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Date assignment conference

A short appearance (usually 30 minutes) before the trial judge in a divorce matter, to get the file ready for trial. The date assignment conference has 3 main purposes: to ensure all required disclosure has been filed, to determine if any witnesses will be called at trial, and to determine how much time is necessary for trial.

Date of separation

The date when one or both spouses decide they will no longer live together as spouses. Sometimes this is also the date that one of the spouses moves out, but spouses can be separated and still live together.

Designated address

An address at which a person is guaranteeing they will be able to receive court documents. When a person gives their designated address, they are certifying that anything sent to that address by the court or by the other party will be received by them.  Some courts call this a ‘service address.’ A designated address does not have to be the person’s home address (for example, another address, like a work address, can be used).

Direct examination

Direct examination is when your lawyer is asking you, or one of your witnesses, questions when you are testifying in court. Direct examination also occurs when the other party’s lawyer is asking the other party, or one of their witnesses, questions in court. If you do not have a lawyer, then you would ask questions of your own witnesses when conducting a direct examination. Direct examination is sometimes just called ‘direct.’


Parties sometimes hold Examinations for Discovery (Discoveries) where the parties are given an opportunity to question each other or each other’s witnesses, under oath, before a trial. The discovery allows the parties to narrow the issues and focus their trial on contested matters (those that the parties do not agree on). In family law, discoveries are normally only held in divorce cases, unless a judge orders otherwise.

Division of property

Division of property is how spouses divide what they own, and includes division of their debts. Each province has its own laws governing property division on separation. Nova Scotia’s law is called the Matrimonial Property Act. It applies to married spouses and registered domestic partners, but does not apply to common law spouses. Spouses who cannot agree can apply to the court to divide their property after separation or death of one spouse.


The legal end to a marriage. You have to apply to the court to become divorced – divorce never happens automatically in Canada, no matter how long you are separated from your spouse.

There are basically two types of divorce proceedings – uncontested and contested.

An uncontested divorce occurs when both you and your spouse agree on all of the outstanding issues resulting from your separation and divorce. This means that you have both agreed on absolutely everything - parenting arrangements for your children, child and spousal support issues, and how to divide your property, assets, debts and pensions. When your divorce is uncontested, you will likely never see the inside of a courtroom – you will file paperwork, and your divorce will be processed ‘behind the scenes’ by court staff and a judge. Uncontested divorces include ones filed as a Joint Application for Divorce, an Application for Divorce by Written Agreement, or a Petition for Divorce where the Respondent does not file an Answer to contest.

A contested divorce means that you and your spouse do not agree on some or all of the outstanding issues resulting from your separation and divorce. A contested divorce starts when one party, the ‘Petitioner,’ files a Petition for Divorce, and the other party, the ‘Respondent,’ files an Answer to indicate that they are contesting something that is being asked for by the Petitioner.

Divorce Act

The law that applies to all divorces filed in Canada. No matter which province or territory your divorce is started in, it is dealt with under the Divorce Act. The Divorce Act applies to heterosexual and same-sex couples who were married and are now divorcing.

When you are divorced, and in the future need to apply to the court to change your Corollary Relief Order (the order issued as part of your divorce), you will often still use the Divorce Act to apply for this change (‘variation’).

Divorce Order

An order from the court that says that two people are divorced. Unless one of the parties appeals the divorce, the Divorce Order becomes effective after 31 days. The Divorce Order is often issued at the same time as the Corollary Relief Order.


Can refer to a brief courtroom appearance in front of a judge in the Family Court, or to the schedule of court matters being heard on any given day.

Domestic violence

Also called relationship or dating violence, spousal abuse, family violence, intimate partner violence or gender-based violence.  Domestic violence is violence or abuse that can happen between people who are related to each other or who have relationships with each other. It includes violence, abuse or intimidation by one person over another which causes fear, physical, and or psychological harm. It may be a single act or a series of acts forming a pattern of abuse.