Sample questions to ask witnesses at a Supreme Court trial
If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will usually call you as a witness in your own case. The lawyer will ask you questions intended to get your sworn evidence put before the court. Then, the other party will have a chance to cross-examine you.
If you are representing yourself, you don’t have a lawyer to directly question you. Instead, you may testify (speak) on your own behalf or ask if you can provide your evidence in an affidavit. The judge may also ask you some questions. After you testify, the other party or their lawyer can cross-examine you (ask their own questions). See also our fact sheet Sample questions to ask when cross-examining witnesses at a Supreme Court trial.
Below are some sample questions you can ask in direct examination (asking your own witnesses questions). If you are self-represented, you would probably only directly examine your own third-party witnesses.
A third-party witness is anyone who is not a party in your family law case. If you call a third-party witness, you will question that witness in a direct examination. Once you have finished asking your questions, the other party or their lawyer may cross-examine that witness. If the witness is not an expert witness, start by asking questions that show how the witness knows the parties involved.
Tips for direct examination:
Don’t ask leading questions — ask questions that start with who, what, where, when, how, why, or please describe.
Don’t ask narrative questions — ask single, specific questions. An example of a narrative question would be “Tell us everything you did that day.”
Don’t ask opinion-based questions — witnesses must only testify about what they personally saw, heard, or did.
See also our fact sheet Present your evidence in Supreme Court.
The following questions are about parenting, and are based on the case of Angela and James Smith, whose case also appears in our sample affidavit.
Sample direct examination of John Cross, third-party witness, by Angela Smith (the claimant)
- Please state your name for the record.
- How do you know the claimant/respondent?
- Are you employed?
- How long have you been employed at Meadowlark Elementary School?
- Do you teach Judy or Jason Smith?
- How long have you taught Judy Smith?
- Is Judy Smith on time for school?
- Has Judy Smith been late for school this year?
- Has Judy Smith missed school this year?
- How many times?
- Can you tell me the dates on which Judy Smith was late or absent?
- What happened in the classroom on the date of May 31, 2015?
- Do you remember who dropped Judy Smith off on May 31, 2015?
- Please describe Judy’s condition when her father dropped her off at school.
- Can you describe Judy’s behaviour on May 31, 2015?
- After Judy began crying, then what happened?
- Please tell us what was said in the conversation you had with Judy Smith.
- How did John Smith act when you called to tell him Judy was sick?
- What time was it when James Smith picked Judy up?
- On what date did you have a parent-teacher meeting with the parties?
- Did you raise any concerns about Judy with the parties?
- How did James Smith respond?
- Has Judy’s academic performance changed this year?
- How has it changed?
Introducing documents as evidence by examining a witness
Tip: Remember that you may only introduce documents that you have shared with the other party in the discovery process. The documents must be admitted as evidence before the judge will considered them to be evidence. Once you have introduced the document by asking the witness questions about it, you must enter it as an exhibit and give a copy to the judge. See our fact sheet Present your evidence in Supreme Court.
Question: Do either of the parties’ children have any special learning needs?
Answer: Yes, Jason has some challenges.
Question: What are those challenges?
Answer: Jason struggles with math and has dyslexia.
Question: How do you know this?
Answer: He was assessed by the school. I was his teacher at the time and was involved in the assessment.
Question: I am handing you a copy of an assessment from the school dated October 5, 2012 for Jason. Is this the assessment you are referring to?
Question: My Lord/My Lady, I’d like to offer this document as the next exhibit.
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