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.
Go observe a first appearance at your local court to get a sense of what to expect.
|To prepare before you attend a first appearance be sure to fill out the 1st Appearance Worksheet.|