What happens in a Supreme Court Chambers hearing?
You might have to go to Chambers to get an interim (temporary) order, a procedural order (like an order to disclose information) or an order to change a final order. You can’t ask for a new final order in Chambers. Here’s a description of what happens and what you need to know when you appear in Chambers to ask a judge/master to make a family order.
Chambers applications are based on evidence in written affidavits. Usually, spoken evidence is not allowed.
The hearing will be in a courtroom that's more informal than a trial (it's not a hearing in the judge's office). Here are some ways that you can prepare for your Chambers hearing:
- Check it out — To get a better idea of what to do and say in court, you may want to sit in on a Chambers hearing before your court date to see how things are done. Ask the court registry staff which courtroom to go to and watch the proceedings. Be sure to let the registry staff know you're interested in family Chambers.
- Make notes — Prepare your presentation to the judge/master by making some notes to help you remember the points you made in your Affidavit to support your claim. Use the Application Record index to identify and organize your documents; this will make it easier for the judge/master to follow your presentation. See our Court forms page or the relevant Supreme Court self-help guide for more information about these forms and what to do with them.
Some tips for your court day
- Take a day off — Since you won't know exactly when your case will be heard, you'll probably need to take the whole day off work.
- Be early and organized — Take all your documents with you (bring along the Application Record you've prepared, as described in the relevant self-help guide), arrive early, and let the court clerk know that you're in court when the courtroom opens (usually at 9:45 a.m.). The court clerk sits at the front of the courtroom.
- Finding the courtroom — When you get to the courthouse, look at the list of cases posted on the bulletin board to find out who will hear your application.
- What to call the judge — If the judge is a woman, call her "My Lady" or "Your Ladyship." If the judge is a man, call him "My Lord" or "Your Lordship." If your application is heard by a master, call him or her "Your Honour."
What to expect in court
- Your case is called — The judge/master will be hearing other applications that same day, so there will be other people in the courtroom waiting for their turn. When the clerk calls your case, stand up and go in front of the judge/master. Tell the judge/master your name and say that you're not represented by a lawyer.
- Each party introduces their case — The person applying for the order makes a short statement about what they are asking the court to order. For example, the applicant might say:
For an interim order about parenting and support: "I'm applying to the court for orders for guardianship, parenting time, and allocation of parental responsibilities for my children. I'm also asking for child support under the guidelines. I'm also asking for spousal support."
For a disclosure order: "I'm applying to the court for an order that the respondent provide me with his Financial Statement."
Then the other party gets a chance to give a quick summary of their position.
- Each party presents their case — Each party then presents their own case. The applicant goes first. Chambers applications are often very short. If your application will be more than two hours long, you must tell the registry that when you file your application.
Summarize the facts: Give a brief summary of the facts that are important to your application.
Give reasons: Explain why you should get what you want. For example:
"I should have the majority of parenting time because I stayed home with Mark and Mary from the time they were born until they started Grade 1. My husband works five days a week and plays in sports leagues on the weekends. He has asked to visit with Mark and Mary only one day each weekend, and some weekends he doesn't visit with them. I have done most of the childcare since they were born. As a result, I believe Mark and Mary would be happier living with me most of the time."
Provide details: Point out the details contained in your affidavits that support your claims. If you're applying for interim support, show the court how you know the respondent's income is what you say it is. You can do this by showing the judge/master that the respondent's last income tax return (which should be attached to his or her Financial Statement [Form F8]) lists, in this example, a gross income of $38,000.
Rely on and refer to your affidavits: The facts you want the court to base its order on must be included in your affidavit. The affidavit is sworn evidence, and the judge/master can only consider sworn evidence when making a decision. When you refer to your affidavits and financial documents, refer to the tab numbers and page numbers in your Application Record so the judge/master can follow along as you're speaking.
Refer to the law: If you've done some legal research and have information about the law that supports your application, talk about it when you cover each point. Make sure you have photocopies of any cases that you want to refer to.
Ask questions: If you don't understand something, ask questions. The judge/master may interrupt to ask you questions. Take the time to answer them.
Listen: When the other party is speaking, listen carefully and take notes. Even if you don't agree with what the other party says, don't interrupt.
- Chance to respond — At the end of the other party's presentation, ask the judge/master for a chance to respond to the other party's comments. This is your chance to respond to anything new that the other party raises in his or her submissions — it's not an opportunity to repeat yourself or raise new issues.
- The judge decides — After that, the judge/master will make a decision. Write down what he or she says because you'll need this information to draft an Order Made After Application (Form F51). Make sure to ask the judge/master what date the order will begin so that you can put the correct starting date on the order.
Sometimes the judge/master will reserve the decision. This means that he or she is going to take some time to think about the case and make a decision later. In this case, a court clerk will call you to let you know when a decision has been made. The decision is often in the form of written Reasons for Judgment. You'll then need to go to court to pick up these reasons.
Before you leave the courtroom — Ask the court clerk to return the Application Record to you.
Important: If your application isn't successful, costs may be awarded against you. This means you'll have to pay for some of the other party's court costs, as well as your own. If there's a lawyer acting for the other party, ask the judge/master to set an amount for costs.
For more information, see also the Justice Education Society's video introduction to Chambers applications and their guidebooks Applications in Supreme Court and A Guide to Preparing Your Affidavit (in the "Before Trial" section of the Supreme Court BC Online Help Guide). These guidebooks were written about civil (non-family) cases, but the process is very similar to the family case process.
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