Divorce & Custody Trials in Québec

If you're unable to reach a full agreement during the court process, you'll have a trial (also called a merits hearing).

Here, you and the other parent will present your arguments and evidence. Then, a judge will make the final judgment.

If you hire a lawyer, they will make sure you're prepared. If you're representing yourself, you'll have to get ready for trial on your own.

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Evidence for your trial

Evidence is the backbone of your case. It lets the judge know why you should get what you're asking for.

You'll gather evidence throughout the court process, and it must be in line with Québec's rules of evidence.

There are two types of evidence: exhibits and witnesses.


Exhibits (also called documents) can come in many forms, such as:

Documents must be in English or French. You must get an official translation of any that are in another language so the judge can understand.

If you're divorcing, you'll set out dates for producing (filing) exhibits in a case protocol. In a case involving only custody or child support, you'll produce exhibits as they're ready. If you need to make a change later, you can file an amended version and mark it as "modified."

You have until 15 days before the trial date to produce exhibits — or three days before if your trial is less than 15 days away when it gets scheduled. You must get the court's permission to file exhibits after the deadline. Most people file all their exhibits before they even ask for a trial date.

You can file exhibits in person or via mail, and you must number each one.

It's recommended you bring your exhibits to trial in an organized bundle so they're easy for you, the other parent and the judge to sort through. Your court may also require you to bring electronic copies to show during the trial.


Witnesses testify with the knowledge they have related to claims made by either parent. You and the other parent are witnesses, as family members, friends and experts can be.

Serve a Subpoena to each person you want to act as a witness in your case. You must do this at least 10 days before the trial date. You must pay your witnesses in advance for their time, travel and meals.

Before the trial, prepare the questions you'll ask your witnesses. Talk to them to get an idea of what they'll say in court. Plan out your own testimony, as well.

Trial proceedings

Trials usually take place in person at the courthouse where you opened your case.

Trials can look slightly different depending on the venue, judge and other variables. The following is what generally happens at an in-person trial when you don't have a lawyer (which means you'll have to question witnesses and present evidence yourself).

Before the trial

If you aren't comfortable speaking English or French, you can request an interpreter. The same applies to your witnesses.

Arrive at the courthouse early. Once you're in the courtroom, the court clerk will ask your name and whether you have a lawyer. If other cases are scheduled before yours, you'll have to wait outside the courtroom. The court usher will tell you when it's time for your trial to begin.

During the trial

The trial can be in English, French or both. Each parent can speak in the language they're most comfortable with.

The person who started the case presents their arguments first. They choose the order in which they present their exhibits and witnesses.

When it's your turn to take the stand, you'll give your testimony, presenting the relevant facts of your case and the evidence you have to back it up.

You'll question your other witnesses when they take the stand. You can't ask leading questions (those that suggest an answer). After each witness testifies, the other side has the option to question them (called cross-examination). You can ask leading questions during cross-examination.

If your child has a lawyer, the lawyer will have time to present evidence, call witnesses and cross-examine the parents and the parents' witnesses.

Though it's not recommended, children can testify at trial when the judge allows it. Alternatively, if the child has an opinion to express, the judge could interview them privately on a different day.

Tips for trial

  • Dress in business casual clothing.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Show respect toward the judge, court staff, the other parent and the witnesses.
  • Stand up whenever the judge enters or leaves the courtroom.
  • Address the judge as "Judge" followed by their last name (or, if you're speaking French, "Monsieur le Juge" or "Madame la Juge").
  • If speaking in French, use the formal form of you (vous) when addressing the judge, the other parent, lawyers, the witnesses and the court clerk.
  • Pay attention even when it is not your turn to speak.
  • Don't interrupt others while they're speaking, except to object to a question posed by the other parent.
  • Ask the judge for permission to speak.
  • Speak directly to the judge unless you're questioning the other parent.
  • Don't argue with the other parent.
  • Don't chew gum or bring food or drink besides water into the courtroom.

Staying organized when you go to trial

Going to trial over custody and parental authority requires serious organization.

You'll need to present evidence, which could range from messages with the other parent to a calendar showing when you care for your child. You should also propose a parenting plan and schedule to the court.

The Custody X Change app lets you create and manage all of these elements in one place.

With parent-to-parent messaging, personalized custody calendars, a parenting plan template and more, Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared not only for trial but for every step of your case.

Take advantage of our technology to get what's best for your child.

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