Spousal Support Orders FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting or Changing a Spousal Support Order:

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 party live in Nova Scotia, you can contact the court nearest to you to start the court process. The Supreme Court (Family Division), will have an intake process, where you can get help from a court officer to start your application.

If the other person lives outside of Nova Scotia and you would like to establish or change 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.

If you are addressing spousal support issues as part of an ongoing (not yet final) divorce proceeding, you will deal with these issues wherever the divorce was filed.

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 or the other party’s situation has changed since the last order was made, and you need to change something in your order as a result. This issue can be complicated to figure out as the change normally cannot have been known about at the time you got your last order. Having advice from a lawyer is very helpful in these situations.

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

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

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 situation, 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. You cannot have known about the change at the time the last order was made.

For applications to change spousal 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 other party’s income changed;

  • the other party’s circumstances have changed, for example, they are now remarried.

That depends on your situation. Your order may already say how long the support is to be paid, with an end date for the support. Your order may indicate that if a certain event occurs, the order can be reviewed at that time. For example, the order may say that the spousal support is to be reviewed if the party receiving support becomes employed or gets remarried. You will probably have to make an application to the court for the order to be changed or reviewed.

If you are not sure whether you should make an application to change or stop your spousal 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 ISO process is not available to you.

Click here to read more about the ISO process.

You should get advice from a lawyer before filing any application.