Divorce - After it is final
Q- When can I remarry?
Unless it is appealed, a Divorce Order usually becomes final on the 31st day after the date it is issued. Anytime after the 31st day, you can request a Certificate of Divorce from the court. You will need to confirm that you have not received a Notice of Appeal relating to the Divorce Order. You will need the Certificate of Divorce to get a marriage licence. If you misplace your Certificate of Divorce, you can get another from the court.
Keep in mind that the Vital Statistics division of Service Nova Scotia takes five working days to issue a marriage licence from the date that you apply.
Q- How long do I have to pay child support?
The Divorce Act requires child support to be paid until each child turns 19, unless the child is no longer dependent. You may be required to pay child support for children older than 19 if they are still in school or are still dependent because of an illness, disability, or some other cause.
If you pay child support under a court order, you must continue to pay child support unless your spouse agrees that you can stop paying it, or you get a court order terminating child support.
Q- Now that the divorce is final, is there anything else I should do?
Yes. Here is a list of some of the things you should do:
* review your separation agreement and make sure that you have divided all of your property and done everything that is required by the agreement;
* see an accountant and find out about the different tax deductions, exemptions, benefits and changes available to you as a result of your separation;
* If you and your spouse agreed to divide a pension from employment, contact the pension plan administrator to find out what to do next;
* Contact the Canada Pension Plan about credit splitting or call the Department of Social Development at 1-800-277-9914;
* Review your will and change it if necessary (click here for information about how divorce affects a will);
* Review your insurance policies and change the beneficiary or apply for more insurance if necessary;
* Review your RRSP and change the beneficiary if necessary;
* If you have given your spouse a power of attorney or power to consent to medical treatment on your behalf under the Personal Directives Act or Medical Consent Act , you will need to decide whether to revoke (cancel) this power or give it to someone else.
Enforcing the terms of your divorce
Q- What is the Maintenance Enforcement Program?
Nova Scotia has a Maintenance Enforcement Program to help get support payments from spouses or parents who are reluctant to pay. The Program can help you get support payments owed (called arrears) and help to ensure you get your support payments the month that they're due.
The Director of Maintenance Enforcement has the power to issue garnishments to income sources (take part of your spouse's pay cheque or government cheque before he or she receives it), put a lien on a home or land, seize bank accounts, revoke or suspend driving privileges in Nova Scotia, and the power to require your former spouse to answer questions about his or her finances.
All support orders are automatically signed up for the Maintenance Enforcement Program unless the spouses agree in writing to leave the program. If you are on income assistance, you may not be permitted to leave the program.
If you are enrolled in the Maintenance Enforcement Program, your spouse sends cheques to the Program and the Program forwards them to you. If you accept any support payments directly from your spouse, it is your responsibility to let the Program know so they can properly credit your spouse with the payments.
You are not permitted to enforce the support order yourself while you are enrolled in the Program.
Q- My ex hasn't paid support as required by our divorce. How do I enforce this?
If you are not in the Maintenance Enforcement Program and you want to join, call 424-8032 in the Halifax Regional Municipality and ask for an enrollment kit. If you live outside the Halifax Regional Municipality, call 1-800-357-9248 (toll-free for residents outside Metro). You can join the program without your spouse's consent.
For more information about the Maintenance Enforcement Program call their 24- hour free information line at 424-0050 in Metro Halifax or 1-800-357-9248 elsewhere in Nova Scotia.
If you are not enrolled the Maintenance Enforcement Program, you must enforce the support order yourself. You should speak to a lawyer if you are considering this option.
Q- My support order is from another province or country. Can I join the Maintenance Enforcement Program?
Nova Scotia has agreements with every province and territory in Canada and with the United States and some other countries for the enforcement of support orders. You can register your support order with Nova Scotia's Maintenance Enforcement Program. They will not be able to enforce your order but will register your support order where your spouse lives, so the Maintenance Enforcement Program where your spouse lives can enforce the support order.
To register your support order, you will need an enrollment kit, including a completed declaration of arrears, and three certified copies of your support order (do not use photocopies - you can get certified copies from the court that issued the order). To order an enrollment kit, call 424-8032 in the Halifax Regional Municipality. If you live outside the Halifax Regional Municipality, call 1-800-357-9248 (toll-free for residents outside Metro).
Q- Should I join the Maintenance Enforcement Program?
It is up to you. If you are comfortable dealing directly with your spouse and your spouse pays the full amount of support on time each month, you probably don't need the Maintenance Enforcement Program.
Q- Can I opt out of the Maintenance Enforcement Program?
Yes. You and your spouse can agree in writing to leave the program. If you are on social assistance, you may be required to remain enrolled in the program.
Q- How can I enforce my court order for a division of property?
You will need to apply to the court that granted the order to have the order enforced.
There are some things you can do on your own. For example, if the order gives you ownership of a vehicle, you can take the order to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and they will register the vehicle in your name. If your former spouse will not give up the vehicle, you can ask the police to assist you.
Q- My ex isn't letting me see our children as required by our divorce. How do I enforce access?
First, you should keep detailed records of each time you are supposed to have access and write down whether you had access that day and what happened. Include as much detail as you can. If your spouse gave a reason for denying access, you should make a note of it. If the problem is ongoing, you can apply to the court to enforce the access order.
If your access order does not provide for access on specific dates and at specific times, the court can spell this out to help you enforce access. For example, instead of "reasonable access at reasonable times on reasonable notice," the court could order that you have access every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30 - 7:30p.m. and alternate weekends from Friday at 5:30p.m. to Sunday at 5:30p.m.. The court can also set out a summer and holiday access schedule. This type of access order is called a specified access order because the access is specific.
If you already have a specified access order and you are still having problems, you can call police to help you exercise access but this is a last resort. You should speak to a lawyer before calling police.
If your spouse still denies access, the court can find that your spouse is in contempt of court. Contempt of court means that your spouse has purposely disobeyed a court order without good cause. If the judge finds that this is the case, the judge can impose a fine or imprisonment on your spouse, though this is rare. In extreme cases, a judge may consider changing custody to resolve access problems.
Q- My ex threatened to take our children. What should I do?
Children are most vulnerable to abduction (being taken away) by a parent when the relationship between the parents is broken or troubled and the parent has ties to another country or province. It is easier to prevent a child abduction than it is to recover a child that has been taken.
You should speak to police, your lawyer, and the Consular Affairs Bureau at Foreign Affairs Canada as soon as possible. Foreign Affairs Canada publishes a detailed free booklet called International Child Abductions: A manual for parents.
Q- How do I change custody, access, child support, or spousal support?
The Divorce Act allows spouses or former spouses to vary custody, access, child support, and spousal support if there is a significant change in circumstances. Your first step should be to approach your former spouse and try to reach agreement. If you can agree on a change, you should put the change in writing. Review your separation agreement as some agreements have a section dealing with how to make changes. If there is nothing like that in your separation agreement, you will need to put what you've agreed to in writing. Both former spouses should then sign it, date it, and have an adult witness each former spouse's signature and sign to show that they witnesses it. You should both get legal advice before signing anything.
If you are having trouble reaching agreement, a family mediator may be able to help. For a referral, contact your lawyer, the Supreme Court (Family Division), or visit Family Mediation Nova Scotia or Family Mediation Canada website for a list of trained mediators.
If you and your former spouse cannot agree, you can apply to the court to vary custody, access, child support, or spousal support. A court officer may refer your case to mediation. Depending on your income, some of the cost of the mediation may be covered by the government. If this is unsuccessful, a judge will decide whether to grant the change you are asking for.
Q- How long will it take to vary my court order?
It depends on how complicated your application is. An application to increase or reduce child support, or to decide on access over summer holidays may only take a few months from start to finish. An application to change custody from one parent to the other may take a year or longer.
If your situation is an emergency, explain this to a court officer. The court has special procedures for dealing with emergencies.
Q- I gave up spousal support in my separation agreement but now I need it. Is it too late to apply?
It may be too late, but you should speak to a lawyer. The law relating to spousal support is changing rapidly. If the terms of your separation agreement were unreasonable when you agreed to them, or have become unreasonable because of changed circumstances, you may be able to apply for spousal support. Another factor the court will consider is whether you had legal advice before signing the separation agreement.
Q- Can I change the division of property in my separation agreement?
Probably not. Property is only divided once, and the division is usually final. Courts will only change the division of property in a separation agreement if the agreement was invalid or very unfair. If you now feel that your division of property is unfair, you should speak to a lawyer.