Bring a support person to Provincial Court
If you’re representing yourself in a Provincial Court family trial or hearing, you’re allowed to have a support person sit with you to quietly help you through the process. These supporters are sometimes called courtroom companions or “McKenzie friends.”
A support person may be a friend or a relative. The court guidelines say they can:
- take notes,
- organize and hand you documents when you need them,
- make quiet suggestions to you (by written note or whispering),
- provide emotional and moral support, and
- do any other task that the judge allows.
They don’t have to do all or any of these things. It might help you just to have them sit beside you.
A support person can’t speak to the court except in special situations (such as if you have a language problem or disability) and only if the judge agrees in advance. But a support person can give you feedback during breaks or after your hearing.
Do I need a support person?
Ask yourself if having a trusted friend or family member in court would help you.
- Do you think you will be nervous in court?
- Could you use help staying focused on your points?
- Would it help you stay on a time schedule?
- Would help with your documents make it easier for you to pay attention to what is being said?
These are all good reasons to have a support person.
How do I choose a support person?
A support person should be someone who:
- you trust with the issues that might be discussed in court,
- is organized and capable,
- isn’t in conflict with the other party, and
- will remain calm.
A person who helped you prepare for court may be a good support person because they’re already familiar with your case.
How do I introduce my support person to the judge?
When your case is called, walk to the front of the courtroom. When you give your name, tell the judge you have a support person with you who understands how a support person must act. Give their name and say whether they're a friend or family member.
The judge may ask the other party if they have any objection. If they do, listen to their reasons. When you reply, explain that your support person knows the guidelines, knows they can’t speak aloud during the trial, and will remain calm. It would also be helpful to tell the judge why you need your support person. If you tell the other party in advance, they may be less likely to object.
What can’t a support person do?
A support person can’t:
- be a witness in the hearing or trial,
- be paid for their services, or
- give legal advice.
A judge may refuse to allow your support person to sit with you if they are (or become) disruptive, or if it would be unfair to the other party.
Family case conferences
A judge may allow a support person to sit with you in a family case conference if you ask permission. Usually, the other party has to agree. If the support person isn't allowed to be with you in the room, you may ask the judge for a break during the conference to speak to them outside the room.
For more information
- The Mckenzie Friend: Choosing and Presenting a Courtroom Companion guidebook (from the National Self-Represented Litigants Project)
Note that the guide was written before the Provincial Court in BC decided you don’t need to ask for special permission to have a support person in court.
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