Should I go to court during COVID-19?

A video for people wondering how best to approach family matters during the pandemic. A lawyer answers an advocate's questions regarding parenting time and child support. [May 2020]

Diane's Story: Do I need a protection order?

A 13-minute recording of a video call between a lawyer and Diane who talks about her abusive relationship, and learns how she can make a safety plan and get a protection order. Warning: the video includes a description of physical abuse. [May 2020]

Giving Testimony in Supreme Court

A 5½-minute video describing how to prepare your spoken testimony, present it in Supreme Court, and respond to questions from the judge and the other party.

Giving Testimony in Supreme Court

In most family law trials, each party gives their own testimony in court. If you're going to trial for a family law issue, your testimony (what you say in the witness box) will be crucial to your case. This is true even if you have other witnesses who give evidence for you. Testifying at trial is the chance to tell your side of the story.

Note that when you represent yourself, you also prepare and give opening and closing statements, but this isn't the same as giving testimony.

This video covers how to prepare your testimony and present it at trial.

Prepare your testimony

You may find the idea of speaking in a courtroom intimidating. The best thing you can do is prepare, and prepare, and prepare.

To prepare your testimony, start by looking at your Trial Preparation Worksheet. If you haven't prepared one yet, see our fact sheet Present your evidence in Supreme Court. Think about the facts you need to prove and which ones you can prove through your own testimony. Also think about which documents you can introduce yourself.

The rules about what type of evidence a court will accept say you can only bring forward what you personally saw, heard, or did. This means you can't usually testify about what someone else said or wrote outside of court. That's called "hearsay".

There are some exceptions to this rule at family trials. You can repeat something the other party said to you outside of court if it's a statement you're offering against them. For example, if the other party said they had assets but now deny they have them. You can also sometimes describe something a child said, but you need the court's permission to do this. This is sometimes allowed to protect children from having to testify in court.

Remember, your testimony must be legally relevant, meaning it must be related) to what you're trying to prove. It's relevant only if it can help you prove an important fact in your case or disprove an important fact of the other party's case. The judge has the final say about what's relevant.

Write out ahead of time what you intend to say at trial, or at least prepare a detailed list. This'll help you organize your thoughts and make sure you cover all the relevant facts. If the judge gives permission, you may be able to look at your point-form notes in the witness box. Keep in mind that both the judge and the other party have the right to look at anything you plan to refer to while testifying.

At trial

When it's your turn to present evidence at trial, you usually testify first, even if you have other witnesses. You go into the witness box and swear or affirm that your testimony will be — as you've probably heard in many movies — "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

Your first point will be a short statement of why you're in court. For example, you may say, "I'm asking for orders for child support, spousal support, division of property, and divorce." Then go on to talk about each issue. Try to give your testimony on each issue in the order that things happened.

When you give your testimony, avoid giving opinions or making conclusions. Instead, state the facts. For example, instead of saying, "My daughter was sad," say, "When she gets picked up, my daughter cries and clings to me." This way, you only say what you saw, rather than making a conclusion about it.

The same applies to saying how you felt about or reacted to an event. Instead of saying you were shocked to learn something, just say what it was you learned.

It's also important to avoid being argumentative in your testimony. You want to appear calm and rational. So instead of saying, "Why should I always be the one to pick up the kids?" simply say that you pick up the children every day after school and from their music lessons.

Finally, remind yourself to speak slowly and clearly. Many people speak quickly when they're nervous, but you want to make sure everyone in the courtroom understands what you're saying.

Being questioned

The judge will often ask you some questions during or after your testimony. Not every judge will do this — it's up to each individual judge — but don't be surprised if this happens. The judge will also be taking notes while you speak and may need to interrupt you to make sure they understand what you're saying. This is normal and there's no need to be concerned if the judge interrupts you.

The other party may also question you during cross-examination. Cross-examination means that you and the other party are allowed to question each other and each other's witnesses. Be prepared to answer the other party's questions after you testify. You'll have the chance to cross-examine them as well.

Explore more resources for people representing themselves in Supreme Court on our family law website.

Explore more resources at

Jointly developed by the Legal Services Society and the People's Law School, with generous funding from the Law Foundation of BC

Filmed and produced by Michael Augustine
Narrated by Winnifred Assmann
Written by Kate Hunt
Legally reviewed by Erin Shaw and Justice Victoria Gray
Courtroom photography by Dan Daulby
Image selection and titles by Brian Goncalves

Special thanks to:
Terresa Augustine
The Law Courts -- Vancouver

© Legal Services Society, BC, 2015

An Inside Look at Family Mediation

An 8½-minute video excerpted from a 2-DVD set created by the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia. Using the fictional case of Dean and Saya, a couple separating after 17 years of marriage, this video introduces mediation in family law cases and how it works.

The complete DVD can be ordered from the Continuing Legal Education Society website.

An Inside Look at Family Mediation

This video clip is excerpted from a 2-DVD set created by the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia. The complete DVD can be ordered from their website.

Caption: Family Mediation — Seeing Eye to Eye

[Dean and Saya seated, talking, on separate screens]

Voice-over: When people part they still share competing interests — in children, in property, in the future. It can be difficult to come to terms, to see eye to eye. It can be easy to fall into conflict. The goal of family mediation is to help families build understanding and reach agreement and to reduce the conflict and costs of coming to terms. It is a multi-layered strategy, designed to accommodate different people and situations.

Caption: Mediation — Starting the Process

Voice-over: The first step for the mediator is to interview the couple separately to see where each is coming from.

[Mediator seated with Saya]

Mediator: Are you ready to go?

Saya: Yeah.

Mediator: Okay, good. Well, what I always do in my mediations is have a separate time with each of you before we decide to go ahead to a joint session. Making sure that mediation is the right choice for you, and just getting a perspective from you about what you see you need to work on in mediation and just to get your viewpoint.

Saya: Well, I'm here because he won't work out what needs to be worked out. He is not dealing with me on the house. He thinks everything's fine and it's not. We have huge problems and he won't even look at them.

[Mediator seated with Dean]

Dean: Well, basically I'm here because we haven't spoken at all, and Saya seems to think we need to do something and I don't want to go to court.

Mediator: Okay….

Dean: I'm trying to avoid paying, as much as I can.

Mediator: Yeah, and the court stuff usually only happens when you're fighting and you can't resolve the fighting. So mediation is a way for you to try to work through the differences here in a more peaceable way. And hopefully it will help you get to a settlement and you'll have some resolution and you won't have to go to court. Okay? That's the goal.

Dean: Okay. [Dean nods his head]

Mediator: Yeah …. Okay?

Dean: Yeah.

Caption: Joint Mediation Session

Voice-over: The next step is a joint session where the goal is to get the couple to talk to each other and air their concerns.

[Mediator seated with Dean and Saya]

Mediator: So you're both struggling, it seems to me, with, you know, "How can we be a parent" to your daughter, how can you be the best parent given that you're in separate homes right now? And you each probably had this different parenting style when you were in the same home, right? And it worked just fine because she had that all the time. [Turns to Saya] Now that you're in separate homes it seems to me like you're concerned that you're not having a chance to influence her in the way that you would like to.

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: Yeah. [Turns toward Dean] And you're saying, "She's a teenager. I'm not fully understanding what she's doing, but that is not a major issue for you…."

Dean: No.

Mediator: "….What she calls herself."

Dean: No, what she calls herself isn't a major issue for me. That — that I don't always understand what she's doing is something of an issue.

Saya: Well, I'm glad to hear that…. [Mediator nodding] …. Because I think there is things, there are things that she is doing that you don't know about. And she's with you more, which is part of the reason why I am here, and you're not watching her.

Dean: What is it that she's doing that I don't know about?

Saya: Well, have you not seen the, the black clothes she's taken to?

Dean: Of course I've seen the black clothes that she's taken to.

Saya: Well…. And she's calling herself a cat. There's something not right about this whole picture. I mean, she's angry all the time.

Dean: Of course she's angry….

Saya: She's not just angry….

Dean: ….Her parents split up.

Saya: That's not the only reason she's angry. She needs time and attention and she's not getting it.

Caption: Mediation — The Role of the Mediator

Voice-over: The role of the mediator is to keep the communication moving forward in a cooperative way.

[Mediator seated with Dean and Saya]

Dean: But when we talk on the phone it's like, "Tell your dad this, and then let's talk about all this other stuff. Let's talk about how I don't like your girlfriend, let's talk about …" It's not just practical matters that you want to talk about. And I'm not always willing to do that just because you decide that it's time.

Saya: Uh, yeah, and so what's happening as a result is that any concerns that I have with you about your girlfriend, they're not getting addressed. She is influencing my kids. I have a say in that.

Dean: And whose fault is that?

Saya: That's your fault.

Dean: How is that my fault? Because you don't like her.

Saya: Because you brought in a 23-year-old baby to try and guide my kids.

Mediator: Okay.… [Trying to interrupt]

Dean: And you decided that you didn't like her, and that's it for you.

Saya: She's 23….

Dean: So you don't like 23-year-olds?

Saya: ….It's like having another teenager.

Mediator: Yeah, this is hard. This is hard for both of you, and let's just kind of pull it back a little bit and try to slow that down. [Turns to Dean] It sounds like you're saying, "I do want to talk about the communication and the messages and the pickups and deliveries and issues around the children. I don't want it suddenly to become a discussion around my new girlfriend."

Dean: No, I don't.

Mediator: Okay … [Turns to Saya] You're saying, "She impacts this, she's part of this whole ..."

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: "…package here, and we need to find a way to talk about her as well." [Writes on her notepad] So let's just put that in, that you need to have some sort of discussion as well around, um, [Turns to Dean] just your involvement with your new relationship and how she fits with the kids.

Saya: Or doesn't fit with the kids.

Mediator: Because your relationship basically is going to be private…. [Gestures toward Dean, then turns to Saya] ….Just as when you'll have future relationships, they'll be private.

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: But at the same time, how they impact the kids is something that affects all of you.

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: So you may need to discuss that a little bit today.

Saya: I think so.

Mediator: Yeah.

Dean: Okay.

Mediator: Okay.

Dean: Here again.

Caption: Sally Campbell, Mediator

[Mediator speaking to audience]

For me the bottom line is that they go away feeling that they are able to get on with their lives, that they've made some progress in bringing closure to their marriage as spouses and they've made some good progress and beginnings to redefining their relationship as parents, and recognizing that it's ongoing so that they need to continue and will continue talking. This is going to build, help them build on that.

Caption: Joint Mediation With Lawyers

Voice-over: Some situations require the help of lawyers.

[Mediator seated with Dean and Saya and their lawyers]

Mediator: So I think we had a good session the other day with just the three of us there and you worked through a number of issues around the children and how you're going to communicate better around them, regularly. You're each going to…. [Mediator looks toward Saya] You're going to be spending more time with them, and you're each going to be spending more time with them separately.

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: So, hopefully there is some agreement and some way to go forward around the children. My understanding from discussing with your lawyers is that today you would like to really focus on the house and what to do about that because that's the major piece of joint property that you have…. Okay?

Saya: Mm-hmm.

Mediator: Okay, good. So that's where we're going to start today.

Caption: Mediation — Meeting With Lawyers

Voice-over: Typically, lawyers will meet with their clients before they come together in a joint mediation session.

[Dean with his lawyer]

Dean's lawyer: I'm sorry about that, but the goal here is damage control, and it's not useful for you to be unrealistic and think that you can hang onto your house and cost yourself a lot of money in legal fees pursuing an unrealistic goal. I think what we have to do is accept reality — the house has to be sold — move towards that reality sooner rather than later and just save your money, because the longer the dispute remains unsettled the higher your legal fees will be.

Caption: Mediation — Reducing Cost and Conflict

Voice-over: During the joint session the lawyers advise their clients individually and work jointly to foster agreement with a minimum of cost and conflict.

[Mediator seated with Dean and Saya and their lawyers]

Dean's lawyer: So can I just clarify, Terry, you said $1,000 a month on an ongoing basis for the duration. What is the duration you're looking at?

Saya's lawyer: Well, I think at this point, I don't know where you're coming from, so I would have to say that it would be the outside piece of the same length of the marriage, seventeen years.

Dean's lawyer: Hmm …. We may have some difficulty with that.

Dean: Yes.

Dean's lawyer: That would effectively have Dean supporting Saya until she's fifty-seven. It seems a little lengthy.

Saya's lawyer: Well, as I say, we don't know where you're coming from at this point and I'm trying to be reasonable. We're here to negotiate. We wouldn't come here today if we had a firm, fixed position and we're heading off to court. But we need to hear from you.



Dean: Lorne Sutherland

Mediator: Sally Campbell

Dean's Lawyer: Gayle Raphanel

Saya's Lawyer: Terry Harris

Dylan — Darieos Katsanakakis

Counsellor — Ellen Shapiro

This video project was funded by a Law Foundation grant to Continuing Legal Education.

Special thanks to Jack Huberman Q.C. for making it possible and Ron Friesen and Mary Kingston of CLE for their support.

Produced by: Fred Cawsey — Front Runner Productions

Presented by: The Continuing Legal Education Society of BC

With funding from the: Law Foundation of BC.

Caution: The Continuing Legal Education Society of BC (CLEBC) resources are offered as an aid to developing and maintaining professional competence with the understanding that the resource people and (CLEBC) are not providing legal or other professional advice. Law is constantly evolving, changes in practice and procedure occur frequently. You must exercise your professional judgment about the correctness and applicability of the material. Please refer to the relevant legislation, case law, administrative guidelines, and other primary sources. The views and conclusions expressed in this resource are those of the resource people and not necessarily those of CLEBC.

An Introduction to Supreme Court

A 4½-minute video that provides information for the day you go to court, including what to bring and how to navigate the courthouse. Also shows what the inside of a Supreme Court family courtroom looks like, and describes the roles of those present.

An Introduction to Supreme Court

In this video, we talk about how to get ready on the day of your trial, what to do when you arrive, and how the courtroom is set up, including who you’ll see there.

Preparing for court

It’s important to be well-rested when you go to court. You want your mind to be clear and you want to be focused and alert. A good night’s sleep and something to eat before court can make a difference. You’ll also want to dress as professionally as possible to show respect and appear confident.

What to bring to court

What should you bring to court?

Most important are your documents.

Bring all the documents you intend to introduce at the trial in a book of documents, plus three additional copies of each document.

Also bring your trial record, trial brief, and any other documents that have been filed in your case since the Notice of Family Claim.

For more information about these documents, see our self-help guide How to schedule and prepare for your Supreme Court trial and watch our video on using documents at trial.

You may want to take notes during the trial, so bring a pen or pencil and a notepad. A snack is also a good idea, since you never know how long your day in court will actually be.

Arriving at court

Before your trial date, call ahead to confirm your trial time and the courthouse opening hours.

It’s a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes before your trial is scheduled to begin.

In most courthouses, your courtroom number will be listed on a bulletin board or sheet of paper posted on the wall. If you’re not sure where to find this, ask at the registry.

The courtroom

Here’s what a typical BC Supreme Court courtroom used for family trials looks like.

Let’s have a look at some areas of the courtroom, such as where participants will sit.

After you pass through the gallery where the general public can sit and watch, you see two tables, one to your left and one to your right. These tables are for lawyers who want to watch the trial. See the long table just in front of these, facing the judge? This is where you and the other party sit, at the same table, one on each side of the lectern. The lectern is the box with the microphone on top of it, where you’ll stand anytime you speak, except when giving testimony in the witness box. For example, you’ll stand at the lectern to give your opening and closing statements, and to cross-examine the other party. The claimant will usually sit on whichever side the witness box is on. In the courtroom you see here, the witness box is on the right, so the claimant would sit on the right side of the counsel table and the respondent would sit on the left. In some courtrooms, the positions of the witness box and the clerk will be reversed.

The witness box is where you’ll go to give your testimony and where any other witnesses will sit to give theirs. It’s on one side of the courtroom, between the parties and the judge.

The court clerk also sits between the parties and the judge, at a computer at the opposite end from the witness box. The court clerk is the person you pass documents to when you want either a witness or the judge to see them. They also digitally record the court proceedings.

The judge sits at the long, high table at the very front of the courtroom. Be sure to stand up whenever you speak to the judge and whenever the judge stands up. If the judge is woman, call her “My Lady.” If the judge is a man, call him “My Lord.”

Another person you’ll see in the courtroom is the sheriff, who’s there to page witnesses and keep the courtroom safe. The sheriff doesn’t stand in any particular spot. They might stand at the back of the courtroom, or up near the clerk. Sometimes, the sheriff might not even be in the courtroom.

Remember that the courtroom is open to the public, so you may see people walking in and out. Remember too that everything said in a courtroom is recorded.

Explore more resources for people who are representing themselves in Supreme Court on our family law website.

Explore more resources at

Jointly developed by Legal Aid BC and the People's Law School, with generous funding from the Law Foundation of BC

Filmed and produced by Michael Augustine
Narrated by Winnifred Assmann
Written by Kate Hunt
Legally reviewed by Erin Shaw and Justice Victoria Gray
Courtroom photography by Dan Daulby
Image selection and titles by Brian Goncalves

Special thanks to:
Terresa Augustine
The Law Courts -- Vancouver

© Legal Services Society, BC, 2015

Questioning Witnesses in a Supreme Court Trial

A 5½-minute video that gives tips for using witnesses as evidence in a Supreme Court family law trial, including choosing your witnesses, planning your questions, and the procedure at trial. Also discusses the cross-examination process.

Questioning Witnesses in a Supreme Court Trial

If you're representing yourself in a family law trial, you may consider calling witnesses to give evidence for you. In this video, we'll talk about choosing witnesses, planning questions, preparing your witnesses, what happens at trial, and cross-examining the other party's witnesses.

Choosing your witnesses

You don't have to call witnesses at all. You'll have a chance to give evidence yourself through your own spoken testimony. But if you know people who have first-hand knowledge of the events related to your case, their testimony can be helpful, and you can call them as a witness.

If you haven't made your Trial Preparation Worksheet yet, this is a useful tool to organize the facts you need to prove at the trial and how you're going to prove each one. You may find you can prove one or more of these facts by questioning a witness. Choose witnesses who can prove a specific fact or identify a specific document. They should have personally seen, heard, or otherwise experienced what they'll be describing.

Planning your questions

For each witness you decide to call, make a list ahead of time of the questions you'll ask them. There are rules about what you can and can't ask your own witnesses. One important rule is that you can't ask leading questions, questions that suggest the answer within the question.

Here's an example. A leading question would be, "You took care of the children during the respondent's parenting time five times last month, right?" This is leading because it suggests the answer in the question.

An acceptable alternative would be, "How often have you taken care of the children in the last month?" Plan your questions to start with who, what, where, when, why, how, or please describe. Avoid asking yes or no questions.

Some questions might guide a witness to identify a document that you wish to enter into evidence at trial. For this, you'd have the court clerk show the witness the document and then ask them to identify it and state that it's authentic.

Preparing your witnesses

Before trial, it's a good idea to go over your questions with your witnesses. This will give them a chance to organize their thoughts and prepare their answers. It'll also help you to hear their answers ahead of time. You don't want to be surprised by your own witness in court! But make sure you don't "coach" the witness on how to answer. For example, don't suggest that they give an answer that's different from the one they came up with on their own. If you don't think the way they're answering your questions will help your case, you can decide not to call them as a witness.

At trial

You can call your witnesses in whatever order makes sense to you. They'll go to the witness box and a court official will ask them to swear or affirm that their testimony will be the truth.

When your witnesses testify, you'll stand at the lectern and ask your questions. If you want to show the witness something, pass it to the clerk and don't approach the witness without the judge's permission. Make sure that your witness has finished answering the previous question, and the judge has had time to make a note of it, before you ask your next one.


You can question any witnesses the other party calls, including the other party themselves. This is called cross-examination. If you can't talk to the other party's witnesses before the trial, prepare some notes on what you want to ask them about.

You cross-examine a witness right after they've been questioned by the other party. The purpose of cross-examining the other party's witnesses after they've testified is to point out any inconsistencies or holes in what they said, and to bring out information that could help your case. If you don't cross-examine a witness, the judge may accept their evidence as being true because you didn't challenge it, so make sure you use this opportunity.

One way to challenge a witness in cross-examination is to present a document that contradicts what they said. For example, you could present an email they wrote that tells a different story.

The rules for cross-examination are different than for questioning your own witnesses. Remember how you aren't allowed to ask your own witnesses leading questions? Well, in cross-examination, you are allowed to ask leading questions. For example, if you're cross-examining the other party, you could ask, "You were out of work from January to June 2012, isn't that right?" If you were questioning them as your own witness, you'd have to ask this in a non-leading way.

See Present your evidence in Supreme Court to learn more about questioning witnesses at trial, and explore more resources for people representing themselves in Supreme Court on our family law website.

Explore more resources at

Jointly developed by Legal Aid BC and the People's Law School, with generous funding from the Law Foundation of BC

Filmed and produced by Michael Augustine
Narrated by Winnifred Assmann
Written by Kate Hunt
Legally reviewed by Erin Shaw and Justice Victoria Gray
Courtroom photography by Dan Daulby
Image selection and titles by Brian Goncalves

Special thanks to:
Terresa Augustine
The Law Courts -- Vancouver

© Legal Services Society, BC, 2015

Ruptura del Contrato de Esponsoramiento

A 4½-minute video in Spanish about sponsorship breakdown. Depicts the fictional case of Susana, a woman in an abusive relationship, who learns from her coworker Anita that she can leave her abusive husband without fear of losing her permanent residence status.

Ruptura del Contrato de Esponsoramiento

Títulos: Las personas que aparecen en este video son actores y la situación presentada está basada en un caso ficticio. La información legal dada está vigente en Julio del 2007 y se aplica solamente a la provincia de Colombia Británica en Canadá. Esta información legal puede dejar de ser válida si las leyes cambian.

[Escena: Interior en una oficina.

Anita, en sus treintas, está parada de espaldas mandando documentos por fax cuando oye sollozos. Anita se asoma al cubículo y ve que su compañera de trabajo, Susana, en sus veintes, está llorando.]

Anita: ¿Susana? ¿Qué te pasa?

Susana: Juan dice que ya no me quiere. Algunas veces me encierra bajo llave dentro de la casa.

Anita: ¡No me digas!

Susana: Él dice que va a conseguir que la policía me mande de regreso a Costa Rica.

Anita: Él no puede hacer eso. Tu esposo te patrocinó para tener la residencia permanente.

Susana: Pero a él no le importa el papel que firmó.

[Anita nota contusiones pequeñas en el antebrazo de Susana]

Anita: ¿Susana, te golpeó Juan?

Susana: No, nunca me ha golpeado, me apretó bien fuerte. ¡Ay! aunque a veces parece como si quisiera hacerlo.

Anita: Pero si estuvo a punto de hacerlo, estás en peligro y debes conseguir ayuda.

Susana: No quiero ir con la policía.

Anita: La policía está para protegerte. Tú tienes derechos aquí. ¿Está Juan en casa esta noche?

Susana: No, se fue en un viaje de negocios y no regresa hasta el lunes próximo.

Anita: Así que mientras tanto estás segura. Pienso que debes tomar tus documentos de identificación e irte.

Susana: Pero no puedo hacer eso, porque Juan dice que hará que me deporten.

Anita: No lo hará, porque no puede. Tú eres una residente permanente legal y tienes derechos aquí. Es él el que está equivocado, no tú. Puedes dejarlo en el momento que quieras sobretodo si corres peligro.

Susana: Pero, ¿Y a dónde me voy?

Anita: ¿Por qué no llamamos a una trabajadora de información legal? Ellas te pueden dar más información sobre lo que puedes hacer. Tienes varias opciones Susana, ya sea que decidas permanecer en tu hogar, o que te sientas más segura en otro sitio donde no te encuentre Juan.

Susana: Pero él me lastimará si lo dejo.

Anita: ¡Ay! Preguntémosle a la trabajadora de información legal — he oído hablar de algo llamado una Orden de Protección que tú puedes pedir.

Susana: ¿Qué es eso?

Anita: Si tienes una, significa que es ilegal que Juan se te acerque o te llame, y si lo hace, puede ir a la cárcel.

Susana: ¡Ay, pero sería tan duro estar lejos de él!

Anita: ¡Ah! Pero tú corres mucho peligro. Si él te encerró bajo llave y te lastimó antes, lo hará otra vez. Es muy importante que te vayas… mientras puedas.

Susana: Pero todavía lo quiero, él puede ser tan dulce a veces.

Anita: ¿Por qué no llamamos a la trabajadora de información legal? [Anita ve su reloj] ¿No has tomado tu hora de almuerzo todavía, verdad?

Susana: No, todavía no… [Piensa por un momento] … Bueno, vamos.

[Anita le pone la mano en el hombro a Susana.]

Anita: ¡Ven! te enseño la página Web de la Sociedad de Servicios Legales. Tiene todos los números de teléfono que necesitamos y muestra cómo conseguir folletos gratis con más información. Incluso tienen abogados que ayudan a la gente gratuitamente.

Susana: [vacila un momento] Bueno, vamos.

[Anita pone su brazo alrededor de Susana.]

Anita: [continuando] Todo va a salir bien.

Narrador: Este video no contiene toda la información que usted necesita saber. La información proporcionada en este video concierne solamente a residentes permanentes. Para obtener más información, llame a la Línea Legal.

Títulos: Producido por la Sociedad de Servicios Legales.

Gracias a la Fundación de Leyes de Colombia Británica, cuyo generoso financiamiento hizo posible este video.

Sponsorship Breakdown

Captions: Sponsorship Breakdown

The people who appear in this video are actors and the situation portrayed is a dramatization. The legal information in this video applies only to British Columbia, Canada, and is accurate as of July 2007. Information may become outdated as laws change.

[Anita is sending a fax. She hears a woman sobbing. Anita looks around the cubicle wall to see that her co-worker, Susana is crying.]

Anita: Susana? What's happened?

Susana: Juan says he doesn't love me anymore. Sometimes he locks me inside the house.

Anita: That’s awful!

Susana: He says he will get the police to send me back to Costa Rica.

Anita: He can't do that. He sponsored you for permanent residency.

Susana: He doesn't care about the papers he signed.

[Anita notices small bruises on Susana's arms.]

Anita: Susana, is Juan hitting you?

Susana: No. He grabs me pretty hard sometimes, but he hasn’t hit me. Sometimes he looks like he really wants to, though.

Anita: If he's gone that far, you're in danger and you should get help.

Susana: I don't want police.

Anita: The police are there to protect you. You have rights in Canada. Is Juan home tonight?

Susana: He is away on business until next Monday.

Anita: So you're safe for a little while. I think you need to get your identification and leave.

Susana: I can’t do that — he will get me deported.

Anita: No, he won't — because he can't. You are a legal permanent resident. You have rights here. He is the one who is wrong, not you. You can leave him any time you want.

Susana: I don't know where to go.

Anita: We should call a legal information outreach worker. They can help you figure things out, like whether you want to stay in your home or if you'd feel safer going somewhere he can't find you. You have choices, Susana.

Susana: He'll hurt me if I leave him.

Anita: Let’s ask the LIOW about that — I have heard about something called a Protective Order that you can get.

Susana: What does that mean?

Anita: If you have one, it means it’s illegal for Juan to come near you or call you, and he can go to jail if he does.

Susana: Oh! It would be so hard to be away from him.

Anita: But you are in a lot of danger. If he has locked you up and hurt you before, he will do it again. It’s very important that you get away while you still can.

Susana: I don’t know. I still love him, and he can be so sweet sometimes.

Anita: Why don’t we call an LIOW right now? Have you taken your lunch break yet?

Susana: No, I haven’t. Okay, let’s call her.

[Anita motions to the computer on the desk.]

Anita: Here, let me show you the Legal Services Society’s website. It has all the phone numbers we’ll need, plus ways to get free booklets with more information. They even have lawyers that help people for free.

[Susana hesitates, then nods. Anita puts her arm around Susana.]

Anita: It's going to be okay.

Narrator: The information in this video applies to permanent residents only. This video does not contain all the information you need. See the Family Law website for more information, or call LawLINE.


Produced by Legal Aid BC. Thank you to the Law Foundation of BC, whose generous funding made this video possible.

Scheduling and Preparing for a Supreme Court Trial

A 4½-minute video that presents an overview of the steps leading up to a Supreme Court family law trial, including scheduling a trial, attending a Trial Management Conference, and filing and serving the necessary documents.

Scheduling and preparing for a Supreme Court trial

If your and the other party's issues can't be settled out of court, you may have to go to trial. Our self-help guide How to schedule and prepare for your Supreme Court trial can help you navigate this process and provides a timeline of important tasks.

In this video, we touch on the major points covered in the guide, including how to schedule a trial, what happens at a Trial Management Conference, and how to file and serve the required documents.

Schedule your trial

A trial is officially scheduled by filing the Notice of Trial form.

You can find it on the Court forms page of our family law website. If you filed the Notice of Family Claim, you'll usually also be the one to file the Notice of Trial. Both of these forms must be filed at the same registry.

Before filing the Notice of Trial, you need to know what trial dates to put down. If you've had a Judicial Case Conference, a judge may have already given you dates for your trial. If you haven't had a Judicial Case Conference or you didn't get a trial date at a Judicial Case Conference, you'll have to book your trial dates at the court registry.

At the court registry, find the Trial Scheduling desk. Ask when you might expect to have your trial. Be prepared that this could be as far away as 12 – 18 months in some areas.

Look at your schedule and choose some dates that work for you. Then make sure they also work for the other party. This isn't just a courtesy — if you book dates with Trial Scheduling and then find out that the other party isn't available, you risk having your trial adjourned, or put off to an even later date.

Take the dates that you and the other party agree on to Trial Scheduling and see if any of those dates match ones the courthouse has free. Once you find dates that fit, Trial Scheduling will reserve them for you. Now you can file the Notice of Trial and serve it on the other party. You have to do this within 30 days of Trial Scheduling reserving your trial dates.

Attend a Trial Management Conference

When Trial Scheduling gives you your trial dates, they usually give you a date for your Trial Management Conference too. This conference will take place at least 28 days before the first scheduled day of your trial. It's a short meeting with a judge and the other party in a courtroom where the judge will make sure that you're both organized and on track with your trial preparations. If you have any questions or concerns about the trial, you can ask them here.

The judge can also make orders on a whole range of topics during the Trial Management Conference. They can place time limits on different parts of your trial, order that you and the other party go to a settlement conference, or even order that the trial be adjourned. The orders the judge makes will depend on your particular situation.

You have to go to the Trial Management Conference. The only way you don't have to go is if you have a lawyer who can go in your place.

Other documents to prepare, file, and serve

Before your trial you'll also have to prepare, file, and serve various court forms and other documents. Filing means taking the documents to the court registry and giving them to the registrar to stamp. Serving means delivering documents to the other party and filling out a form to prove that you've done this (or had someone else do it). You'll probably have experience with this from earlier in your case.

The documents you need to prepare, file, and serve include expert reports, the Trial Brief, the trial record, the Trial Certificate, and, if you're applying for a divorce, a Certificate of Pleadings. There are very specific deadlines for each of these documents, so make sure you check our self-help guide to ensure you have the right dates.

See our self-help guide, How to schedule and prepare for your Supreme Court trial for more detailed information on everything we've talked about in this video, and explore our family law website for more resources and information.

Explore more resources at

Jointly developed by Legal Aid BC and the People's Law School, with generous funding from the Law Foundation of BC

Filmed and produced by Michael Augustine
Narrated by Winnifred Assmann
Written by Kate Hunt
Legally reviewed by Erin Shaw and Justice Victoria Gray
Courtroom photography by Dan Daulby
Image selection and titles by Brian Goncalves

Special thanks to:
Terresa Augustine
The Law Courts -- Vancouver

© Legal Services Society, BC, 2015

Solicitudes Internas de Esponsoramiento

A 6½-minute video in Spanish about making a sponsoring application within Canada. Depicts the fictional case of a recently married couple, Roxana (a Canadian) and Emilio (a Chilean), who can't bear to be apart. They go to see their lawyer, Tomas, who tells them that they can apply for Emilio's permanent residency from within Canada.

Solicitudes Internas de Esponsoramiento

Títulos: Solicitudes Internas de Esponsoramiento

Las personas que aparecen en este video son actores y la situación presentada está basada en un caso ficticio. La información legal dada está vigente en Julio del 2007 y se aplica solamente a la provincia de Colombia Británica en Canadá. Esta información legal puede dejar de ser válida si las leyes cambian.

[Interior — con el abogado
Roxana, en sus 20s, y su pareja Emilio, en sus 30s, le dan la mano a su abogado, Tomás, en sus 40s.

Roxana: Hola Tomás, te presento a mi esposo, Emilio. El es Tomás, mi abogado.

Tomás: Mucho gusto.

Emilio: El gusto es mío.

[Tomás les invita a tomar asiento. Se sientan y se toman de las manos.]

Tomás: Así que ustedes ya se casaron; ¡felicitaciones! ¿Y cuándo fue el gran día?

Emilio: Bueno… Era la víspera del Año Nuevo la primera vez que la ví en Viña del Mar y ella tan bonita y yo sabía en ese instante que…

Roxana [sonríe y lo interrumpe]: La boda civil fue hace un par de meses.

Emilio: ¡Me encanta estar aquí! Yo ya quisiera ser canadiense, como el tocino y la miel de maple y me encantaría aprender a patinar para jugar hockey sobre el hielo.

Tomás: ¿Usted es ciudadano chileno, verdad?

Emilio: Sí, chileno de corazón.

Roxana: Pero yo escuché que una vez casados, Emilio se hace canadiense automáticamente.

Tomás: No, realmente, toma algún tiempo convertirse en ciudadano canadiense. Primero él tiene que ser residente permanente por lo menos durante tres años, para poder solicitar la ciudadanía canadiense.

Emilio: ¡Tres años! ¿Hay alguna forma más rápida de hacerlo?

Tomás: Me temo que no.

Roxana: ¿Así que hay un paso intermedio antes que él se convierta en ciudadano?

Tomás: Primero, tienes que hacer una solicitud para que Emilio venga a Canadá como residente permanente. Es muy probable que sea más rápido hacer el trámite afuera de Canadá a través de una embajada.

Roxana: ¿No hay alguna manera que lo hagamos desde aquí y Emilio se quede? No queremos pasar ni un momento separados.

Tomás: Si, puedes hacerlo con una solicitud llamada “Solicitud interna de patrocinio de residencia permanente de su cónyuge o pareja” pero hay desventajas si hacen la solicitud dentro de Canadá.

Emilio: ¿Qué tipo de desventajas?

Tomás: Bueno… el trámite toma bastante tiempo y ustedes no podrán apelar la decisión del gobierno canadiense. Además Roxana tendría que mantenerle si usted no se puede mantener por su propia cuenta, pero sobre todo, el patrocinio significa que ella, como su esposa, le pide al gobierno de Canadá que acepte su solicitud de residencia permanente en Canadá. Además, van a tener que pagar más de $1,000 por los trámites.

Emilio: Así que no podré trabajar por tres años, ¡eso es ridículo! Yo no necesito el dinero de Roxana.

Tomás: No, no, residencia permanente significa que usted puede vivir y trabajar aquí en Canadá. Una vez que la solicitud de su residencia permanente sea aceptada como decimos acá: “in-principle,” usted, va a poder hacer su solicitud de trabajo. Hasta que esto ocurra, procure mantener renovando su visa de visitante preferiblemente un mes antes de que se venza para evitar estar indocumentado aquí en Canadá. También sería conveniente que comprara un seguro médico porque no tiene derecho a las prestaciones médicas hasta que no se haya hecho residente permanente.

Roxana: Yo gano lo suficiente para mantenernos a ambos, así que está bien si Emilio no puede trabajar hasta que aprueben su solicitud.

Emilio: Bueno… no…no es tan malo como suena, una vez que pueda trabajar. Mire yo quisiera ser un ciudadano, pero parece que no hay mucha diferencia entre la ciudadanía y la residencia permanente.

Tomás: La diferencia es que el estatus de residente permanente se puede perder, digamos que una persona cometiera un delito serio y fuera encontrada culpable. Otra cosa es de que usted tiene que residir en Canadá por lo menos dos de cada cinco años para poder mantener su estatus.

Emilio: Mientras pueda trabajar, suena bien.

Roxana: ¿Adonde podemos obtener la solicitud?

Tomás: La pueden encontrar en la Internet, también pueden entrar en la página de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de Canadá (“Citizenship and Immigration Canada”) o en “Service Canada” parece que tengo unas tarjetas por acá (les entrega las tarjetas) llamen por teléfono y les mandarán la solicitud por correo. Además, lean la solicitud cuidadosamente porque tiene muchas secciones diferentes y es extremadamente importante que contesten todas las preguntas correctamente. Una vez que hayan llenado la solicitud pueden regresar a mi oficina y con mucho gusto los atenderé.

Roxana: Bueno, gracias, Tomás. Me alegro mucho haber hablado contigo.

Emilio: Nosotros vamos a tener una pequeña fiesta aquí en Canadá para celebrar nuestra boda con los amigos de Roxana y usted está invitado Okay?

Tomás [sonríe]:Pueden contar conmigo.

Narrador: Este video no contiene toda la información que usted necesita saber. Puede ser que el hacer su solicitud de residencia permanente desde dentro de Canadá no sea su mejor opción. Usted debe obtener consejo legal en su caso particular. Para mayor información llame a Service Canada.

Service Canada
1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232)

Producido por la Sociedad de Servicios Legales. Gracias a la Fundación de Leyes de Colombia Británica, cuyo generoso financiamiento hizo posible este video.

Inland Sponsoring Applications

Captions: Inland Sponsoring Applications

The people who appear in this video are actors and the situation portrayed is a dramatization. The legal information in this video applies only to British Columbia, Canada, and is accurate as of July 2007.

Information may become outdated as laws change.

[Roxana and her fiancé, Emilio, shake hands with their lawyer, Thomas.]

Roxana: Hello Thomas, this is my husband, Emilio. This is Thomas, my lawyer.

Thomas: It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Emilio: The pleasure is mine.

[Thomas offers them chairs. They sit and hold hands.]

Thomas: So you got married; congratulations. When was the big day?

Emilio: It was New Year's Eve when I first saw her in Viña del Mar. She was so beautiful and I knew at that moment that —

Roxana [smiles, cuts him off nicely]: The civil ceremony was a couple of months ago.

Emilio: I love it here! I can't wait to be Canadian like maple syrup, and I would like to learn how to skate on ice to play hockey.

Thomas: You're a Chilean citizen, aren’t you?

Emilio: Yes, Chilean from my heart!

Roxana: But I heard that once married, Emilio automatically becomes Canadian.

Thomas: No, actually, it takes a few years to become Canadian. First he has to be a permanent resident of Canada for at least three years, to be able to apply to become a Canadian citizen.

Emilio: Three years! Is there some faster way?

Thomas: I'm afraid not.

Roxana: So there’s an in-between step before he can become a citizen?

Thomas: First, Roxana, you must sponsor Emilio to become a permanent resident of Canada. It will probably be faster for you to apply from outside Canada through an embassy.

Roxana: Is there a way for Emilio to stay here and apply in Canada? We don’t want to spend a single moment apart.

Thomas: Yes, there is a way. You might prefer to apply using the In Canada Application for Permanent Residence under the Spouse and Common-Law Partner in Canada Class, but there are some disadvantages.

Emilio: What kind of disadvantages?

Thomas: Well, the process usually takes longer and you cannot appeal the decision. Besides, Roxana would have to take care of you financially if you cannot support yourself, but most importantly, the sponsorship means that she, as your wife, is asking the Canadian government to accept your permanent residency application. You will also have to pay more than $1,000 in fees.

Emilio: So I can't work for three years? That's crazy. I don’t need Roxana’s money.

Thomas: No, no, it's not quite like that. Once you are a permanent resident, you can live and work anywhere in Canada. And as soon as they approve your application for permanent residency in principle, you can apply for a work permit. While you wait for your application for permanent residency to be processed, you are a visitor. Make sure you keep renewing your visitor status, preferably one month before it expires, so that you never end up being here illegally. And you might want to get private medical insurance as well, since you won’t be covered under the provincial medical plan until you become a permanent resident.

Roxana: I make enough to support both of us, so it’s okay if Emilio can’t work until the application is approved.

Emilio: Well, it’s not that bad, once I can work. Look, I would like to be a citizen but it looks like there isn’t a big difference between citizenship and permanent residency.

Thomas: The difference is that permanent resident status can be taken away if a person is found guilty of a serious crime. You also have to live here for at least two years out of every five to keep your status.

Emilio: As long as I can work, it sounds good.

Roxana: Where can we get the application?

Thomas: It's available online. You can visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website or you can call Service Canada to get one mailed to you. I have some cards from them [Thomas looks for the cards and gives one of each to them]. Once you have the application, read it carefully, okay? It has many different parts, and it is extremely important that you fill it out properly. Once you have it ready, come back to my office and I will be happy to help you.

Roxana: Thanks, Thomas. I'm so glad we spoke with you.

Emilio: We are having a small party here in Canada with Roxana’s friends to celebrate our wedding, and we’d like for you to be there.

Thomas [smiles]: I'd be honoured.

Narrator: This video does not contain all the information you need. It is possible that applying for permanent residency from within Canada is not your best option. You should get legal advice on your particular case. For more information, you can call Service Canada.


Service Canada: 1-800-O-CANADA

Produced by Legal Aid BC.
Thank you to the Law Foundation of BC, whose generous funding made this video possible.

Using Documents in a Supreme Court Trial

A 7½-minute video that provides information on using documents as evidence in a Supreme Court family law trial and how to introduce exhibits both with and without a witness.

Using documents in a Supreme Court trial

One way to give evidence at a trial is through documents. A document can be many things. It can be physical or paper, such as a receipt, a photograph, or a bank statement. Or it could be electronic, such as an audio recording or an email. Once a document is admitted into evidence at trial, it's called an exhibit. This video will cover what documents to use, how to prepare documents before trial, and how to introduce exhibits both with and without a witness.

What documents to use

Documents can be used at a trial to do two things:

  1. to prove a material or important fact of your case, or
  2. to disprove a material fact of the other party's case.

For example, if one fact you have to prove is how much your children's horseback riding hobby costs, receipts that show the amounts would be relevant and help you prove that fact. However, if you and the other party have already agreed on how you're going to share that expense and the trial's about other matters, the horseback riding receipts would not be relevant. Look at your Trial Preparation Worksheet to see which facts you might prove using documents. If you haven't made a Trial Preparation Worksheet yet, it's a good idea to do so now. Visit our Present your evidence in Supreme Court fact sheet to learn more.

Preparing documents before trial

Long before your trial, you'll have gone through the discovery process. Part of this process involves disclosing and sharing documents with the other party. First you have to provide them with a List of Documents. This isn't just a list you jot down — it's an official court form that can be found on the Court forms page of our family law website. Then, you need to organize the listed documents for the other party and they are expected to do the same for you.

Closer to trial time, you'll prepare a Trial Brief in preparation for the Trial Management Conference. On the Trial Brief, you need to list all the documents you plan to refer to at the trial.

This is very important. You can't present any document at trial that you haven't put on your List of Documents and listed in your Trial Brief. If you add a document at the last minute, you must change your List of Documents and Trial Brief, serve them both on the other party right away, and file an amended Trial Brief at the court registry.

It's also good to make a book of documents before the trial. To make this book, put all your documents into one binder, organized with tabs and dividers. Your book of documents can usually be entered as an exhibit at the trial. What's even more helpful to the judge is if you and the other party can make a joint book of documents. 
We'll talk about that more in a minute.

Note that the court requires four copies of every document – one for you, one for the other party, one to go into evidence, and one for the judge. Make these copies ahead of time so you don't hold up the court.

Introducing exhibits without a witness

Often, you need to introduce a document at the trial through a witness who can identify it and confirm that it's authentic. The exception to this is if you can get the other party to agree that you can present certain documents. This is something you can discuss with the other party at your Trial Management Conference. You can also use a court form called a Notice to Admit, where you can list the facts and documents that you want the other party to "admit" or agree to. See our family law website Court forms page to find this form.

If you and the other party agree, you can put both of your documents into one binder and introduce this joint book of documents as an exhibit at the trial. This helps the judge because it organizes everything in one place. Plus, it saves time at the trial because you don't have to have a witness identify each document before entering it as an exhibit. The judge will want to know what you've agreed about the documents. Usually, parties agree that the documents are authentic, but not that everything said in every document is necessarily true.

Introducing documents through a witness

If the other party doesn't agree to you using a particular document, you'll need to call a witness who can identify it, or introduce it through your own testimony.

I'd like to invite my colleague in to help me demonstrate how you might lead a witness to identify a document. 
She'll take the role of the witness, Ms. Jackson, and I'll take the role of the claimant – in this case, the wife of Mr. Lee.

In this example, Mr. Lee, my soon-to-be-ex-husband and the respondent in this case, has a new boat that he's hiding and refusing to disclose. I have a video of it taken by a third party witness, Ms. Jackson, that I want to introduce in court to support other evidence about the boat's existence.

My husband doesn't agree to the video being entered so I have to call Ms. Jackson, who took the video, as a witness, to have it properly introduced into evidence. I can't enter the video into evidence myself, as I didn't take the video nor was I there at the time.

Claimant: Ms. Jackson, how do you know the respondent?

Witness: Our kids go to the same school, but we don't know each other well. Our sons are friends on Facebook.

Claimant: Ms. Jackson, where were you on June 1, 2014 at around 2:00 p.m.?

Witness: I was at Esquimalt Lagoon.

Claimant: Ms. Jackson, what were you doing at Esquimalt Lagoon?

Witness: I was walking my dog and videotaping him swimming in the water.

Claimant: Did you capture anything in the background while you were filming?

Witness: Yes – I took a video of Mr. Lee driving a boat. He picked up the kids on the dock and was talking to them loudly about his awesome new boat. My son posted the video on Facebook.

Claimant: Ms. Jackson, I'm going to pass a video to the court clerk, who will pass it to you. Can you please confirm that this is the video you took and just described from June 1, 2014? [Shows video.]

Witness: Yes, I confirm that's the video I took with my iPhone.

Claimant: Ms. Jackson, how did you know that it was Mr. Lee in the video?

Witness: I recognized him from seeing him in the neighbourhood.

Claimant: When did I contact you about this video?

Witness: After my son posted the video, I got an e-mail from you asking about the video and when it was made. I talked to you and was subpoenaed to this trial to give evidence about the video.

Claimant: Thank you, Ms. Jackson. Do you have any further comments about the video or any other evidence to add?

Witness: No, I don't think so.

Claimant: Thank you. No further questions.

Now I would say to the judge, "My Lady (or My Lord), I would like to offer this video as an exhibit," and pass it to the court clerk. If the judge agrees to mark it as a numbered exhibit, the video is now officially evidence.

Find more information about using documents at trial and explore more resources for people representing themselves in Supreme Court on our family law website.

Explore more resources at

Jointly developed by Legal Aid BC and the People's Law School, with generous funding from the Law Foundation of BC

Filmed and produced by Michael Augustine
Narrated by Winnifred Assmann
Written by Kate Hunt
Legally reviewed by Erin Shaw and Justice Victoria Gray
Courtroom photography by Dan Daulby
Image selection and titles by Brian Goncalves

Special thanks to:
Terresa Augustine
The Law Courts -- Vancouver

© Legal Services Society, BC, 2015