The Family Division of the Supreme Court was established in Nova Scotia in 1999 to deal with all family law matters arising within the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and on Cape Breton Island. At that time, family law matters (except for divorce and division of property) in areas outside the HRM and Cape Breton were dealt with by the Family Court of Nova Scotia. Divorce and division of property in communities outside the HRM and Cape Breton were handled by the Supreme Court.
Since March 2020, the Family Division of the Supreme Court has gradually expanded its jurisdiction to include all areas of the province. As of Jan. 1, 2022, all family law matters in the province are being dealt with as per Rule 59 of the Civil Procedure Rules of Nova Scotia. Sometimes referred to as the Unified Family Court, this new model improves access to family law services, reduces delays and makes the process clearer and less stressful for everyone involved.
The Supreme Court (Family Division) provides a wide range of services for individuals and families. Some are intended to give parties an opportunity to resolve family disputes outside of the court process, where appropriate. Others can help reduce the stress and tension that families often experience when going through separation or divorce or dealing with family conflicts. Information relating to crisis and post-separation counselling and health care professionals is also available.
Child Protection, The Court and Your Family
In Nova Scotia, the Children and Family Services Act is the law that protects children who are being abused or neglected or are at serious risk of being abused or neglected. Under this law, people who believe a child is being harmed or at risk of being harmed are required to report that information to a local child protection agency. These agencies are located throughout Nova Scotia.
A child protection agency is required to review the report and decide whether an investigation needs to take place. A social worker will make decisions about what to do next and conduct any investigations that are needed. The police and other professionals may also be involved to help. Parents and other people who know what happened may be interviewed.
The Supreme Court (Family Division) offers resources to help parents understand what happens when the Child Protection Agency becomes involved in their family's life. These resources are available in English, French and Mi'kmaq.
Please note that the following resources are legal information only, not legal advice. Individuals involved in a child protection proceeding are encouraged to consult with a lawyer if they have questions.
The video is divided into seven short chapters. To better understand the court process, the chapters are presented in the same order that things will happen in real life. Please note that the content of the video is directed at adults. The Court does not recommend watching the video with your children. Social workers will help your children understand what is happening to them.
It is recommended that you watch all seven chapters in chronological order the first time you view the video. After that, you can watch as many times as you need to and come back to the video as often as you like while you make your way through each step of the court process. It may also help you to watch the video with your lawyer, a social worker, or a support person.
Access the Child Protection Booklet:
Even with these resources, the Court appreciates that this is can be a confusing and troubling time for you and your family. Rest assured, there are ways to get your children back if they have been taken into custody, or to keep them if your family is being supervised by the Child Protection Agency. With the right attitude, these videos, the information in the accompanying booklet, and the help of a lawyer, it can be done.
A mediator is a neutral third party who can help you and the other person identify issues in dispute, discuss these issues and come up with possible solutions. The people involved in mediation are responsible for making the decisions about each issue. The mediator doesn't have the power to make an order or to force you to agree. Also, the mediator’s role is not to impose the law.
There may be a mediation service available through the Supreme Court (Family Division). Check with your local court to see if mediation is available. Usually, you must have an active court application to be referred to mediation through the court.
You can also access mediation services by hiring a private mediator. You should look into the mediator’s background and qualifications.
Conciliation is a process where both parties, either in separate meetings or together, meet with a trained court officer who will help the parties to focus on their situation and consider the appropriate options available to them in their court case.
Conciliation is mandatory in some courts for certain types of applications. The conciliator helps the parties to sort out what issues need to be resolved, makes sure both parties filed the necessary court documents, helps to reduce conflict, and helps the parties to negotiate a settlement of their issues without going to court.
The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division) eCourt service is an online platform for judicial adjudication, decision making, case management and settlement conferencing. Developed in part with the assistance of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the National Family Law Program, this service:
- is available province-wide;
- is for matters involving counsel for both parties (the goal is to eventually include access for self-represented litigants);
- is used to solve simple, discrete issues and case management; and
- provides legal counsel the opportunity to engage in real time, online exchanges with a judge for dispute resolution.
Counsel interested in receiving training on the eCourt service or more information should email the eCourt Administrator at eCourtAdministrator@courts.ns.ca.
E-Court Training Materials
A settlement conference is an option for parties who want to negotiate a resolution and make their own decisions about their situation. Its purpose is to determine if the parties can reach agreements on the issues themselves with the help of a judge.
It is a voluntary process, which means that the parties must each agree to participate. This is because a settlement conference requires the active participation of all parties to find solutions that are acceptable to everyone involved. Once the parties agree to go to a settlement conference, there are certain documents they must file (the court will tell you what needs to be filed).
Parent Information Program (PIP)
Parenting Information is a program that you will complete when an application has been or may be made to the court that involves a child or children, particularly where parenting arrangements (decision-making responsibility and parenting time or contact time), are being addressed. This program is mandatory when an application is filed in the Supreme Court (Family Division) (per Civil Procedure Rule 59.17).
The main goals of the Parenting Information Program (PIP) are:
- To increase parents’ awareness of the impact of parental conflict on children
- To improve communication between parents about their children’s needs
- To provide new ways to avoid placing children in the middle of issues between their parents.
You can also attend PIP voluntarily. PIP provides information to parents who are experiencing separation or divorce, or who are parenting apart.
Family Law Information Program (FLIP)
The Family Law Information Program includes the Nova Scotia Family Law website and the Family Law Information Program Centres (FLIP Centres). These centres, previously called the Family Law Information Centres, or 'FLICs,' are available at the Halifax Supreme Court (Family Division) and Sydney Supreme Court (Family Division).
The FLIP Centres are information centres open to the public, where on-site court staff members are available to answer general family law questions, and clients can access written materials on family law issues and court processes.
After 16 years on the Bench, The Hon. Lawrence I. O'Neil, Associate Chief Justice of the Family Division has elected supernumerary (part-time) status.
After almost 15 years serving on the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division), The Honourable Justice Elizabeth Jollimore is retiring.
This month marks five years since a new courthouse opened in Wagmatcook First Nation.