Facebook  Twitter  Vimeo

Family Law NB Family Law NB Family Law NB - Online resources for the public

FAQs

Representing Yourself

What should I know about representing myself?
How do I start a family law action? Where do I file the forms?
How do I get the forms I need?
What should I know about filling out family law forms?
How do I file forms for a Divorce?
What are the Rules of Court?
What are some of the common mistakes that people make when filing Court documents?
What should I know about “serving” documents?

What should I know about representing myself?

If you cannot afford a lawyer and you don’t qualify for legal aid, you may have to represent yourself.  For some matters, like an uncontested divorce, where you and your spouse are not disputing anything, you may feel you can do it yourself.  You should know that representing yourself may not be as easy as you might think.  Even an uncontested divorce involves preparation of many forms, attention to detail, and following strict rules and procedures.

If you are representing yourself, you will have to:

  • Decide what forms you need for your legal matter and prepare them
  • Gather together any relevant documents that you might have to attach (such as existing court orders or agreements, original marriage certificate, etc)
  • Decide what information you should put in your forms. 
  • Sign and swear or affirm certain forms and documents in front of a commissioner of oaths– for example, Financial Statements and affidavits, and then,
  • File the forms and documents with the Court.

There are some resources available to help individuals with family law problems understand how to complete forms and navigate the legal process.  Carefully review the information on this website.  
If you handle your own family law case, you will have the following important responsibilities:

  • The court will hold you to the same standards as a lawyer.  You will not be treated differently because you represent yourself. 
  • You will be responsible for learning and understanding the legal process.  
  • You will have to do your homework…which means putting in a lot of time and effort and being prepared
  • You will have to remain objective.
  • You will have to uphold the integrity of the legal system.
  • You will have to be on time – whether meeting deadlines for filing documents or showing up in court.
  • You will have to copy documents and keep a file.

If your legal matter is complicated and there are many disputed issues, representing yourself can be overwhelming and risky.  When people act as their own lawyer in complicated cases, they can quickly get in over their head.  Family law is complex and the consequences of doing things wrong can have long lasting implications.  For this reason, it is important to know that handling your own case should always be a last resort.

Back to top

How do I start a family law action? Where do I file the forms?

The starting point for any family law action (except Divorce) is at the Court Clerk’s office which is located in most of the courthouses around the province.  If you want to apply for custody, change a child support order, or request any other legal remedy, you must file the appropriate forms and documents at this office.  Filing documents simply means taking completed Court forms and a copy of those forms, to the Clerks’ office and paying a fee.  If you prefer, you can send the forms and a certified cheque by mail.  This begins your legal action. 

It is very important to fill out the forms as neatly and accurately as possible.  If you cannot type them, you should print – not write - the information.  Make sure all of the information you provide is true.  It is a criminal offence to lie in a document filed with the Court.  It is also very important to provide all of the relevant information and supporting documents for your claim. 

Remember, the information that you include on the documents you file with the Court might be the only information the Judge has to decide your case.  If you don’t complete your forms accurately and completely, the Court will send them back to you - and there’s a $10 fee to re-file documents.  Once you file your forms and documents, you cannot make any changes.  If you have to change or add information, you must prepare an “amended” form.  To do this, you must complete a new form and underline any new or changed information.  Then, you must file the new amended form with the Court office. 

Many people who represent themselves ask the staff at the Clerks’ Office for help, such as questions about what forms to use for certain actions and how to complete them.  Some people even ask Court staff to review their forms to make sure they are correct.  They cannot do this because it would be considered legal advice.  Court staff are not allowed to give legal advice.  Only a lawyer can give legal advice on your situation.

Here is what Court staff can do to help you.

  • give you general information on fees, court rules, procedures and practices
  • provide some court-approved forms such as the Petition for Divorce, the Joint Petition for Divorce and the Financial Statement.  (If you are proceeding without a lawyer, you will have to get any other family court forms from the Family Law NB website or at a Service New Brunswick office.)

There are some things that Court staff cannot do

  • tell you what to say in court.
  • review your forms
  • tell you what a judge might decide
  • collect a judgment
  • serve (deliver) papers.
  • act as commissioner of oaths for you.
  • provide you with address or contact information for a spouse or parent. 

When you have filed your documents, Court staff will sign, stamp and put a court file number on your form.  The court file number is very important as it identifies your case.  All the documents you prepare in your proceeding must have this file number on them.  Before you do anything else, you must wait for the Court office to return a set of documents to you.  The Court will keep a copy.

Back to top

How do I get the forms I need?

You must complete a Court form in any legal action – and you must use the correct form.  If you are not sure what form you should be using, you will have to consult a lawyer.  One of the most common family law actions that people do themselves is an uncontested divorce.  You can get the Petition for Divorce, Joint Petition for Divorce and the Financial Statement from the Court Clerk for a small fee.

Most family law forms are available on the Family Law NB website.  The forms include “instructive notes” along with samples of completed forms, affidavits and covering letters.  You can fill them out on-line and print them.  Or, you can print off a copy and complete it by hand.  Most family law forms must be on legal size paper.  If you do not have a computer or printer, you can make a list of the forms you need and get them from the nearest Service New Brunswick Office.  SNB charges a fee for printing these forms. 

There is also a toll-free family law information line (1-888-236-2444) operated by Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick.  It can provide clarification and general information on court procedures. It is always best to get the help of a lawyer to choose and complete Court forms or to have a lawyer look them over before filing.   

Back to top

What should I know about filling out family law forms?

It is very important to fill out the forms as neatly and accurately as possible.  If you cannot type them, you should print – not write - the information.  Make sure all of the information you provide is true.  It is a criminal offence to lie in a document filed with the Court.  It is also very important to provide all of the relevant information and supporting documents for your claim. 

The information requested on the forms is required for a reason therefore you should not ignore any part.  Even if you think that something is obvious or that you don’t need to respond, you must fill in everything.  For example, on some divorce forms there are several questions that ask for details about your children.  If you have no children, say so on the form.  When completing the forms, be as thorough and as clear as you can.  Focus on the questions being asked and do not skip any sections.  If something does not apply, cross it out. 

The information that you include on the documents you file with the Court might be the only information the Judge has to decide your case.  If you don’t complete your forms accurately and completely, the Court will send them back to you - and there’s a $10 fee to re-file documents. 

Once you file your forms and documents, if you want to change or add information on a form that you have already filed with the court, you have to prepare an amended form. This means you have to complete a new form and underline any new or changed information. Then, you have to file that new, amended form with the court office. You also have to arrange for the amended form to be served on the other party.

Back to top

How do I file forms for a Divorce?

One of the most common family law actions that people do themselves is an uncontested divorce.  Divorce is different from other family law matters because Petitions for Divorce must be filed in Fredericton with the Office of the Registrar.  You can get the Petition for Divorce, Joint Petition for Divorce and the Financial Statement from the Registrar’s office for a small fee.  If you choose to do your own divorce, you should use the “Doing your Own Divorce” guide, available online or you can get a hardcopy for $10.

It is very important to fill out the forms as neatly and accurately as possible.  The information requested on the forms is required for a reason therefore you should not ignore any part.  Even if you think that something is obvious or that you don’t need to respond, you must fill in everything.  For example, on some divorce forms there are several questions that ask for details about your children.  If you have no children, say so on the form.  When completing the forms, be as thorough and as clear as you can.  Focus on the questions being asked and do not skip any sections.  If something does not apply, cross it out.  When the Petition and other documents are complete and you have checked them over, make a photocopy.  You will need to give the Registrar the original and a photocopy when you file.

All divorce petitions must be filed with the Office of the Registrar in Fredericton.  It is the central filing office for all divorce petitions in New Brunswick.  They can be reached at 506-453-2452. The address for the Registrar is:

Justice Building
427 Queen Street
Fredericton,  New Brunswick
E3B 1B7

When you have filed your documents, the Registrar will sign, stamp and put a court file number on your form.  The court file number is very important as it identifies your case.  All the documents you prepare in your proceeding must have this file number on them.  Before you do anything else, you must wait for the Registrar to return the original set of documents to you.  The Registrar will keep the copy.

Once the divorce petition is filed with the Registrar, you have six months to serve it on your spouse.  You cannot make changes to documents once they are filed unless you file a new form and mark it as amended.  Any new or changed information MUST be underlined.  There is a $10 fee to re-file documents.  You must also arrange for service of the amended form on your spouse. 

Subsequent documents concerning your divorce, like the Trial Record, must be filed with the Court Clerk’s office in your judicial district.

Back to top

What are the Rules of Court?

The Rules of Court set out the procedures that must be followed in any part of the court process.  The Rules outline things such as how court documents must be prepared, how long a person has to respond, and the procedure for service of Court documents.  If you are representing yourself, you should consider consulting a lawyer to help you understand what rules you must follow and why those rules are in place.

You can find the Rules on the government or Service New Brunswick websites (– www.gnb.ca or www.snb.ca –) under Acts and Regulations.  Just click on Rules of Court.  You can also access a hardcopy of the rules at law libraries located in Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John.

All court cases are governed by the Rules of Court.  These rules and procedures are in place to ensure that court procedures are fair.  They give everyone a level playing field.  Even though a rule may not make sense to you, everyone must follow the rule to make sure every case is fair.  Moreover, if the other party is represented by a lawyer, it is likely that he or she will request that the Rules of Court and the rules of evidence be strictly followed throughout the proceeding.

In family law matters, the Rules that you will most likely need to become familiar with are:

Rule 72 (Divorce Proceedings)
Rule 73 (Family Division)
Rule 74 (Marital Property Act Applications)
Rule 18 (Service - if you are required to serve documents)
Rule 37 (Procedure on Motions)
Rule 38 (Procedure on Applications)

The Rules of Court are accompanied by Forms of Court.  You must complete a Court form in any legal action.  A lot of information is required to fill in court forms, so be sure to review the forms carefully and include all of the required information.  Go to Family Law Forms.

Back to top

What are some of the common mistakes that people make when filing Court documents?

The following are common mistakes people make that cause documents to be returned:

  • You did not fill in all required information on the form. Read your form over carefully after completing it to make sure you answered all the questions. 
  • You did not include the necessary attachments – for example, you may have forgotten to attach an exhibit you mention in an affidavit, such as a letter, bill or pay stub. 
  • You did not serve documents on the other party. For example, you filed your Application for Custody but did not serve it on the other parent.
  • You did not provide the Court with proof of service. Proper proof of service is an affidavit of service. 
  • Your affidavit of evidence or affidavit of service was not witnessed by a commissioner of oaths
  • You forgot to sign the form. 

The staff at the Registrar’s office have identified the following errors people make when filing their “Divorce Petitions”:

  • One part of your form does not match what you requested in another part of the form. For example, in a Petition for Divorce, the claim in paragraph 1 must match the claim in paragraph 7-so if you request child support in paragraph 1, you must also request it in paragraph 7. 
  • You did not include the necessary attachments – for example, you may have forgotten to attach an original marriage certificate, existing family court orders or a financial statement to your Petition for Divorce. 
  • You did not serve documents on the other party or waited too long to serve them. For example, after filing a Petition for Divorce some people wait too long to serve it on their spouse – you must arrange to have it served within 6 months.
  • You did not provide the Court with proof of service. Proper proof of service is an affidavit of service. 
  • Your affidavit was witnessed but you waited too long to file it. For example, after you swear and sign your affidavit before a Commissioner of Oaths for a Divorce Petition, you must file your Trial Record within 5 days, or 14 days if you are doing a Joint Petition for Divorce. If you wait longer, the judge will send it back to you and it must be done again. Remember there is a $10 fee to re-file documents. 
  • You forgot to sign the form. For example, the co-petitioner in a Joint Petition did not sign the Joint Petition for Divorce

The best way to ensure that your documents are not returned to you after you file them is to be careful when you prepare court documents. Follow the instructions on the form and answer all questions asked. It is a good idea to use the guides and examples available on the Family Law NB website. If you are not sure about what information to include on a form or affidavit, it means that you need legal advice. The best way to ensure that your forms are done correctly is to take them to a lawyer.

Back to top

What should I know about “serving” documents?

When you file documents with the Court, normally you must have them served on the other party.  “Service” means having someone deliver the documents to the other party – the other parent or spouse or partner.  This happens after the Court has returned the documents you filed that have been stamped with a court file number – this number identifies your case.  

There are time limits for serving documents.  For example, if you are filing for divorce, you must have someone serve the petition on your spouse within 6 months of filing with the Court.  If you are filing a notice of application or notice of motion, generally you must serve the documents on the other party within 25 days of filing with the Court.  Before serving the documents, you must make a copy to serve on the other party. 

The most common way to serve documents is “personal service”.  Personal service does not mean that YOU serve the documents yourself.  Personal service involves someone over 19, called the server, going to the home of the other party and handing them the documents.  You can also hire a private company to serve the documents, called “Process Servers”.  The Sheriff’s office can also be hired to serve people with court documents for a fee. 

Proof of service is so important that the court requires an “affidavit of service” which is Form 18B.  The affidavit of service explains what the server did, where and when the server gave the other party the documents, and how the server knew who the person was.  The server must sign and swear or affirm the affidavit of service in front of a Commissioner of Oaths.

The Commissioner of Oaths will sign and date the marked document and properly mark any exhibits.  Then the server must return the documents, including any exhibits and attachments, to you with the Affidavit of Service stapled to them.  Do not detach the Affidavit.

You can also arrange service by registered mail or courier.  If you choose this method, you will have to get a post office receipt or an “Acknowledgment of Receipt” card for the other party to send back to you.  The party you are serving MUST be the person who accepted the registered mail.  The Court will reject service if someone else accepted the letter on behalf of the party being served.  Having a receipt or the completed acknowledgement of receipt card are not enough to prove service.  You still need to have a sworn Affidavit of Service.

An affidavit of service lets the judge know that the other side has received the documents filed with the Court.  It would not be fair if the other party did not have all of the documents that are before the Court. They have the right to be informed and aware of what is going on.

You can get more information about service by reading Rule 18 of the Rules of Court or checking out other resources about service on this website. 

Back to top

 

Back to FAQs

 

Family Law Workshops
Ask an Expert Videos
FAQs
Going to Court
Family Law Forms
Family Law Publications
Find a Lawyer / Get Help
Self-Help Guides
Parenting After Separation
 
quick links header

Doing Your Own Divorce

Changing Child Support - Orders made in NB

Changing Child Support - Orders made
outside NB


Applying For Custody, Access and/or Support

Need Help?

 
Your Opinion Matters

 

Français
Home
What’s New
About This Site
Resources-Links
Contact
Ask An Expert Videos

FAQ’s
Living Common-Law
Separation and Divorce
Marital Property
Custody and Access
Child Support
Spousal Support
Support Enforcement
Staying Out Of Court
Representing Yourself
Other Issues
Glossary

 

Going To Court
English or French?
Presenting Your Case in Court
Preparing for Your Court Hearing
The Day Of Your Hearing
Tips for the Court Hearing
After the Hearing

Family Law Forms
Printing & Completing Forms
Divorce
Custody, Access and Support
Changing an Order
Interjurisdictional Support Orders
Consent Order
Court-Ordered Evaluations Support Program
Family Law Forms for Saint John (only)

 

Family Law Publications
General
Child and Spousal Support
Custody and Access
Divorce and Separation
Support Enforcement
Family Violence
Other Materials

Find a Lawyer/Get Help
You and Your Lawyer
Find a Lawyer
Get Help (Domestic Legal Aid)
Legal Advice Clinics
Mediation

Self-Help Guides

 

Parenting After Separation
For the Sake of the Children
Register for the Program
For the Sake of the Children (VIDEOS)
Family Law Information Line
Mediation

......................................................

Public Legal Education and Information
Service of New Brunswick

  P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton
New Brunswick, Canada E3B 5H1
     
  Telephone: (506) 453-5369
Family Law Line: 1-888-236-2444
     
  Fax: (506) 462-5193
     
  info@familylawnb.ca