Navigating the Courtroom: Essential Tips for Self-Representation

Access to justice is a crucial aspect of our legal system, yet financial barriers often hinder individuals from seeking assistance in resolving their legal matters. For those considering self-representation in court, it’s imperative to approach the process with preparedness and professionalism. To that end, here are some (hopefully) valuable tips to help you navigate the courtroom effectively.

  • Coordinate Availability

    Before setting a court application, take the time to canvass potential dates with the opposing party or counsel. While not a formal requirement, this courteous gesture can prevent unnecessary adjournments. Failing to consider the other party’s schedule may lead to costs being ordered against you if the application is adjourned, underscoring the importance of selecting a reasonable date.

    • Adhere to Deadlines

    Familiarize yourself with the deadlines outlined in the Supreme Court Family Rules (“SCFR”). Though these rules can seem overwhelming, they are essential in preparing for your application. Pay special attention to the specific deadlines related to your type of application. For instance, for chambers application, refer to Rules 10-5 and 10-6 of the SCFR, which outline critical timelines such as the deadline for service of materials and the filing of the application record. Failure to meet these deadlines may result in your application being removed from the chambers hearing list.

    • Dress Appropriately

    While formal attire like a suit or tie is not obligatory, it’s crucial to show respect for the court and the proceedings. Opt for business attire to maintain a professional demeanor. Avoid t-shirts, shorts and hats!

    • Addressing the Presider

    Depending on the nature of your application, you may appear before a master or a judge. Verify this information by checking the hearing list on the day of or consulting the court clerk before the hearing begins. When addressing a master, refer to them as “Your Honor.” When appearing before a judge, use “Madam Justice,” “Mister Justice,” or simply “Justice.”

    Also, when the master or judge enters and exits the room, stand up and offer a subtle bow as a sign of respect.

    • Practice Restraint

    Avoid interrupting the other party or counsel while they’re presenting their submissions. Disruptions can be counterproductive and are generally discouraged by the court. Unless a situation demands immediate attention, exercise discretion in choosing when to interject. Remember, depending on whether you are the claimant or the respondent, you will have the opportunity to provide a reply. Instead, focus on listening attentively, reserving your comments for when it’s your turn to speak.

    About Mahshid Hoseini

    Lawyer – Vancouver/North Van

    Family law practice is not for the faint of heart. Throughout my years in this field, I've come to recognize that, even in seemingly amicable situations, the journey remains emotionally, psychologically, and financially challenging for many families. With this in mind, I am dedicated to shaping a practice that serves as a source of solace during tough times, rather than adding fuel to the fire.