Everyone is entitled to represent themselves in court. The only exception in Nova Scotia is Bankruptcy Court, where individuals act through a Trustee in Bankruptcy.
Legal proceedings can be very complex - not only what goes on in the courtroom, but also the process leading up to your court appearance. As well, each type and level of court has different rules, procedures and court forms.
Most individuals who represent themselves do not have extensive legal training or a background in law. With that in mind, the following information explains the law and court procedures in a general way. As each person's case is different, the information provided is not intended as legal advice. If you are unfamiliar with legal and court procedures and the law as it applies to your case, you may want to reconsider self-representation.
In certain limited circumstances, individuals may qualify for a government-funded lawyer. For more information, please visit the websites for Dalhousie Legal Aid and Nova Scotia Legal Aid. For those who do not quality for legal aid, the Courts also offer Free Legal Clinics at courthouses in some areas of the province.
Wi-Fi Access at Courthouses
Guest Wi-Fi is now available at courthouses across Nova Scotia. This free service is for lawyers, self-represented individuals and others accessing services at the courthouse. Ask at the front counter and a temporary user name and password will be provided.
Canadian Judicial Council Resources for Self-Represented Litigants
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal hears appeals in civil, criminal and family matters from the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, and in criminal matters from the Provincial Court and the Youth Justice Court. It also hears appeals of decisions by tribunals, such as the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
The Court of Appeal does not re-try cases. It reviews the record of the trial or hearing to ensure the lower court or tribunal made no errors of law. The Court has the authority to dismiss the appeal, to allow the appeal and order a new trial or hearing, or to allow the appeal but change the order of the lower court or tribunal.
Whether you are the party considering an appeal (the Appellant) or the party being served with one (the Respondent), you probably have questions about what is expected of you. The following resources will introduce you to the appeal process and help guide you through the steps of the different types of appeals.
Electronic Filing of Court Documents
Documents that are required to be filed electronically and any other document permitted to be filed electronically with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal must meet certain requirements outlined in the Practice Directive before they will be accepted by the Court. The Registrar may refuse to accept an electronic filing that does not comply with the instructions in this practice directive or is otherwise unsuitable. In those instances, the Registrar may require a party to withdraw the filing, resubmit or refile the documents.
Other Helpful Resources
Virtual Court Proceedings
The Court of Appeal has developed a checklist of things for counsel and other court participants to consider before taking part in a fully virtual court proceeding or a court proceeding with remote appearances. If any aspect of your matter is proceeding by video conference on Microsoft Teams, you should review this checklist.
Identification of Pronouns and Titles by Court of Appeal Participants
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal welcomes parties, lawyers and other participants to advise the Court of their pronouns and titles. In doing so, the Court seeks to foster an inclusive environment for appeal proceedings in which all gender identities are recognized and respected.
All family law matters in Nova Scotia are now dealt with in the Supreme Court (Family Division). If you are planning to represent yourself in court on a family law matter, there are things you can do beforehand to help prepare and present your case.
A good place to start is with the Going to Court Workbook. It includes helpful worksheets and checklists for preparing your case, as well as information about:
- Getting legal advice;
- Proving your case;
- What to expect during the court hearing; and
- What happens at the end of the court hearing.
This workbook is a collaborative effort of the Nova Scotia Judiciary, the Court Services Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Justice, and Nova Scotia Legal Aid. It can also be found on on the Nova Scotia Family Law website.
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has also produced a helpful guide for making a motion for state-appointed counsel in child protection matters. This step is available only to those litigants who have been denied Legal Aid representation.
The Court also offers a series of practice tips intended to help family law lawyers and litigants representing themselves on family law matters across the province.
The Small Claims Court of Nova Scotia provides a timely, less formal and reasonably cost-effective forum for the resolution of certain types of claims, to a maximum of $25,000. This Court also functions as the initial forum for appeals from decisions of Residential Tenancy Officers, affecting both tenants and landlords, and disputes between lawyers and their clients regarding fees and other financial issues.
The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia has developed several innovative resources to help prospective litigants considering an action or who are representing themselves in Small Claims Court, including its public navigators project.
Small Claims Court Navigators can attend court with self-represented litigants as a form of support. They can also assist with:
- Court preparation
- Gathering evidence
- Filing forms
- Accessing legal information
Small Claims Court Navigators do not:
- Draft documents
- Provide legal advice
- Speak on your behalf in court
Individuals representing themselves in Small Claims Court are encouraged to review the resources below and those available on the Legal Information Society website before you fill out your claim forms online.
Once you have reviewed these resources, proceed with filling out the Interactive Small Claims Court Form and follow the steps for filing it with the Court.
When a person dies, someone must deal with that person’s estate, including the money, property, and possessions left behind.
The Probate Court provides for the protection of heirs, legatees, and estate creditors. It provides a forum for adjudication without monetary limits and holds the authority for the appointment of executors, administrators, appraisers, and guardians in relation to all estate matters within its jurisdiction. It also has the supervisory authority for the proper management and distribution of estate assets, the approval of legal fees, and the setting of executors'/administrators' commissions and expenses.
The following are some helpful resources (available in English and French) if you are planning to represent yourself in Probate Court:
Probate Court Costs and Fees
There are applicable fees and taxes set by the Province of Nova Scotia that you are required to pay for wills, estates and other Probate Court matters.