentation of the evidence
Once everyone has identified themselves to the judge, the “evidence stage” can begin.
During the hearing, you and your ex (or your lawyers) have to submit evidence to support your respective positions.
The person who initiated the proceedings presents their evidence first. This person is the “plaintiff”.
The plaintiff can call people to testify. Each witness appears before the judge from the witness stand. The clerk swears them in, asking them to promise to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Once the witness takes the oath, they can begin testifying. Each party in turn can ask the witness questions. The witness must look at the judge while answering the questions, even though someone else is asking them.
The plaintiff can also submit documents at the hearing, such as invoices, contracts, or photographs.
Once the plaintiff has submitted all of their evidence, it’s the turn of the other party – “defendant” – to submit evidence the same way.
If necessary, the plaintiff can submit rebuttal evidence after that.
After all the parties have presented their evidence, it is said that the “evidence is closed”.
The hearing can last a few minutes or several days. If it takes one or more days, there are breaks. In general, there is one break in the morning, one for lunch, and one in the afternoon. If requested, the judge might decide to allow others.
4) Oral Arguments
Once the evidence is submitted, you and your ex (or your lawyers) will present your “oral arguments,” which is an oral presentation summarizing your demands and your arguments.
This is often the last chance for the parties to convince the judge. They might emphasize the important facts of the case or the weaknesses of the other party’s arguments, for example.
The plaintiff makes oral arguments first, and then the defendant. If necessary, the plaintiff can answer the defendant’s arguments.
5) End of hearing and deliberations
Once oral arguments are over, the judge can render judgment immediately or defer the decision. In that case, it’s said that the judge “takes the case under advisement”.
The judge generally has a maximum of six months to render judgment, but in some cases, the period is shorter. For example, if the case concerns child custody or child support, the judge has two months to render judgment.
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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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