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Courtroom Etiquette - Provincial Court, Family - Docket Court

What to bring

  • One copy of each of your application documents (eg. your Claim and Statement) and a copy of any court orders that are currently in place.
  • If you filed any documents within 3 or 4 days of the court date, bring an extra copy for the Judge in case the court copy has not made it to the file.  All filed documents must be served on Respondents.
  • A copy of your filed Affidavit of Service.  If you have not filed this document, proceed to the clerk’s office prior to courtroom to have your Affidavit of Service commissioned and filed---photo ID is required.
  • A pen and paper to make notes

What to wear

  • You do not have to dress formally for court, but you should dress conservatively and respectfully.  A suggestion would be to dress as if you were going to a job interview.
  • No hats
  • Remember that all Alberta courts have airport style security and any object that may be used as a weapon will be taken away when you enter the building.

Location and Time of Court

  • Family Docket Court is held in the Provincial Court.   If your Claim does not say which courtroom you are in, ask at the Clerk’s counter or the Law Information Centre to find out.  This is an open courtroom and many matters may scheduled for the same time but will be heard during the course of the morning or the afternoon.
  • Court begins promptly at the time written on your Claim.  If you have any documents that need be sworn, please go to the Clerk’s counter before court starts.  Give yourself extra time if you need to file documents.
  • Inform the court clerk of your arrival before the Judge arrives

Family Court Counsellors & Duty Counsel

  • Family Court Counsellors are available in many court locations to help you with your court application.  They will talk to you before court begins.
  • In Edmonton and Calgary, Duty Counsel can also help you with your court application.  Please talk to the Family Court Counsellor first.

In the Courtroom

  • In some locations, there are electronic displays showing which matters are in which courtroom.  In other locations, there are paper lists (called docket lists).  Check your name on the either the display or the list to make sure you are in the right courtroom.  When the courtroom is opened by the clerk, you may go in and sit in one of the benches in the back of the room.
  • Turn off your cell phone and throw away your gum before court begins.
  • Several matters are all scheduled to begin at the same time.  You will have to wait your turn to be heard by the Judge.
  • The clerk sits at a desk in front of the Judge and makes notes on a computer.  The clerk has all of the court files and will pass them up to the Judge as each case is called.
  • The Judge will be seated in the centre of the courtroom, and you must stand when he/she enters or leaves the room.
  • The clerk will call the cases for the Judge.  The cases may not be called in the same order as they are written on the docket list.

When your case is called

  • Go to the front of the court room when your name is called and sit at one of the tables. The other party or their lawyer will sit on the other side of the courtroom.  There is a podium in the middle where you may stand when you give your presentation to the Judge.   
  • Stand whenever you speak to the Judge or the Judge speaks to you.
  • If a Family Court Counsellor is helping you, he or she will usually speak to the Judge first, to give a brief summary of the issues to be decided.
  • Call the Judge “Your Honour”.  If the Judge is a woman, you can also call her “Ma’am”.  If the Judge is a man, you can also call him “Sir”.  Do not call the Judge “My Lord” or “Your Worship” or “Your Majesty”.
  • Listen for and follow any instructions from the Judge.
  • Your court order will be typed up for you, and mailed to the address you have provided on your court forms.  If there is some reason why you cannot wait to have it mailed, make sure to tell the Judge, so that they can direct that it be typed up more quickly.

Adjournments

  • There are different reasons why you, and/or the other party may want to adjourn the application.  Some of these are:
    • If you are the respondent - you have not had a chance to finish, file and serve your Response and Reply Statement(s).
    • You have been served with the other party’s statement just before court, and have not had a chance to go through it thoroughly
    • You and the other party are trying to work out an agreement, and want some more time to do that.
    • The Judge may adjourn your case if there is not enough time to deal with it in docket court.
    • You and/or the other party wish to obtain legal advice and/or retain a lawyer
  • Consent Adjournment
    • If both parties agree to adjourn, you can tell the Judge that you have agreed to adjourn and the date you have agreed to adjourn to.
    • Your Family Court Counsellor may be able to assist you with consent adjournment requests before your court date.
  • Application to Adjourn
    • If one party wants to adjourn, and the other does not, the person who wants the adjournment will begin by telling the Judge that they want to adjourn, and explaining why.
    • If you are asking for the adjournment because you are not ready, keep in mind that the Judge will assume that you will give your case top priority.   It is unlikely that you will get an adjournment for much longer than a week or so.
    • If you are asking for an adjournment to get Legal Aid, go to see Legal Aid before your court date. That way, you will know how much time it will take.

Security

  • A Sheriff is usually available in the hallways before court begins and sits on either the left or the right-hand side of the courtroom while court is in session.
  • If you are concerned for your safety, talk to the Sheriff.  They can assist you.
  • If you act in an aggressive or threatening manner to any person in the court house, the Sheriff may escort you out.

Helpful Hints

  • Please do not bring children, unless there is no other option. Children may distract you when speaking with Judge and information shared in the courtroom may not be appropriate for children to hear.
  • Do not eat, drink or chew gum/tobacco in the courtroom.  Remove your hat in the courtroom.  Do not talk to others while court is in session.
  • Turn off cell phones, pagers and music devices.
  • The court proceeding is being recorded, even after the Judge leaves the courtroom.  The recording equipment will pick up every conversation in the room.
  • It is OK to go into or out of the courtroom when it is in session.  Just be sure to do so quickly and quietly.
  • It is OK to discuss your case (outside the courtroom) and try to reach an agreement.  The Judge will always prefer that you settle your case, rather than having them decide.
  • If you have any documents for the Judge, hand them to the clerk, and he/she will hand them to the Judge.
  • Do not interrupt the other party.  You will have your chance to speak when they are done.  It is helpful to make notes of what you want to say, so you don’t forget when it is your turn.
  • Do not make noises or faces when the other party is speaking.
  • Do not argue with the Judge.
  • If you do not understand exactly what the Judge has ordered, you can ask the Judge to clarify what they have said.  If the Judge has dealt with part of your issues, but not all, you can ask the Judge for their decision on the remaining issues.
  • This video takes place in Provincial Court Civil Division, but gives some good information about what to expect when going to court.