Province proposes changes to court process surrounding separation, divorce

The provincial government is aiming to expand a unified family court for people who are separating or divorcing across Nova Scotia.

Expanded court would require up to 7 new federal judges

Mark Furey proposed an amendment to the Judicature Act on Friday that would expand a unified family court system across Nova Scotia. (CBC)

The provincial government is aiming to expand a unified family court for people who are separating or divorcing across Nova Scotia.

Changes to the Judicature Act proposed by Justice Minister Mark Furey on Friday would allow all Nova Scotians to have family separation matters heard in one court, rather than two.

The single court, The Supreme Court Family Division, would hear both family and property issues.

In some areas of the province, those matters are divided into two courts — family court and Supreme Court — causing delays, confusion and higher legal fees, said Furey.

The unified court is already available in Halifax, Sydney and Port Hawkesbury.

Up to seven new judges required for expansion

The changes would require up to seven new federal judges to be appointed, said Furey.

The additional judicial appointments have already been approved by the federal government. 

"Those who are turning to our courts are already dealing with difficult circumstances," said Furey.

"It's up to us to ensure their experience with our justice system is supportive and responsive to their needs and that their matters are dealt with swiftly and effectively."

The current system creates a great amount of duplication, said Ann Levangie a lawyer for Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services.

Supreme Court Family Division offers programs to settle family separations without trials.

Family Lawyer Shelley Hounsell-Gray said the court expansion would improve access to separation programs in rural areas. (CBC)

Family lawyer Shelley Hounsell-Gray said she is excited to see those programs expand to rural areas.

"These front-end, user-friendly and family-focused resolutions are the primary concern and focus of the unified family court system," said Hounsell-Gray who practises with Blackburn Law in Bedford.

With files from Michael Gorman

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