A fresh perspective on divorce, spousal support, child support, parenting after separation and everything family law

Family Court: go and watch

Almost every client I have who has not been to court before – and is considering bringing a court application or starting a court action – wants to know what is going to happen during their time in the courthouse.

When I am asked the question “what is court going to be like” my usual answer, after giving a general explanation of the court process, is: “go and check it out to see first hand…admission is free”. The public can watch proceedings in the British Columbia Supreme Court and British Columbia Provincial Court on most weekdays.

In British Columbia there are certain proceedings that are closed that are closed to the public (i.e. you cannot watch them without permission from the court). For example, you will not be able to watch Judicial Case Conferences and cases that have publicity bans. The majority of cases, however, are open to the public.

If you would like to go and watch court, to get an idea of what it is all about, you can find the Court Registry in your region online.

If there is a specific case you want to watch, a specific Justice, Judge or Master you would like to see or a specific type of proceeding that you would like to learn about, you can find the court room and time by looking at the Hearing Lists online.

Often the most useful proceedings to watch, if you are involved in a family law case, are family law chambers. During family law chambers you will usually be able to see a number of different types of issues being dealt with (for example child support, spousal support and parenting time) in one morning. You will also get the opportunity to see a number of different lawyers arguing different cases.


Avoid not knowing what is going on… go and spend a morning at court

Men: what to wear to court

There are lots of general guidelines online for men about what to wear to court, such as: what you would wear to church, an office job interview or “business casual”.  When preparing for family court, I advise men to wear something they feel comfortable in and that shows respect for the court.

However, these general descriptions can be interpreted in many different ways – something you feel comfortable in could be a bath robe, there are lots of different interpretations of “something that shows respect for the court”, and what you wear to church might not be what everyone wears to church.

I asked our resident fashion expert, Carey Davies, to help me create a head-to-toe list of what to wear to court.

A good look for men (from top to bottom) is:

  • A neutral colored dress shirt, ironed, that is clean and properly fitted (also consider that court may be stressful so wear a shirt that doesn’t show sweat);
  • A neutral colored suit jacket or sports coat as it may be cold in the courtroom (note: a “sports coat” is NOT an Adidas track jacket );
  • Ironed slacks (black, navy, grey, or khaki);
  • Dark dress shoes that match your pants; and
  • Dark socks that match your shoes.

Also consider, accessories:

  • A tie – if you wear a tie in your every day life, I would suggest wearing a tie to court.  If you don’t wear a tie in your every day life I would not suggest wearing a tie (it might get uncomfortable and look unnatural).  The tie issue is covered in more detail in this useful Wall Street Journal Article.
  • Cufflinks – again, if this is part of your normal day to day wear, you might want to include these.  If you are bringing an application and/or giving evidence to your difficult financial situation it is best to avoid wearing flashy accessories – no gold cufflinks or Breitlings.
  • A sweater – a dark v-neck sweater you can wear over your dress shirt might be a good idea if the weather is cold; or
  • A briefcase, laptop bag or satchel to keep your documents in (always best to be organized before you get to the court room).

Also consider, grooming (See Oprah’s top ten tips):

  • Remove piercings;
  • Cover tattoos;
  • Very light (or no) cologne;
  • Clean cut hair style; and
  • Tidy facial hair or no facial hair.

Getting dressed for court does not mean that you have to buy all new clothes.  There are probably things in your closet that will work well.  You can also consider borrowing something from a friend or relative.  If you feel more confident in a new shirt, there are usually some deals on men’s basics (going to court does not require a $300.00 shirt from Harry Rosen).  Finally, before leaving the house for court it may be a good idea to get a second opinion about what you are wearing – ask a friend who has good style and judgment, your lawyer, or your family (do not ask your soon to be ex-partner on the other side of your divorce).