Differences Between Family Court, Supreme Court & the Supreme Court (Family Division)

Printer-friendly version

The Supreme Court (Family Division) operates in Halifax, Sydney, and Port Hawkesbury, and covers the areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality and all of Cape Breton. They are sometimes called ‘unified family courts’ or the ‘Family Divisions.’ The Family Division deals with all family law issues, including divorce, adoptions, child protection, adult protection, property and pension issues, parenting arrangements (child custody and access), and child support and spousal support. The Family Division operates using the Nova Scotia Civil Procedure Rules. These Rules govern process in the Supreme Court and are determined by the Justices of the Supreme Court.

In areas outside of the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton, there are two levels of court that deal with family law issues – the Supreme Court (General Division) and the Family Court. The Supreme Court deals with issues like divorce and divorce variations, and property and pensions, and operates using the Nova Scotia Civil Procedure Rules.

The Family Court deals with issues such as child protection, adult protection, child custody and access, and child support and spousal support on ‘non-divorce’ files, and operate using the Family Court Rules. The judges of the Family Court are appointed by the Provincial Government, and are addressed as ‘Your Honour.’ The Family Court does not deal with divorce matters. 

Divorce is a matter of federal jurisdiction. Therefore, any proceedings under the Divorce Act must be dealt with by a federally appointed judge. This is why divorce matters can only be heard in the Supreme Court (Family Division) or Supreme Court (General Division).

The judges of the Supreme Court or Supreme Court (Family Division) are called ‘justices,’ and are appointed by the Federal Government. In court, they are addressed as ‘My Lord’ or ‘My Lady.’

Family Law Jurisdiction Chart

A court 'docket' is a list of the matters going to court in front of a judge on any given day. Some courts post their daily dockets online.

To access the Sydney Supreme Court and Sydney Supreme Court (Family Division) dockets, click here.