Nova Scotia Family Law Legislation

1. What is ‘legislation’?

Legislation consists of laws, statutes, or acts made by governments. Legislation creates rights and powers. Legislation may also impose duties and attach consequences. Legislation gives a judge the authority to make orders. Judges interpret and apply the legislation, or law, when they decide cases.

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2. What are ‘regulations’?

Legislation often gives authority for the government to create regulations, which then become part of the law. Regulations govern proceedings and further define the law.

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3. What laws apply to me if I am married?

The following are some of the acts or laws that are in effect in Nova Scotia to address family law matters. We recommend that you always get legal advice when trying to determine which laws apply to you.

If you are married, these are some of the laws and regulations that may apply to you:

  • Divorce Act: Use this act if you want a divorce, or are already divorced. You can ask the court to make an order relating to custody, access, child support, and spousal support. You can also use this act to ask the court to change a divorce order relating to custody, access or support. Refer also to the regulations under the act.
  • Federal Child Support Guidelines: These regulations apply under the Divorce Act when you want a divorce or are already divorced. They set out the rules used to calculate how much child support people will have to pay.
  • Maintenance and Custody Act: Use this act if you do not want a divorce but are asking for an order relating to custody, access, child support, spousal support, or the exclusive occupation of a residence. You can also use this act to ask the court to change an order about custody, access or support if you are not yet divorced and if you have not started a divorce. Refer also to the regulations under the act.
  • Child Maintenance Guidelines: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you do not want a divorce or have not been married, but are asking the court for an order relating to child maintenance (support). The Child Maintenance Guidelines set out the rules used to calculate how much child support people will have to pay.
  • Family Maintenance Regulations: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are making a Family Court application in areas other than the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton.
  • Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act: If your spouse lives outside of Nova Scotia, you may use this act if you are not divorced and are not applying for a divorce, and are asking for an order relating to support.
  • Matrimonial Property Act: Use this act if you want an order relating to property, including exclusive possession of the matrimonial home and pensions.
  • Division of Pensions: There are a number of different pension acts that can be used to divide pensions:
  • Other pension legislation may apply. You should speak with a lawyer for advice.

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4. What laws apply to me if I have a Registered Domestic Partnership?

The following is a guideline only as to what laws in Nova Scotia may apply to your situation. We recommend that you always get legal advice when trying to determine which laws apply to you.

If you have a registered domestic partnership, all provincial legislation that applies to a married couple also applies to you. These are some of the laws and regulations that may apply to you:

  • Maintenance and Custody Act: Use this act if you are asking for an order relating to custody, access, child support, spousal support, exclusive occupation of a family residence, or a paternity finding. Paternity means being a child's biological father. Refer also to the regulations under the act (for example, the Child Maintenance Guidelines).
  • Child Maintenance Guidelines: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are asking the court for an order relating to child support. The Child Maintenance Guidelines set out the rules used to calculate how much child support people will have to pay.
  • Family Maintenance Regulations: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are making a Family Court application in areas other than the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton.
  • Matrimonial Property Act: Use this act if you want an order relating to property, including exclusive possession of the matrimonial home and pensions.
  • Division of Pensions: There are a number of different pension acts that can be used to divide pensions and may apply to your case:
  • Other pension legislation may apply. You should speak with a lawyer for advice.

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5. What laws apply to me if I am a grandparent, step-parent, or another third party who wants the court to make an order about custody, access, or child support?

The following is a guideline only as to what laws in Nova Scotia may apply to your situation. We recommend that you always get legal advice when trying to determine which laws apply to you.

If you are a grandparent, step-parent, or another third party who wants the court to make an order about custody, access, or child support, these are some of the laws and regulations that may apply to you:

  • Maintenance and Custody Act: Use this act if you are asking for an order relating to custody, access, or child support. If you are asking for custody of a child and you are not a biological or adoptive parent or guardian of that child, you must ask permission of the court before applying. This is called getting 'leave of the court.' If you are asking for an order for access with a child ('visitation') and are not a parent, grandparent or guardian, you must also ask for leave of the court for this application.

    As of September 1, 2014, grandparents no longer need to ask for leave of the court before making an application for access with a grandchild. Grandparents must still ask for leave when applying for custody of a grandchild. Refer also to the regulations under the act (for example, the Child Maintenance Guidelines).
     

  • Child Maintenance Guidelines: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are asking the court for an order relating to child support. The Child Maintenance Guidelines set out the rules used to calculate how much child support people will have to pay.
     
  • Family Maintenance Regulations: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are making a Family Court application in areas other than the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton.

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6. What laws apply to me if I am in a common law relationship?

The following is a guideline only as to what laws in Nova Scotia may apply to your situation. We recommend that you always get legal advice when trying to determine which laws apply to you.

If you are in a common law relationship, these are some of the laws and regulations that may apply to you:

  • Maintenance and Custody Act: Use this act if you are asking for an order relating to custody, access, child support, spousal support, exclusive occupation of a family residence, or a paternity finding. Paternity means being a child's biological father. Refer also to the regulations under this act (for example, the Child Maintenance Guidelines).
  • Child Maintenance Guidelines: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are asking the court for an order relating to child maintenance (support). The Child Maintenance Guidelines set out the rules used to calculate how much child maintenance people will have to pay.
  • Family Maintenance Regulations: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are making a Family Court application in areas other than the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton.
  • Division of Property: This does not refer to a specific act, but rather the court's power to order a division of property based on common law principles. You should speak with a lawyer for advice.
  • Division of Pensions: There are a number of different pension acts that can be used to divide pensions:
  • Other pension legislation may apply. You should speak with a lawyer for advice.

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7. What laws apply to me if I am unmarried and not in a common law relationship?

The following is a guideline only as to what laws in Nova Scotia may apply to your situation. We recommend that you always get legal advice when trying to determine which laws apply to you.

If you are unmarried and not in a common law relationship, these are some of the laws and regulations that may apply to you:

  • Maintenance and Custody Act: Use this act if you are asking for an order relating to custody, access, child support, or a paternity finding. Paternity means being a child's biological father. Refer also to the regulations under this act (for example, the Child Maintenance Guidelines).
  • Child Maintenance Guidelines: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are asking the court for an order relating to child support. The Child Maintenance Guidelines set out the rules used to calculate how much child support people will have to pay.
  • Family Maintenance Regulations: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are making a Family Court application in areas other than the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton.

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8. What kinds of legislation are used in Nova Scotia family law?

The following are some of the acts or laws that are used in Nova Scotia. For more information about the laws that might apply to you, you should speak with a lawyer.

Divorce Act: This federal act applies when you want a divorce, or are already divorced. It is used to ask the court to make an order relating to custody, access, child support, or spousal support. You can also use this act to ask the court to change an order relating to custody, access, or support.

Federal Child Support Guidelines: These regulations apply under the Divorce Act when you want a divorce or are already divorced. They set out the rules used to calculate how much child support people will have to pay.

Pension Benefits Division Act [and Regulations]: and Related Federal Pension Legislation: This act applies when a plan member's federally regulated pension is to be divided between that member and his or her spouse or common law partner. Under this act, ‘common law partners’ refers to couples - including same sex couples - who have lived together at least one year.

Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act: This act, called ‘ISO’ for short, applies if one party lives in Nova Scotia and is seeking support from the other party who lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction (which includes all Canadian provinces and territories). It does not apply to the Divorce Act.

Maintenance and Custody Act: This act applies when you do not want a divorce, or if you have not been married, but are asking for an order relating to custody, access, child support, spousal support, or exclusive occupation of a residence. The act can apply to parents, guardians, spouses, common law partners, registered domestic partners who are also common law partners, and other people with permission of the court. Under this act, ‘common law partners’ refers to couples - including same sex couples - who have lived together at least two years.

Child Maintenance Guidelines: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you do not want a divorce or have not been married, but are asking the court for an order relating to child support. The Child Maintenance Guidelines set out the rules used to calculate how much child support people will have to pay.

Family Maintenance Regulations: These regulations apply under the Maintenance and Custody Act when you are making a Family Court application in areas other than the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton.

Maintenance Enforcement Act: This act governs the enforcement of child and spousal support orders and registered support agreements.

Matrimonial Property Act: If you are married or are in a registered domestic partnership, you can use this act to ask for an order relating to property, including exclusive possession of the matrimonial home. You do not have to apply for a divorce to use this act.

Pension Benefits Act [and Regulations] and Related Provincial Pension Legislation: This act applies when a plan member's provincially regulated pension is to be divided between that member and his or her spouse, registered domestic partner, or common law partner. Under this act, ‘common law partners’ refers to couples - including same sex couples - who have lived together at least two years.

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