What You Need to Know About Making a Variation Application

If you have a final order with terms dealing with property, pensions, or debts, you probably cannot change those parts of the order. Once these issues are final, usually as part of a divorce, you generally cannot change them afterward. If you have an order for property, pensions, or debts that you want to have changed, you should speak to a lawyer for advice.


Which law applies? 

In Nova Scotia, variations are generally applied for under either the federal statute (the Divorce Act), or Nova Scotia’s Parenting and Support Act.

  • If you are divorced, and have a corollary relief order as part of your divorce, and are filing your variation in the Supreme Court (Family Division), you will indicate section 17 of the Divorce Act on your Notice of Variation Application form 

  • If  you were never married to the other person, or are married and separated with no divorce ever started, you will indicate section 37 of the Parenting and Support Act on your Notice of Variation Application form.


Has there been an important change in circumstances since the last court order was made? 

You will only be able to vary an existing order if you can show that there has been a material change in circumstances since the date of the existing order. A material change in circumstances, sometimes called a substantial change in circumstances, means that something important has changed in your, your ex-partner’s, or the children’s circumstances since the last order was made.

The new circumstances or information must be something that did not exist or take place at the time the previous order was put in place.

Examples of what may be a material change in circumstances:

  • If you are applying to change the amount of child support, the material change may be that you have lost your job, or your income or the other party’s income has gone up or down. You may be applying to end child support payments because the child is now over 19, has finished school and is working and living on their own.

  • If you are applying to change parenting arrangements, the material change may be that the child is living with the other parent now, or one of the parents has moved away so the times and dates for visits no longer work.


What Order are you seeking to change?

In the Notice of Variation Application you must refer to the order(s) that you are asking to change.

On the form you must give:

  • The name of the order (for example, ‘Order’, ‘Consent Order’, ‘Corollary Relief Order’)

  • The date the order was issued. You will find this date on the last page of your order.

When will the change begin? 

You must say in your application the date you want your proposed variation to begin. That means you should write the day, month, and year you want the change to begin. If the date has already passed, you must still provide the date on the application. This is called a retroactive date.

You must provide a current address for the other party/ies.

When you file your variation application and it gets processed by the court, the other party must be notified that you’ve applied to court. How this is done will depend on the situation. The court may send a package to the other party, or you may be directed to have them personally served. Personal service means that someone over 19 – other than you – hands the documents directly to the person being given notice. The court will direct you on what needs to happen in your case.

For more information about finding an address for the other party and personal service, click here.

What happens after you file?

When you file a variation application, you may be directed by the court to attend an information session about how your file will proceed, the court process, and other general family law information. You may be required to attend an intake appointment to file your variation application and supporting documents.

If you are dealing with parenting arrangements, you will be directed to attend a Parenting Information Program (PIP) Session. PIP attendance is mandatory for anyone dealing with parenting in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court (Family Division).

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