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9.4 Attend 1st Appearance

If you are not affected by rule 5 or rule 21, you will be mailed a ‘Notice of Hearing’ that contains the first appearance date after your former spouse files his or her Reply. For those that live in rule 5 and rule 21 registries, you will receive your first appearance date after you have filed your Parenting After Separation Certificate of Attendance and your Referral Request. 

The first appearance is going to be the first time you are in front of a judge. The purpose of a first appearance is for the judge to assess your case and determine what the appropriate next step is for you. The judge will consider what the issues are and whether there are any matters that can be resolved by consent (agreement between you and your former spouse) that day. The judge will briefly hear what the application is for and ask a few questions. This is not the trial for your case. They won’t have time to hear your whole story, so remember to summarize as best you can. Clearly state your position, which is the order you are asking for or opposing. In most locations, the judge will encourage you to speak to duty counsel before your case is called in court. These are free lawyers that can give you quick advice and help you speak to the judge. After hearing from you and the other side, the judge can make interim orders, such as ordering that you provide documents to the other side, to attend mediation with an FJC, or that you attend a Family Case Conference.

 What to expect:

  • Speak to duty counsel if there is one available

    Judge’s Tip:

    Go observe a first appearance at your local court to get a sense of what to expect.  

  • Sign in with the clerk when you enter the court room. Let them know what number you are on the court list
  • When you are called by the clerk, approach the judge and explain who you are (your name and whether you are the one who filed the application or the one responding) 
  • You are not going to have much time in front of the judge and probably won’t be able to tell them much about your case 
  • You won't usually have a chance to get the orders you are seeking unless you both consent
  • The judge will give you some direction as to how to proceed 
  • There will be others there waiting for their cases to be called. Some courtrooms can get very crowded 
  To prepare before you attend a first appearance be sure to fill out the 1st Appearance Worksheet.