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Prepare for your trial

You have a lot to do to prepare for your trial.

Until now, you and your partner put all the documents you wanted the judge to look at in the continuing record. You can’t use the continuing record for your trial. Instead, Rule 23: Evidence and Trial says you must use a Trial Record.

At least 30 days before your trial date, your partner will serve you with a trial record. It will have:

You can add to your partner’s trial record by serving and filing your documents at least 7 days before the trial starts. You serve your partner by regular service or special service. Serve your documents below explains how to do this.

See Count time below to understand how to calculate days or time correctly. This is important because court staff may not accept your documents if you haven’t followed the rules.

You have to tell the court that you will be at your trial. Confirm your court date below explains how to do this. If you or any of your witnesses need an interpreter or any special arrangement because of a disability, see Ask for a special arrangement below.

You also have to think about the documents and witnesses that you plan to use at your trial.

Get your documents

You and your partner should have exchanged financial information, and any other documents that are relevant to the case by now.

You should let your partner know as soon as possible if there are other documents that you plan to use at trial. Your partner should be able to look at those documents before the trial starts.

The documents that you want to use as evidence at your trial must be originals and relevant to your case. Examples of documents include bank account records, report cards, and real estate documents.

Get your witnesses

If you plan to call witnesses, you need to make sure they will come to court when you need them. If they are family members or friends, you may be able to rely on them to show up. For other witnesses, you may want to issue a summons to them to come to court. A summons is a legal document that orders a person to come to court to give evidence, and to bring documents or other things to the hearing if needed.

To issue a summons you fill out Form 23: Summons to Witness and serve it on your witness. In it, you tell them the date and time you need them to come to court and the documents you want them to bring.

You must pay the witness $50 for each day they are needed in court and give them travel money. If they don’t live in the city where the trial is being held, you also have to give them an allowance for meals and accommodation. These fees and expenses are listed in Rule 23: Evidence and Trial.

You should only call witnesses at your trial who:

  • have important information that will help the judge decide your case,
  • can give evidence that support the orders you want the judge to make
  • have important information that goes against your partner’s case.

Remember, a witness can only give evidence about what they know, not what other people have told them.

If your witness is an expert in a particular area that is an issue in your case and they have written a report, you need to give that report to your partner at least 90 days before the trial.

You need to prepare the questions you want to ask your witnesses and your partner’s witnesses. If you plan to give evidence as a witness, you should prepare what you will testify, and get ready to be cross-examined by your partner.

Ask for a special arrangement

If you or any of your witnesses need an interpreter or any special arrangement because of a disability, you can ask for this at any stage in the court process.

You can speak with any staff member at court about what you need or you can contact the Accessibility Coordinator at the court where your case, motion, or trial is being held. More information on accessibility at Ontario’s courts is available on the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website.

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Confirm your court date

You must confirm your court date by 2 p.m., at least 2 days before your scheduled hearing. To do this, you must fill out and file Form 14C: Confirmation. This form tells the court that you’ll be at your hearing, what specific issues will be discussed at it, and what documents the judge should read. You can file the form in person at the courthouse or by fax.

Your partner also has to fill and file this form to confirm they will be at the hearing.

If you do not file your confirmation form in time, the hearing will not be held and you will have to get a new date.

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Count time

Rule 3: Time tells you how to count time or days.

You must follow court rules that say the day by which you have to:

  • serve your partner, or other people or agencies, with your documents
  • file your documents with the court
  • confirm your court dates

 

When you serve your documents, counting starts on the day after the “effective” service day. The effective service day depends on how you served the documents. If you served them:

  • personally - service is effective the same day
  • by mail - service is effective 5 days after the documents are mailed
  • by courier - service is effective the day after the courier picks it up
  • by fax - service is effective the day it is faxed as long as it is faxed before 4 p.m. on a day when the court is open
  • at your partner’s home with anyone who seems to be an adult and then mailed to that address - service is effective 5 days after the documents are mailed

 

For example, suppose your partner has to get your documents at least 7 days before the date of your motion. If you serve them personally on Monday, the first day you count is Tuesday and the 7th day is the following Monday.

If the last day is a holiday, the time period ends on the next day that is not a holiday.

But if you have less than 7 days to serve or file your documents or to confirm your court date, then Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays when court offices are closed are not counted.

Counting time or days is important because court staff won’t accept your documents if you have not followed the rules.

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Serve your documents

Rule 6: Service of documents tells you how to serve your partner and any other people or agencies you have to serve.

Documents can be served in 2 ways – by special service or by regular service. The Family Law Rules tell you which way you have to serve your documents at each step in the court process.

You can usually serve your partner yourself, or get a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server to do it for you.

Special service

To serve your documents by special service means you, a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server must do one of the following:

  • give a copy to your partner directly, but you can't be the one to do this
  • leave a copy with your partner’s lawyer
  • mail a copy to your partner, but your partner must send back a special form to confirm they received the document
  • leave a copy in an envelope addressed to your partner at your partner’s home with any adult living with your partner, and then mail a copy of the documents to that address within one day

Special service is usually used for documents that start the case or documents that could lead to the person being served going to jail.

Regular Service

To serve your documents by regular service means you, a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server, must do one of the following:

  • mail a copy to your partner or their lawyer
  • courier a copy to your partner or their lawyer
  • fax a copy to your partner or their lawyer
  • serve a copy by special service

The following documents can only be served by special service:

  • an Application
  • a motion to change
  • a summons to witness
  • a notice of contempt motion
  • a notice of motion or notice of default hearing where the person to be served faces a possibility of jail

6B: Affidavit of Service

After your documents are served, you, or whoever served the documents, must fill out Form 6B: Affidavit of Service. This can be done at the court counter, with the help of the court clerk.

Form 6B asks for:

  • the name of the person who served the documents
  • the name of the person or agency that was served
  • when the documents were served (day, month, and year)
  • where the documents were served (house number, apartment number, street name, city, and province)
  • what documents were served (Application, Answer, Reply, notice of motion)
  • how the documents were served (personally, at place of residence, by regular mail, courier, or fax)

This form must be sworn or affirmed. This means the person signing it is promising that the information in it is true. It is against the law to not tell the truth when swearing or affirming an affidavit.

Form 6B proves that your partner got a copy of your documents and knows that they have to respond to them.

More information on serving documents can be found in the Ministry of Attorney General’s A Guide to Family Procedures, Part 6: Serving Documents.

Safety issues

If you fear for your safety or the safety of any friend or family member when serving documents, you can ask the court staff to arrange for your documents to be served.

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