If you are going to court to deal with a legal issue, you likely have to fill out forms. While even finding the right forms can be a challenging and overwhelming process, Alberta Law Libraries has a few tips.
If you have gone to court, you probably have a memory, story or reaction to court forms.
Court forms are the tools the courts use to learn about cases and organize their procedures. Whether your experience was positive or negative, the finding, filling out, printing, and filing of your forms was necessary to access the court system.
But court forms can pose a challenge to many. Failure to select and complete forms correctly can mean unsuccessful outcomes in court. Other difficulties arise with legal terminology, names and numbers of forms, where to find them, and technology.
Interacting with a form is a valuable art that gets better with experience.
I work at the front desk of Alberta Law Libraries (ALL) in Edmonton and often facilitate accessing forms and help people with questions and problems. For example, someone recently asked me to help them locate a form entitled ‘Restraining Order (Without Notice).’ This is one of many court forms in Alberta. Most of them are available online on the Alberta Courts’ website, but it is sometimes difficult to choose the right form.
Tips for finding and using court forms
Below are some common issues as well as tips for anyone new to finding court forms.
What level of court are you attending?
Each court in Alberta has its own forms. Try to get the exact name or number of the form. Ask for help if you are not sure. Often the court clerks at the courthouse can help. You can also consult with Information Services or Duty Counsel.
What area of law are you dealing with?
Common areas of law are family and civil. You can research your legal question beforehand to understand the topic and key terminology. Visit Alberta Law Libraries, CPLEA, or the Alberta Courts’ website for information on different areas of law.
It is always best to visit these trusted sources directly rather than search for a topic on the internet or social media, which may take you to incorrect or even false information.
Where is the court form available?
For example, wills and estate forms are on the Government of Alberta website while family law forms are on the Alberta Courts website. Alberta Law Libraries can help you find the forms if you have the form name or number and know the level of court.
Sometimes the court forms do not easily open on a computer. Read the instructions at the top of the list of forms on the Courts’ website for help opening the documents.
You can print your forms at most Alberta Law Libraries locations. You may have to print, copy, and scan your forms multiple times. Forms may need attachments such as screen shots or other supporting materials. Ask at the courthouse counter how many copies to print and what other documents you need to include.
Those without access to the internet, vision issues, or unable to use a keyboard face more challenges. Hard copies of forms are not available at the front desk in most court locations like they used to be. You may print hard copies in the libraries or contact Information Services for help.
What information do you need to include on the form?
Finding a form is only the beginning, you must also fill it in! Many legal services provide some support in completing forms. You may be able to access free or reduced rate legal services for help. Staff at Alberta Law Libraries can also help with language in the form but cannot help you complete it nor provide legal advice.
When do you need to file it?
Do not be surprised if you have to correct or redo a form. Clerks cannot accept incomplete forms. This can become a repetitive process! Leave yourself plenty of time to redo your forms if you are new to forms.
Double checking for errors on forms before printing and submitting will save time. Public libraries provide access and assistance that may help keep printing costs low.
How Alberta Law Libraries can help
If you want more information, I encourage you to visit Alberta Law Libraries (ALL).
Alberta Law Libraries is a network of libraries across the province. We receive many questions by phone, email, or in person about finding forms.
ALL recently published a new research guide: Finding Court Forms and Precedents. Anyone with internet can access the links and browse the guide by subject, jurisdiction, and level of court. It is one of nearly 30 guides for legal research maintained by ALL to assist you with your legal research and court process.
ALL also offers a wide collection of books and materials on legal topics. Law books are for reference only. Legal research databases are available at every library location. You can also access some of our e-Resources remotely.
If you need help, just ask!
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DISCLAIMER The information in this article was correct at time of publishing. The law may have changed since then. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LawNow or the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.