Child Support Orders FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Support Orders:

You can start your application through a lawyer, either one that you hire privately (retain), or get assigned to you through Legal Aid, if you qualify. You can visit Legal Aid’s website for more information.

You can also start a court application without a lawyer.

As a general rule, if both you and the other parent live in Nova Scotia, you can contact the court nearest to you to start the court process, or you may have to contact the court where the other parent is living, if the children also live there. The Supreme Court (Family Division), has an intake process, where you can get help from a court officer to start your application. You may also find help in our application guides:

If the other person lives outside of Nova Scotia and you would like to establish or change child support, there may be a cross-border process available to you. This process is referred to as “Divorce Act ISO” (interjurisdictional support orders) in relation to processes under the Divorce Act or “Nova Scotia ISO” (interjurisdictional support orders) in relation to processes under provincial support order law.

Click here to read more about the IS/ISO process.

If you are addressing child support issues as part of an ongoing (not yet final) divorce proceeding, you will deal with these issues wherever the divorce was filed. Once the divorce is finalized, and you apply to change your order for support, you may have to speak to a court officer or get advice from a lawyer to figure out which court you should apply to.

You can apply to change, or ‘vary,’ your court order if you have a material change in circumstances. This means that something important in your situation, the other party’s situation, or your child’s situation, has changed since the last court order, and you need to change something in the order as a result.

Generally, the same process applies for changing an order as it does for getting an order in the first place.

For a variation application to succeed (an application to change a court order), you must be able to show that there has been a material change in circumstances.

A material change in circumstances, sometimes called a ‘substantial’ change in circumstances, means that something important has changed in your situation, or your ex-partner’s or children’s situations, since your last order was made. As a result of this change, you feel you need to update your order. The change needs to be substantial, and not just a minor change.

For applications to change child support, examples of a substantial change in circumstances could include:

  • your income changed:

    • you lost your job, or are earning more or less money than you were when the order was put in place.

  • the child is no longer dependent:

    • they are grown, finished school, and living on their own, supporting themselves.

  • The child’s special or extraordinary expenses have changed:       

    • for example, the child is now older and their activities have become more expensive, or they are starting university, or have new medical expenses

  • the child was living with the other parent, and is now living with you.

A retroactive application is one where the relief being requested is back-dated.

For example, if you have a child support order and recently found out that the paying parent got a large pay increase 2 years ago but did not tell you, you may apply to the court for a change in child support, going back those 2 years. This is called a retroactive child support variation.

Generally, if you are making an application for retroactive child support, you can ask for the change as far back as the most recent court order that also dealt with child support. Whether or not the court will grant retroactive child support for some or all of the time you are asking for will depend on your situation.

If you are making a retroactive variation application, you must note this in 2 places in your documents:

  1. On your Notice of Variation Application

  2. In your Affidavit

In the affidavit, make sure you say what date you are going back to (the date on which the new order will take effect, if granted) and why you are asking to use that date. You should also explain why you didn’t make the variation application before now. Remember: whether or not the court will grant retroactive child support for some or all of the time you are asking for will depend on your situation.

In most cases, child support is paid until a child reaches the age of majority (which can differ between provinces – in Nova Scotia, the age is 19). Child support can extend past that time if the child is still dependent (for example, if they are still in school, or cannot support themselves because of a disability).

If you are paying support for a child over 19 who is in school, the obligation to pay support usually ends when the child finishes their first program or degree; however, this is not always the case, and will depend on your particular situation.

Child support orders do not stop automatically. If you want to terminate a child support order, you must apply to the court to do this. If you are not sure whether you should make an application to stop your child support, speak to a lawyer for advice.

If you and the other party were divorced from each other in Canada, you may be able to apply to obtain or vary support using the interjurisdictional support process under the Divorce Act (s. 19), so long as the other person lives in another province or territory within Canada or a reciprocating jurisdiction outside of Canada.  For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, click here .

If the other person lives outside Canada in a place which is not a reciprocating jurisdiction, the IS/ISO process is not available to you.

Click here to read more about the IS/ISO process.

It is always recommended you obtain legal advice.  Click here for information about legal support and advice options in Nova Scotia, including no- and low-cost services.