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Divorce & Family Law This forum is for discussing any of the legal issues involved in your divorce.

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  #1  
Old 05-20-2011, 08:38 PM
fieldgrey fieldgrey is offline
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Default Trial - Day 1 experience

Finally, the trial begins. I have wanted this for so very long, and yet never wanted this day to come. Lots of fears of the unknown. I want to share the details with the forum because the forum has been a great help to me. Maybe lessons I learn will help others.

I can't get into details of court house or justice, but I am the Applicant in Ontario and I filed to vary spousal support down due to reduction in income. There are no kids. I first filed 15 months ago: we've had several conferences, several motions on ordering evidence, trial management conference and exit pre-trial. We are both self rep litigants (SRL).

Yesterday morning I went to the court house to watch a trial in action - needed special dispensation to do that. Watching that helped me feel more at ease with trial beginning today.

We started today and the justice got right into it. We had both prepared opening statements - the justice took copies and adjourned to read them instead of having oral statements.

After a few procedural items, we jumped into my testimony - about 6 hours.

The trial and evidence books add up to over 1200 pages. A lot of it is back and forth recriminations in emails, letters, etc over the years. The justice wants very little to do with it. S/he's isolated the issues for trial: what evidence is crucial to the trial matter, and what of that evidence is in dispute and needs resolution.

1. Being on the stand for hours was interesting - I just told my story and pulled in evidence where needed.

2. If I presented anything not material to the case - the justice asked to skip it.

3. With any evidence presented, the justice asked if either party challenged it. If either did challenge, s/he asked under what basis and then sought rapid agreement.

4. We both got on the justice's good side: the justice said that s/he had never had such well prepared, organized self represents in his court room. It predisposed the justice to work with us.

The justice's desire to clear out irrelevant evidence has helped me a lot, because I didn't want a needless, distracting war of emails and letters in court. I posed that exact issue in my opening statement and I think the justice recognized it.

I go back on the stand for cross next week, then the justice wants to review the case status with us before going into other testimony. The justice wants us to find settlement and end the trial before consuming more expensive court days. That's fine by me. Hopefully the ex sees that.

Lessons to SRLs: be very organized all the time, don't obsess on scoring small points - go for the big win.

I'll write about day 2 after the cross exam.

FG
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Old 05-20-2011, 10:26 PM
winterwolf7 winterwolf7 is offline
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Thanks for sharing. A very interesting and informative post for us who are on the fence about trial and/or self-representation.

I'm happy it sounds like it was a productive effort for you, and I wish you all the best.
  #3  
Old 05-20-2011, 11:18 PM
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Rioe Rioe is offline
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I do wonder how much different your experience would be if your ex wasn't also self-represented and you were up against a lawyer.

And I can't believe it takes so many hours and pages just to try to adjust spousal support?? OMG!
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Old 05-20-2011, 11:45 PM
fieldgrey fieldgrey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rioe View Post
I do wonder how much different your experience would be if your ex wasn't also self-represented and you were up against a lawyer.

And I can't believe it takes so many hours and pages just to try to adjust spousal support?? OMG!
I can only speculate how different it might be against a lawyer. My ex had a lawyer for the first 9 months. Other than work, I put the rest of my life on hold to do legal study, research and work to keep on top of the lawyer and orders. Self repping is all consuming.

As I wrote in my opening statement, we are in trial because of anger with me, not because of facts in evidence. The justice was pretty insightful about that today.

I think I'm at about $600 in photocopies for this case - single-handedly keeping my local Staples open. I don't want to think about the hours I could have spent on my business.

FG
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Old 05-21-2011, 01:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fieldgrey View Post
I can only speculate how different it might be against a lawyer. My ex had a lawyer for the first 9 months. Other than work, I put the rest of my life on hold to do legal study, research and work to keep on top of the lawyer and orders. Self repping is all consuming.

As I wrote in my opening statement, we are in trial because of anger with me, not because of facts in evidence. The justice was pretty insightful about that today.

I think I'm at about $600 in photocopies for this case - single-handedly keeping my local Staples open. I don't want to think about the hours I could have spent on my business.

FG
Great! Happy for you. Please keep us posted.

Maybe I'm being stupid.
Please forgive if I am.

But could you please share some of the resources you have taken advantage of to do "legal study, research" and etc.?

I've got the time and the motivation - but am finding it difficult to find any resources that are anything more the "general".

For example, everyone keeps saying we paused for "procedural" matters. OK. Well I get the concept of what a procedural matter is, but I can't specifically imagine what one might be.
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Old 05-21-2011, 02:02 AM
lilspinx lilspinx is offline
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Must be lots on the line in your trial...with all that paper.
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Old 05-21-2011, 01:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wretchedotis View Post
But could you please share some of the resources you have taken advantage of to do "legal study, research" and etc.?

I've got the time and the motivation - but am finding it difficult to find any resources that are anything more the "general".
There are several resources that I used:

1. Haunt the duty counsel at FLIC; even though I did not qualify for representation they could give me counsel on what a certain form means, what is admissible, what is relevant, etc. Lists and lists of questions.

2. Read Family Law Act, the Rules and the Divorce Act over and over. I read the Evidence Act once but realized the case didn't need that depth - I let the case conference justice guide any concerns about evidence.

3. Ask lots of questions at case conferences about material issues so that the justice can guide both parties to relevant matters.

4. Search CANLii for case law close to your case particulars to see how judges think about cases. Reading a few of these will give you a strong sense of how justices view cases and make decisions. It helps remind to not sweat the small stuff. Justices don't want every detail of your life.

5. If you can get to Osgood Hall in Toronto, they have a case search service and can help you find pertinent case law (nominal fee) if you are struggling.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wretchedotis View Post
For example, everyone keeps saying we paused for "procedural" matters. OK. Well I get the concept of what a procedural matter is, but I can't specifically imagine what one might be.
'Procedural matter' is a broad term, and often includes court and trial rule issues. Here are a few of examples:
1. The justice reviewed the relationship of the court to the SRL and what fine lines there are that can't be crossed without the justice seeming partial to one side or the other.

2. I motioned for witnesses to be excluded from the court room - this way no witness could hear testimony of others, or evidence of others.

3. I asked the court to clarify the requirement of my obligations to testify when some of the testimony might breach non-disclosure agreements.

4. I asked the court to assure the appropriateness of the other party including privileged communications (between my ex and her former counsel).

5. As an SRL on the witness stand, sometimes testimony wanders into argument and submissions, and the justice needs to stop testimony and direct it back to evidence.

6. At times the justice stopped testimony and asked both parties if the matter for testimony in that moment was in dispute. If not, he asked that we move on to the next evidence issue. (Lesson: if both parties had understood what the function of an Admit (form 22) was earlier on, we could have reduced the trial issues and reduced everyone's work)

Quote:
Originally Posted by lilspinx View Post
Must be lots on the line in your trial...with all that paper.
The issue is very big: my salary went from $250k to $120k in the space of 1/2 year through no fault of my own. She is arguing I either hid income, or alternately, that I am willfully underemployed. This affects the quantum of spousal support.

I wish the trial management conference justice expressed more control over the matters for trial: it would have cut down the document requirements. Unfortunately my ex had devised several conspiracy theories about my income which meant she introduced volumes of emails containing 'evidence' of these theories. This is the curse of self-repping: SRLs have a skewed view of 'preponderance of evidence'. As SRLs we are too close to our own issues to see things simply.

300+ pages of bank and credit card statements, 100+ pages of emailed negotiations between a prospective employer and I, 400 page trial record (mostly the Respondent's initial answer filled with emails between us). I believe 80% of the evidence and trial book will never be looked at.

FG
  #8  
Old 06-18-2011, 08:52 AM
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Fieldgray (or anyone please):

Trial Record

As a SRL applicant, I fully understand what goes into a Trial Record, but I am confused as to the format. There is a Table of Contents on top, followed by the documents listed in FLR 23 with tabs - no problem. But, is there an example anywhere of what the end product should look like? Or, do I just make it look neat and professional?

Any advice? Thanks.


Ken
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Old 06-23-2011, 11:14 PM
fieldgrey fieldgrey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny View Post
Fieldgray (or anyone please):

Trial Record

As a SRL applicant, I fully understand what goes into a Trial Record, but I am confused as to the format. There is a Table of Contents on top, followed by the documents listed in FLR 23 with tabs - no problem. But, is there an example anywhere of what the end product should look like? Or, do I just make it look neat and professional?

Any advice? Thanks.


Ken
Don't get hung up on it. Table of contents, tabs and numbered pages, bound so it's easy to handle. Every TC looks 'different'.

FG
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