10.5 Opening Statement

Once you have told the judge who you are the judge will ask for opening statements. First the Claimant/Applicant (the one that started the claim/application) will be asked to speak. The Respondent (the one the claim/application was served on) will be asked by the judge to give their opening statement either right after the Applicant’s given theirs or later after the Applicant has presented their closing statements.

Self-Rep's Tip:

When the other side is delivering their opening, listen carefully and make notes of their key points so you can respond to them.

The purpose of an opening statement is to provide the judge with information of the issues and evidence you will be presenting to the court. It also helps a judge understand what has happened in your case so far. Remember this may be the first time your judge has seen you, and might not be up to speed on your case.  An opening statement allows you to summaries the case up to that point, for instance you should inform the judge of any interim orders in place.  You’re basically providing a map of where you’ve been and where you’re going.  You’ll want to outline the basic framework of your case, leaving the details to be filled in by the witnesses. It helps to explain what the issues in the case are and what witnesses you will be calling to address those issues.


What to cover?

  1. Inform the Judge what has happened – Summarize any interim orders including when they were made, and any issues that have been settled. For example: “There has been an order granted for child support on April 4, 2016 that sets out Mr. X is to pay $200/month to me. We have settled in an agreement on the issue of spousal support.” If your case is very complicated it might be helpful to prepare a chronology of events.
  2. Inform the Judge why you are here: - Clearly state what orders you are seeking.

    Judge’s Tip: 

    Briefly explain who your witnesses are and what they will be saying. For example, “I will be calling Jon Smith, my child’s family doctor, who will be speaking about the special child care needs of my child.”

  3.  Inform the Judge what you will be doing- State your most important issues, how you intend to support your claims, the witnesses who you will be calling, and the documents that you will be presenting to the court. Remember to keep it short. 



The Dos and Don’ts of Opening Statements



  • Attend family court before your trial and observe others delivering opening statements
  • Practice presenting your opening statement in front of people or a mirror.
  • Write it down. Either write it all out or in point form to keep you on track
  • Stay calm and dispassionate. Make a good first impression by looking reasonable and composed
  • Make it as short as possible
  • Do not interrupt the other party when they are making their opening. If they say something you disagree with make a note of it and wait till your turn to speak.
  • Do not present evidence in your opening statement – Remember that comes later.
  • Do not be argumentative or dramatic during your opening statement

Fill out the Opening Statement Worksheet to help you prepare for your day in court.