Drafting a Timeline (General)

From Riverview Legal Services


Drafting a proper timeline of events is the most important thing you can do to be successful before a court or tribunal. The process of giving evidence through testimony is the process of walking a judge or adjudicator through a timeline of events.

The Goals (Legal Proceedings)

Unlike Criminal Court, the Civil Courts and Tribunals exist to resolve disputes that arise between two or more private entities, such as between landlords and tenants. The core question every person who is considering taking legal action or is currently involved in a legal action is "..if everything was fixed tomorrow what would that look like?..". The ultimate purpose of the legal system is to bring about a desired result of at least one of the parties to a proceeding.

Being able to answer the above core question will keep you focused as you go through a legal proceeding. In short, you need to know what you want. The thing that you want from a legal proceeding is called a remedy.

Elements of a Point in Time within a Timeline

  • Date(s)
  • Time(s)
  • People
  • Places
  • Facts

Points in Time

A timeline is structured much like a PowerPoint presentation. The timeline is designed to walk the reader through a sequence of events in a logical way showing the reader how a given situation unfolded. Think of those moves where the opening scene shows the main character lying in a pool of blood on the floor, the screen goes black then reads "36 hours earler" then the movie starts. The movie is a series of scenes bring the viewer up to the point in time where the movie started. A well drafted timeline will never require the reader to ask, "but how did that happen?", the timeline should be able to explain each sequence of events that brings to reader to any given point time time.

Where to Start

In the context of Landlord & Tenant Applications with few exceptions all timelines start with the following facts,

  1. The tenant moved into the rental unit at (address) on (date). The monthly rent at the time of move in was ($) and the tenant (did/did not) pay a last months rent deposit of ($).
  2. The landlord(s) and tenant(s) (do/do not) have a written lease.

Generally speaking the next time that goes into the time line is the first time that there was a problem with whomever the problem was with.

The goal of timeline writing is to distil the core facts to your reader without overwhelming them with little details that you can fill in later during an oral hearing.