JUSTICE: Family Court services expanded for all Nova Scotians

(September 23, 2014) Families outside Halifax and Cape Breton will soon have better access to justice services with rule changes for family court.

The changes will expand the role and authority of family court officers so they can offer the same, broader range of services across the province.

"Nova Scotians expect that when they have a legal issue, they will have access to the same supports and services no matter where they live," said Justice Minister Lena Metlege Diab. "Families involved with the court are going through a difficult time to start with. We want the legal process to be simpler and, hopefully, help families resolve issues out of court."

The services include:

  • group information sessions
  • help completing applications and forms
  • help determining the right services at the right time
  • conflict assessment
  • help with the settlement process.

The court officers also have quasi-judicial authority and can issue orders, such as interim orders for child support, before families have to go to court.

In the past, families going through a separation in Sydney would have a different experience than a family in Pictou. In Sydney, a family court officer could help families with an out-of-court settlement. If that did not work, the officer would help them file court documents to ensure cases went through the system quickly and efficiently.

Officers did not have the authority to offer those services in areas such as Pictou.

"The ability of the court, through this new process, to provide orders that give early and meaningful relief to families going through a difficult time will go a long way to reducing uncertainty and stress for them and managing their costs," said lawyer Tim Daley. "I am convinced that this will help to increase access to justice for Nova Scotia families."

In June, the Department of Justice and its partners announced the Access to Justice Co-ordinating Committee, including the Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice and other leaders in the justice system. The goal is to find ways to make Nova Scotia's family, civil and criminal court systems more efficient and effective, less costly and easier to navigate.

For more information on the committee and its work, visit http://novascotia.ca/just/resources.asp .