Family law matters are dealt with in the Supreme Court (Family Division) with locations throughout Nova Scotia. Where you file your court application will depend on what issue you are applying to deal with, and where you, the other party, and perhaps the children, live.
For contact information for the Nova Scotia courts, click here.
Click here for a guide to making an application. This guide includes information, instruction, and forms links.
When a court has jurisdiction, this means that they have the right to deal with the application being filed. There are rules and laws that tell a court which applications they can deal with, and which ones they cannot deal with.
Emergency Protection Orders are temporary orders (put in place for up to 30 days) issued by Justices of the Peace in situations where there has been domestic violence. You can apply for an Emergency Protection Order if you are over 16, and were subjected to domestic violence by a person that you were in a conjugal (romantic) relationship with, or had a child with.
You can apply for an EPO anywhere in Nova Scotia by phoning 1-866-816-6555, any day between 9 am and 9 pm. Some designated people, like police officers, victim services workers, or some transition house staff members, can apply on your behalf at any time.
You do not have to fill out any paperwork for an EPO. You will give all of the information about your situation to a Justice of the Peace over the phone. If possible, it is best that you call from a land-line (as a cell phone can cut out), from a quiet, private place where you can take time to concentrate on the information you are giving, and are not disrupted.
NOTE: Please click here for information about Emergency Protection Orders for persons living in a First Nations community.
For more information on Emergency Protection Orders, click here.
Please see the section on Urgent/Emergency Applications and Orders for more information.
A peace bond is a court order that you may apply for when someone has threatened or harmed you. The party who threatened or harmed you signs the order to agree to stop contacting you, and to be of good behaviour. The peace bond may also include other conditions.
In most cases, you will need to go to Provincial Court to apply for a peace bond, as this is a criminal law process. The Supreme Court (Family Division) usually does not deal with peace bonds.
Please see the section on Urgent/Emergency Applications and Orders for more information.
Decision-making responsibility and parenting arrangements usually have to be dealt with in the court nearest to where the children are living. These issues are dealt with in the Supreme Court (Family Division). Parenting arrangements may include parenting time, contact time, or interaction.
If your children do not live in Nova Scotia, you will probably have to contact the court where they are living to find out how to make an application there.
If you are addressing decision-making responsibility and parenting time as part of an ongoing (not yet final) divorce proceeding, you will deal with this issue wherever the divorce was filed. Once the divorce is finalized, and you apply to change your order for decision-making responsibility and parenting time, you will likely have to make that application wherever the children are living at that time.
For more information about decision-making responsibility and parenting arrangements, click here.
Jurisdiction for support issues can depend on where you live, where the other party is living, and where your child is living. Figuring out jurisdiction for these issues can get tricky, and you should speak with a lawyer or court staff for help.
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.
If the other person lives outside of Nova Scotia and you would like to establish or change child or spousal 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 ISO process.
For more information about child support, click here.
For more information about spousal support, click here.
Generally, if you have been living in Nova Scotia for at least one year, you can apply for divorce at the Supreme Court (Family Division) nearest you. You can get divorce forms online, or most courts offer a ‘Do-it-yourself Divorce Kit’ for a small fee.
If your spouse lives somewhere else in Canada, and they have been living there for at least one year, they can start the divorce at the court in their area.
For more information about divorce, click here.
If you are applying for a divorce, you will deal with these issues as part of your divorce. Once these issues are dealt with in a divorce, it is not likely that you can go back and change them in the future. For this reason, it is very important that you get legal advice on these types of issues before you sign any legal documents or finalize a divorce. If you make a mistake, for example, signing away your rights to part of your ex-spouse’s pension when you had a claim to it, you will probably not be able to fix that once the divorce is finalized.
If you are not divorcing, but are married, or are looking to divide common law property, you can probably deal with these issues at the Supreme Court (Family Division) nearest you.
For more information about property, pension, and debt issues for married couples, click here.
For more information about property, pension, and debt issues for common law couples, click here.
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.
If you do not have a lawyer, you can start most court applications yourself by contacting the appropriate court, and asking what processes they have for starting an application. Many locations of the Supreme Court (Family Division), will have an intake process, where you can get help from a court officer to start your application.
Many forms for starting applications are available online, as well. You should get advice from a lawyer or speak with court staff to make sure you are filing the right documents for your case. You will usually have to file several documents to start an application, not just one or two.
You can also use this guide to help you. The guide includes information, instruction, and forms links.
Pleadings are the claims, and the responses to those claims, made by each of the parties involved in a court matter. Pleadings are found on the document that starts the court matter, for example:
a Notice of Application
a Notice of Variation Application, or
a Petition for Divorce
Pleadings are also found in the document that sets out the other person's response to that claim, if applicable, for example:
a Response to Application, or
an Answer filed to contest a divorce
The pleadings must contain enough information about the claims to establish the factual and legal right to go forward with the matter.
Vivian files a Petition for Divorce, checking off the issues of decision-making responsibility, parenting time, child support, spousal support and division of property under the appropriate sections of the Divorce Act and Matrimonial Property Act. These are the things that Vivian wants to 'deal with' as part of the divorce - these issues, and the legal authority she lists for how she is asking to have them resolved, are her pleadings. Her spouse, Robert, files an Answer to show that he is not in agreement with what she is requesting for the parenting arrangements. He outlines in his Answer what he is seeking for the decision-making responsibility and parenting arrangements under the appropriate section of the Divorce Act. These are his pleadings.
There are a lot of rules about pleadings. People who do not get legal advice often do not know how to complete their application in a way that is legally correct. A lawyer can help you be sure that you are doing it right. Cases can be dismissed because people do not write the proper things in their documents. Clients are expected to know what to do, even if they do not have a lawyer helping them. Court staff are not responsible for the content of the pleadings you file.
When you deal with the court, you may hear staff say that you need to ‘perfect your pleadings’ or ‘the pleadings have closed’ or ‘your pleadings need to be amended.’ See below for details about what these things mean.
If court staff tell you that you need to perfect a pleading, this means that something in your application or motion or petition needs to be ‘fixed.’ It may be that the mistake makes the document not correct in law or that the proper facts or issues have not been specified in the document to create a proper claim to the court. For example, if you do not state the date of marriage or the date of separation in a Petition for Divorce, then the court will tell you that your pleading has not been perfected and will not accept it.
Pleadings have closed when:
specific time limits have passed or
certain documents have been filed or not filed during those time limits
The time lines and documents used will depend on the court that you are dealing with, and the type of matter being addressed. For example, pleadings close in a divorce action (under a Petition for Divorce) when the responding party does not file an Answer by the deadline set out in the Civil Procedure Rules. In that case, the responding person may become disentitled to notice (may not be notified of other steps being taken in the proceeding) and is not allowed to file an Answer after the time limit has gone by (unless given permission to do so by a judge).
Pleadings also close when the Respondent has filed an Answer within the time limit. A judge may have the ability to allow pleadings to be filed after the deadline in certain situations, but this is usually done when a motion is filed requesting it, or a judge has otherwise allowed it to happen.
‘Amending’ something means you are changing it, or adding something to it. For example, pleadings will need to be 'amended' if the legal authority (the sections of the law) noted in the document does not match the relief a party is asking for. For example, this happens in cases where someone asks to have decision-making responsibility of a child on a non-divorce file, for example, but does not ask for the relief to be granted under section 18 of the Parenting and Support Act.
You cannot ask a judge to rule or make a decision about something that is not in your pleadings. If the relief requested and the stated legal authority do not match, then the other party has the right to ask for your case to be dismissed or the judge can dismiss it. These things are technical and that is why having help from a lawyer can be so important. The court has rules about when and how amendments can be made.
A pleading is the document that sets out your claim (what you are asking for) and the legal basis (authority) that gives you the right to make the claim. The supporting documents you file are meant to provide the 'evidence' to support what you are asking for and give the judge the basis to make a decision or court order in your case. Your evidence is meant to give the basis for what you are asking for in your pleadings. Evidence may come in a lot of different forms. It may be in the form of:
affidavits which set out the facts of the case (based on personal knowledge)
other court documents, such as financial statements or parenting statements
expert reports or oral evidence (giving testimony in the court room under oath or affirmation).
You may hear court staff, lawyers or judges telling someone that they have not provided the evidence to prove their case or that the evidence does not support the pleadings. This is not a good thing to hear, because it usually means that their case is not going well.
Be sure to get help from a lawyer who can help you write the pleadings properly, and put together the right evidence, or supporting documents, to properly prove the pleadings.