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Self-represented litigant (SRL)

A party to a legal proceeding who is not represented by a lawyer. Sometimes referred to as ‘self-reps.’ SRLs can hire or get advice from a lawyer at any time.

Senior abuse

The infliction of harm on an older person. It involves any act, or failure to act, that jeopardizes the health and/or well-being of an older person. Senior abuse is sometimes also called elder abuse, or ‘abuse of an older adult.’


Occurs when you are in a conjugal (‘romantic’) relationship, like a marriage or common-law relationship, and you and your spouse or partner decide that you are going to live ‘separate and apart.’ This means that you are no longer going to live together as a couple.

Separation agreement

sometimes called ‘Minutes of Settlement’ - a written contract between two former partners or spouses in which you state that you are separated and that usually includes sections (‘clauses’) on custody of and access with children, support issues, and the division of assets and debts. Separation agreements are usually written by lawyers – the court does not prepare separation agreements.

You are not required to have a separation agreement put in place when you separate. If you do make one, then you may be able to apply to the court to ask for it to be registered in certain situations.  When a separation agreement is registered with the court, this makes it a court order, and it may be able to be enforced like a court order.  

You can apply to register your separation agreement with the court. If the judge approves the registration, this means that your separation agreement is now a court order, and if you ever want to change its terms in the future, you will have to apply to the court to do this. If you register your separation agreement with the court, this means that you can now have any child or spousal support payments go through the Maintenance Enforcement Program.

Separation date

Or ‘date of separation,’ is 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 in certain situations.


The delivery of court documents to the required person, usually to give them notice of a legal proceeding. See also ‘Personal service.'

Service address

See ‘Designated address’

Settlement conference

An ‘off the record’ meeting with a judge (usually in a board room) who is not going to be hearing the trial. The parties briefly explain their positions on each issue to the judge, and negotiation on these issues may take place. The judge often will give a brief opinion based on how he/she thinks the case could be resolved, or what the outcome would be if heard at a trial. This process is voluntary - both parties must agree to go to a settlement conference. Settlement conferences are generally offered in all Supreme Court (Family Division) and Family Court sites.

Shared custody

See ‘Custody’

Specified access

See ‘Access’

Split custody

See ‘Custody’

Spousal support

Money paid by one spouse to another to contribute to the others’ living expenses. The support can be paid either by a set amount every month or one lump sum. 


 People who are married to each other. Under the Provincial Parenting and Support Act, spouses are also defined as:

  • domestic partners or former domestic partners under the Vital Statistics Act
  • partners who lived together for at least 2 years
  • partners who lived together and have a child together


Statement of Expenses

A court document used to set out all of the person’s expenses. This document is usually completed by both parties when addressing:

  • Child support in an amount other than that set out by the Child Support Guidelines
  • Spousal support
  • A division of property
  • May also be used in other situations
Statement of Income

A document used in the Family Court, Supreme Court or Supreme Court (Family Division) to set out all sources of income for a person. It is required when addressing:

  • Child support (from one or both of the parties)
  • Spousal support (from both of the parties)
  • A division of property (from both of the parties)
  • May also be used in other situations

Completing this document requires that a number of records be attached, such as pay stubs and income tax returns and notices of assessment or reassessment.


A court document that requires a person to give evidence at a hearing or trial

Substituted service

A way to make sure a person has notice of a court proceeding if he or she cannot be found or is trying to avoid being served with legal documents, like a Petition for Divorce. Substituted service requires an application to the court to ask to serve the party in a way other than personal service. You must prove that you have taken all reasonable steps to try to find the other party.

Summary Advice Counsel

A lawyer who assists people who need legal advice on a family law matter, but who do not have a lawyer. The Summary Advice lawyer provides basic legal advice, free of charge, regardless of how much you make or where you get your income. This service is available in several locations throughout Nova Scotia, including Annapolis, Antigonish, Amherst, Bridgewater, Halifax, Kentville, Pictou, Port Hawkesbury, Sydney, Truro, Windsor and Yarmouth.  Your case or issue must be somehow related to the court where the Summary Advice lawyer is located. For example, if you are making an application to the court in Halifax, you should book an appointment with the lawyer in Halifax.


A legal argument made to the judge in court at the end of a hearing or trial

Supervised access

See ‘Access’

Supervised exchange

Occurs when a neutral third party is responsible for collecting the child or children from one parent, and escorting the children to the access parent for their visit, so that the parents do not come into contact with each other.


See ‘Child support’ or ‘Spousal support’

Supreme Court

The court that hears divorce cases and decides division of property issues for spouses living outside of the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton. Divorce variation applications may also be dealt with in Supreme Court. Custody, parenting time, contact time and interaction, child support and spousal support are dealt with by the Family Court in these jurisdictions, if the parties are not divorced. For the courts in Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton see ‘Supreme Court (Family Division).’

Supreme Court (Family Division)

The court that hears all family law cases in the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton. These courts are also called the ‘Family Divisions’ or ‘unified family courts,’ and are located in Halifax, Sydney, and Port Hawkesbury.

Swearing an oath

The process of swearing on a holy book (like the Bible, the Qur’an, the Torah) that everything in a document is true. A lawyer, Commissioner of Oaths or Notary Public must witness the person signing the document, and must sign the document as a witness.