If you do not have a lawyer or plan to represent yourself, this is commonly called self-representing. Although you can represent yourself, you are advised to have a lawyer if at all possible. Often what seems like a simple legal matter is not simple and you may find it hard to properly explain your case to the court. This may result in a decision that you do not expect.
If you would like to find a lawyer, there are a number of resources that can help you. The Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) may be able to provide legal information and advice, or refer you to a lawyer through their Law phone in & Lawyer Referal program. Legal Aid Manitoba may also be able to help if you qualify for their services. The Legal Help Centre can also provide legal information and advice.
If you do decide to go ahead without a lawyer, you must comply with the same court rules and other procedures as would apply if you have a lawyer. The Legal Help Centre can also provide legal information to self representing individuals with household incomes under $50,000. You may find it helpful to view the Manitoba Court video about What to Expect when attending Court and the CLEA video about How to Conduct Yourself in Court.
There are three levels of court in Manitoba: the Court of Appeal, the Court of Queen’s Bench, and the Provincial Court. If you already know which court you will be attending, you will find more information, including court forms, by clicking on the link of that court. Most criminal cases proceed first in the Provincial Court. Summary Provincial offences, such as traffic tickets, proceed in the Summary Convictions Court, which is a part of the Provincial Court. If you are dealing with a family matter or a civil claim (a claim for money), you will have to go to the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Court of Appeal is a court of review and hears matters that are being appealed from the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Provincial Court as well as other types of decision making tribunals, such as the Residential Tenancies Commission. The Court of Appeal is not the court where you start a case for the first time.
What is your case about?
The topics below are some of the more common cases that come before the courts.
If you are separating, seeking guardianship, pursuing adoption, seeking a divorce or support for you and your children or dividing up your property, these kinds of matters will likely be decided in the Court of Queen's Bench. If you would like some general information about the Family Division of the Court of Queen’s Bench, click here.
The Court of Queen’s Bench Family Division has regular sittings in Winnipeg, as well as in Flin Flon, Morden, Selkirk, St Boniface, The Pas, and Thompson.
There are court staff at each of these locations who can offer you some procedural information but they cannot give you advice on how you should proceed in your case. You will want to familiarize yourself with Rule 70 of the Court of Queen's Bench Rules.
Rules of Court: particularly Rule 70
Your case may be about an individual or a business or company that you say owes you money. It may be that you had a contract for services that was not done or you lent money to someone who has not paid you back on the terms you agreed. Two examples of money disputes are a dispute with a neighbour over the shared cost of a fence and a claim to pay a debt. Conflict with another person or corporation about money is a common kind of dispute. Whatever the case may be, asking the court to decide whether you are entitled to have a money judgment against a person is a case that goes before the Court of Queen's Bench. How these legal issues can be addressed will depend on the amount of money you plan to try to recover.
To determine what kind of procedures apply to your circumstances. You must first consider the money value of your dispute.
If the amount of money is under $10,000, it is a Small Claim. This kind of proceeding is governed by The Small Claim Practices Act. Take the time to read the available information about Small Claims filed after January 1st, 2015 as you will find checklists to help you prepare as the claimant or the defendant as well as the links to the required forms.
You can order the Community Legal Education Association guide for small claims by contacting the CLEA office.
If the amount of money is over $10,000, the claim will proceed as a civil claim in the Court of Queen’s Bench. The Court of Queen’s Bench Rules set out the requirements of the parties for writing, filing and serving documents associated with a civil claim. Some claims are for very large amounts and the legal issues to be decided by the Court are very complex. Other claims are only slightly above the value of a small claim and are less complex. Because of this, Rule 20A of the Court of Queen's Bench rules was created and simplifies the procedure for claims under $100,000.
Is your dispute about a money value:
i. Under $100,000
The purpose of Rule 20A is to resolve cases under $100,000 in a just, expeditious and cost effective manner. There are certain limitations on pre trial procedures, and a judge is assigned at an early stage to help manage the lawsuit. The judge does this by holding Case Conferences with the parties. The purpose of a Case Conference is to explore settlement possibilities, and if settlement is not possible, to manage the case for an early trial.
If you are involved in a lawsuit with a value of under $100,000 you should read Rule 20A of the Court of Queen’s Bench Rules.
You should look at The Court of Queen’s Bench Rules if you are involved in a lawsuit involving more than $100,000. The Rules will provide information about timelines and other procedural requirements of disclosure, such as examination for discovery and additional filings.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench.
You may find the CLEA video about an Overview of Civil Court Cases in Manitoba to be helpful.
If you have received a ticket or offence notice, it may have come by mail or it may have been given to you in person. The majority of these situations result from a violation of The Highway Traffic Act.
When a police service accuses you of committing a criminal offence, they may place you in custody or release you with conditions that you must follow.
There are two levels of court in Manitoba that deal with criminal charges. Almost all criminal charges are first heard by the Provincial Court. If your charges are considered less serious (summary offenses) they will be heard in the Provincial Court. If your charges are considered more serious (indictable offences), they may proceed in the Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench depending on the circumstances.
If you are going to represent yourself, you will have to contact the crown attorney assigned to your case to discuss how the case will proceed and deal with other procedural issues such as disclosure of material from the Crown Attorney.
It is always advisable to have a lawyer, especially when facing criminal charges. If you don’t already have a lawyer, you are encouraged to apply to Legal Aid.
CLEA publication Criminal Law and Procedure (provides information about searches, arrests, bail, criminal offenses, sentencing, criminal records, parole and record suspensions
Which is the situation you are facing?
If you have been arrested by the police and held in custody, you will be transported to a correctional facility or remand centre. After your arrest, you will get a chance to speak to counsel. Police will contact Legal Aid on call for you if you do not have a lawyer. Your first court appearance will be within 24 hours of your arrest where it is practicable to do that. Your appearance in court could be in person or by teleconference.
If you have been conditionally released by the police you will have documents that indicate a date that you must appear in court. If you do not attend, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest.
Highway traffic matters are dealt with at every court centre in the province. Here are the locations of each court facility for your ease of reference.
Your offence notice will;
If you do not dispute the ticket, you can mail payment to the address shown on the notice, or you can pay in person, by phone, or online. Voluntary payment is considered to be a guilty plea.
If you wish to deal with your ticket in any other way (plead not guilty and set a trial date or ask for more time to pay), you must appear in person on or before the due date. You must fill out the back of the notice confirming how you wish to proceed.
The property left by a family member who has died is called the estate. The estate may or may not involve a will. If there is a will, the process is called a probate of the will. If there is no will, the process is called an administration of the estate. For more information you are encouraged to watch the video on Wills and Estates: How to legally deal with the assets of a deceased person.
Accessing court forms, finding court rules, relevant court fees, and obtaining a copy of a grant of probate without a lawyer are among the topics explored in the Frequently Asked Questions. If you have chosen to proceed with an application to probate a will or administer an estate without a lawyer, you may wish to look at these FAQs.
When two parties put forward opposing arguments to a judge or other decision maker, one or both parties may disagree with the decision that is made. Disagreeing or being unhappy with a decision does not, by itself, give you the right to an appeal. An appeal is when you ask the court of higher jurisdiction to review the decision based on your argument that an error was made by the judge or decision maker. If you think that such an error has been made, it is always good to consult with a lawyer.
Generally speaking, appeals of a decision made by a Judicial Justice of the Peace, Master, Small Claim Hearing Officer or Provincial Court Judge are heard by the Court of Queen’s Bench, but there are times when the Manitoba Court of Appeal would hear appeals of a decision made by the Provincial Court. Appeals of a decision made by the Court of Queen’s Bench are heard by the Manitoba Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal will also hear appeals from some tribunals in Manitoba, including the Residential Tenancies Commission. The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest level of court in Canada and it will hear appeals of decisions made by the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
The legislation that relates to your legal matter, ( The Highway Traffic Act, the Divorce Act, the Criminal Code) will provide the most precise information about when you can appeal and what requirements must be met. Sometimes permission must be obtained from the Court of Appeal to pursue an appeal. This permission is called ‘Leave to Appeal’. As well, appeals are usually the subject of tight time limits. If you miss a time linit, your appeal cannot proceed without approval from the Court. Therefore, you should pay close attention to the time limit that governs the filing of your appeal or application for leave to appeal.
A Manitoba Courts video about Seeking Leave to Appeal in the Court of Appeal may help you in understanding or applying for leave.
Here is a generalized guide to knowing which court would hear the appeals of different legal matters.
Type of court case Decision made by Where appeal is heard
Decision by the Provincial Court
Indictable Criminal Offence
Decision by Master
Decision by Court of Queen’s Bench
Decision by Master
Decision by Court of Queen’s Bench
Decision by Small Claims Hearing Officer
When a child is apprehended by a child protection agency in Manitoba, that agency must file an application in court (called a “Petition and Notice of Hearing”). The agency must give the parents a copy of the application along with details of why the child was apprehended. The Petition and Notice of Hearing will give the date, time and address of the first court appearance and the name and telephone number of the child protection worker and the lawyer for the agency. The parents should contact the child protection worker as soon as possible to discuss the case and set up visits if that has not already been done. Parents generally don’t need to prepare any court documents for their first court appearance but it is very important that the parents attend court on the date stated on the Petition, even if they have not yet had an opportunity to hire a lawyer or apply for Legal Aid. If the parents have been served but do not attend court, the Court can make an order of guardianship in their absence. A representative from Legal Aid Manitoba is generally available in court to speak with parents and assist with Legal Aid applications. Legal Aid Manitoba: http://www.legalaid.mb.ca; The Child and Family Services Act: (http://web2.gov.mb.ca/laws/statutes/ccsm/c080e.php.
Sometimes a child protection case is transferred from the agency that apprehended the child to a different child protection agency. For example, if another child protection agency is already working with the family, the case may be transferred to that agency. If another agency is not already working with the family, the child protection worker will have a discussion with the parents about which of the four child welfare authorities in the province the parents wish to receive ongoing services from (http://www.gov.mb.ca/fs/childfam/cfsagencies.html). That authority will in turn choose which of its agencies will provide the ongoing services. The agency will request that the court grant an order to transfer the case.
If the apprehended child is 12 years of age or older, the agency must also give the court application and details of why the child was apprehended to that child. The agency makes arrangements for the child to come to court. In court, the judge or master will speak to the child and decide whether a lawyer should be appointed to represent the child. The child protection worker will assist with making those arrangements.
Usually, a child protection case cannot be finalized on the first court appearance and the parents or their lawyers must return to court for further appearances. Sometimes, the parents and the agency are able to resolve the case by agreement. If the parents and agency cannot agree, the court will require the parties to attend a pre-trial conference. The purpose of a pre-trial conference is to discuss the outstanding issues and explore the possibility of resolving some or all of the outstanding issues. A judge will conduct the pre-trial conference. This judge will not be the same judge who presides at the trial (contested hearing).
A trial is a contested hearing where the agency and the parents will have the opportunity to give oral evidence under oath. Usually, there is a wait of many months before the trial date. At the trial the judge will hear all of the evidence and decide whether the child was in need of protection at the time he/she was apprehended and whether the child continues to be in need of protection. The judge may:
order that the child be returned to the parents or guardian;
order that the child be returned to the parents or guardian under the supervision of an agency and subject to the conditions and for the period the judge considers necessary;
order that the child be placed with a person other than the parents if the judge decides that person is best able to care for the child, with or without transfer of guardianship and subject to the conditions and for the period the judge considers necessary;
order that the agency is appointed temporary guardian of the child; or
order that the agency is appointed the permanent guardian of the child.
The Child and Family Services Act sets out limits on how long a child can be in the temporary guardianship of an agency.
If a child is under 5 when apprehended, the agency cannot get a temporary order of guardianship for longer than six months in duration at a time. The total period of temporary guardianship cannot exceed 15 months;
If a child is between the ages of 5 and 11 when apprehended, the agency cannot have a temporary order of guardianship for longer than 12 months in duration. The child cannot be under a temporary order for longer than 24 months in total;
If a child is 12 to 17 years old when apprehended, the agency can have temporary orders of guardianship for a maximum of 24 months at a time. There is no limit on the number of months a child can be under a temporary order of guardianship in this case as long as the periods of time do not exceed 24 months each.
A parent may apply to court to terminate a permanent order of guardianship if:
the child has not been placed for adoption, and
one year has elapsed since the parents’ right to appeal the permanent order or if the parents have appealed, one year has passed since the appeal was dealt with in court.
The parents can apply to terminate a permanent order of guardianship every year as long as the above conditions are met.
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