We are often asked whether our clients must come to court for their court date and when we sometimes tell them that it is not necessary, they ask whether they should come.
The general rule is that a client must be present for all proceedings in the Provincial Court – Family Division. Sometimes the client can be excused ahead of time if it is agreed that the court appearance will be of a very minor administrative nature. This must be requested at the previous court date and so it is important to think ahead. Clients in Provincial Court will sit at the counsel table with the lawyer and will sometimes speak directly to the Judge, although this is rare. In addition, clients must be present in Court at all levels of Court when their matter is going to a trial and they will have to testify and give evidence. Our clients who are preparing to testify will have trial preparation meetings with us for several hours where we will talk to them about what to expect and how witness testimony is given in a Courtroom.
In addition, there are a number of types of meetings held at the Courthouse which are different types of mediation and which therefore necessitate the client’s presence. Some of these include a Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR), Dispute Resolution Officer session (DRO), Early Intervention Case Conference (EICC), mediation, and Case-flow Conference. If you are scheduled for any of these types of proceedings, you must be present.
Many of our clients have proceedings in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. This is where all divorce proceedings are held. Clients do not need to be present for most proceedings in the Court of Queen’s Bench other than a trial at which they will give testimony. This is one advantage of hiring us to represent you. You can continue with your day-to-day activities, and we can deal with your legal matter. We almost always advise clients that it is not necessary for them to attend, but they are of course always welcome to attend. Justices should not take into consideration whether or not the client is watching the proceedings when making their decision. Sometimes there will be some strategic benefit to the client attending or not attending, but it is very rarely the case that we see some strategic benefit and advise the client one way or the other. Sometimes we will want the client to attend if there is a matter that involves fast-moving negotiations. This usually means that we may want to ask the client for last-minute instructions and it is far easier to do this if the client is present at the Courthouse with us. If clients choose not to attend at their Court date, we ask that they are available by telephone during their Court date so that we can phone them for instructions if necessary.