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Going to Court

The Day of Your Hearing

The day of the hearing or trial is your chance to present your case.  The judge will be sitting at the front of the courtroom facing the rest of the room, usually on a raised platform or “bench”.  A designated court official and a court stenographer also sit at the front.  The stenographer has a tape recorder.  The parties that present their cases to the judge sit at tables facing the judge.  This is normally where the lawyers for both parties sit. If you represent yourself, this is where you will sit or stand, facing the judge. If you are not sure where to sit, check with the court official.

Behind the tables is the gallery where the public sits. If you bring people with you for moral support, they will sit there.  When the court official calls your name you should stand up.  The judge will ask you if a lawyer is representing you.  After confirming that you are acting on your own behalf, the judge will ask you to take the witness stand.  Before giving evidence, or testifying, witnesses must take an oath, or affirm, to tell the truth.  

If you started the action, you will be called the applicant or petitioner, depending on the type of case.  The party who began the court action goes first.  If this is you, you will present your case by giving evidence and calling witnesses.  If you are the respondent, you will present your case once the applicant/petitioner is done.

Once you are done presenting you case (if you are the applicant or petitioner) and questioning witnesses, the other side will cross-examine them.  After that, your spouse or the other party, who may be represented by a lawyer, will have a chance to present their case in the same way, by giving evidence themselves and through witnesses.  It will then be your chance to cross-examine them and their witnesses.  Once the other side has finished giving their evidence, they will summarize their case by making a closing statement to the judge.


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