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Separation and divorce

How is the hearing conducted?

The final hearing, also known as “the trial”, is generally the last step of the legal proceedings before receiving your final judgment. Here’s what you need to know about it, step by step.

The hearing begins when the court usher announces the entrance of the judge. Everyone in the courtroom must remain silent and stand when the judge enters the room, and must sit when the court usher asks them to.

The court clerk then asks the parties to identify themselves, starting with the plaintiff, that is, the person who initiated the legal proceedings. When a person is represented by a lawyer, it’s the lawyer who rises to speak. If a person does not have a lawyer, they speak for themselves.

The judge and the parties may also confirm the schedule for the day as well as the issues that will be discussed.

First, the plaintiff and then the defendant present the evidence that supports their case.

The parties can, for example, have witnesses testify or present documents, such as bills, contracts or photos.

When a party wishes to question a witness, they ask the person to come to the witness box, in front of the judge. The court clerk asks the witness to take an oath. The witness must raise their hand and say they will “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

Examination of the witness: The party who called the witness to testify is the first to ask them questions. The witness must answer while looking at the judge, even though the questions are being asked by a lawyer (or by a person who does not have a lawyer.)

The questions can be, for example, about what the witness saw or heard. The party can also show the witness certain evidence, for example, an email, and ask them questions about it.

If a party is not represented by a lawyer and wishes to testify, they can explain their version of the facts to the court. The judge may ask questions to ensure that they have understood everything that was said.

Cross-examination: Once a party has finished questioning a witness they called, the other party can ask the witness questions if they wish. They may choose to do this to try to show that the witness is not credible.

Re-examination: A party who questioned a witness first may sometimes question them again after the cross-examination. They may do this:

  • if the witness revealed new facts during the cross-examination;
  • to enable the witness to explain certain answers given during the cross-examination.

Parties generally determine the length of the examination and cross-examination when they choose their hearing date (or dates).

Once a party has submitted their evidence, the judge will ask them if their evidence is complete to ensure they have finished their presentation.

Breaks in the hearing are provided for. In general, there is one in the morning, one for lunch and another in the afternoon. If the parties request other breaks, the judge may allow them.

Once the evidence stage of the hearing has finished, each party presents what is known as their “argument”. This is an oral presentation summarizing their respective requests and arguments. The plaintiff goes first.

This is each party’s last chance to convince the judge. Each party will try to stress the important facts of their case and may try to point out weaknesses in the other party’s case.

Generally, the parties determine in advance the length of their arguments when they choose their hearing date (or dates).

After the arguments have been presented, the judge generally ends the hearing and withdraws to reflect upon the judgment to be rendered. This is known as taking the case “under advisement”.

The judge must generally render the judgment within 6 months. In some cases, the judge must render it more quickly. For example, a judgment must be rendered within 2 months if it concerns child custody or child support payments.

Sometimes the judge renders the decision orally, immediately after the arguments.

Virtual hearings

The same rules apply to hearings by videoconference, with some adaptations. For example, a party must keep their microphone muted when they are not participating, and they can remain seated during the entire hearing.

En apprendre plus

Getting ready for a virtual hearing – French only (Superior Court of Quebec)

En apprendre plus

Preparing to testify at a virtual hearing – French only (Superior Court of Quebec)

En apprendre plus

Guidelines for using technology during hearings – French only (Superior Court of Quebec)

En apprendre plus

Microsoft Teams User Guide (Gouvernement du Québec)

 

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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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