Separation and divorce
Inside a courtroom
In a courtroom, several people are present to ensure the orderly conduct of judicial proceedings. In Quebec, all courtrooms have essentially the same layout in every courthouse. The image below shows a graphic representation of a courtroom.
Click the buttons to find out more about the main participants and their respective roles.
The judge is the one who makes the final decisions about the applications you have made in your proceedings. He or she may therefore ask you, your ex, or your witnesses questions.
The judge is also responsible for ensuring the orderly conduct of hearings. He or she can decide, for example, when you’re allowed to speak. The judge can also order a person to leave the courtroom if they’re being disruptive.
The judge must remain impartial. Therefore, he or she can’t advise you on your rights or on how to present your arguments.
The court clerk is responsible for taking notes throughout the hearing. He or she records what is called the “minutes” or "procès-verbal"– a document summarizing the main stages of the hearing that is included as part of your record at the courthouse.
The court clerk also administers the oath to witnesses for them to swear to tell the truth.
Court ushers announce the start of the hearing. They ask the people in the courtroom to be silent and to stand before the judge enters the room.
Court ushers also ensure that the rules governing the conduct of the hearing are respected.
The plaintiff, sometimes called "the applicant", is the person who started the judicial proceedings.
Either you or your ex could be the plaintiff. It depends on your respective roles in the divorce or separation proceedings.
If the plaintiff has a lawyer, he or she will be seated next to him or her.
You can be accompanied by an interpreter during the hearing if you have difficulty understanding English or French. The interpreter can sit beside you throughout the hearing and translate the discussions in real time.
An interpreter can also accompany a witness who speaks another language other than English or French.
Witnesses are there to give their account of events. For example, an employer could be called to testify to help the judge determine a person’s income.
Some witnesses can also give their opinion as experts on a subject. For example, a real estate appraiser can testify to help the judge determine the value of the family residence.
You may call one or more people to testify at the hearing to support your arguments. You can also be a witness yourself.
The seats at the back of the courtroom are usually reserved for people who want to attend the hearing. In family matters, most hearings are conducted “in camera”, meaning that the public is not allowed to attend. Therefore, with some exceptions, your family members cannot be present in the courtroom.
Although the hearing is in camera, witnesses, lawyers, or journalists may be authorized to attend the hearing. They will sit on the seats reserved for the public.
The defendant is the person who initially received the judicial proceedings.
Either you or your ex could be the defendant. It depends on your respective roles in the divorce or separation proceedings.
If the defendant has a lawyer, he or she will be seated next to him or her.
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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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