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Family Law... Bad Advice Is Everywhere

Internet sites from other provinces or countries, anonymous forums and websites hosted by specific interest groups often raise false expectations and/or do not give information that applies in Nova Scotia.

Kay Rhodenizer – October 2019

Clients often arrive at lawyers’ offices with lots of misinformation about separation and divorce obtained from family, friends, co-workers and the Internet.

The facts of each case are different and you may not have been told all of them, so what happened to others may not be what will happen in your separation. Internet sites from other provinces or countries, anonymous forums and websites hosted by specific interest groups often raise false expectations and/or do not give information that applies in Nova Scotia.

There are several Internet sites that calculate what basic monthly child and/or spousal support might be, but they tend to oversimplify. They rarely allow you to input information that is necessary and used in the more detailed calculations done by lawyers and that judges expect. 

The type of income each partner earns affects support, some examples being dividend income taxed at lower rates than salary,  non-taxable income such as some disability payments and unreported cash income.  There are many other possible factors that can affect what support is payable, especially spousal support.  Most online calculators cannot calculate other potential child support obligations for things such as uninsured health care costs and post-secondary school expenses.  Among other things, before deciding each parent’s share of these, the net cost after any applicable tax credits must first be determined.

The applicable written laws (“legislation”) depend on where you and your partner live and if you were legally married or in a registered or unregistered common-law relationship. Each Canadian province has different legislation dealing with division of family property, parenting and child and spousal support if couples are separating rather than divorcing. The Canada-wide (“federal”) Divorce Act can later apply to married couples to determine parenting, child and spousal support.  There is no legislation that determines division of property and responsibility for debts when non-registered common-law couples separate. This can only be found by reading decided cases (“case law”).

In Nova Scotia relevant laws can therefore be the Matrimonial Property Act, the Parenting and Support Act, the provincial and/or federal Child Support Guidelines the federal Spousal Support Guidelines and sometimes the Divorce Act. Additionally, dividing Canada Pension and employment pensions on separation will involve understanding at least two legislative acts and the terms of the employment pension plan. All  legislation has been interpreted/explained in case law,  so without a thorough knowledge of what applicable cases say, you won’t have a complete picture of how a judge might decide your case.

When looking for Internet information it is critical to be sure to look at legitimate websites that discuss the applicable law. Good free sources are the Federal Department of Justice (www.justice.gc.ca) and for Nova Scotia www:nsfamilylaw.ca and www.courts.ns.ca. Cases and legislation from every province are on www.canlii.org.

Many Nova Scotia law firm websites provide useful commentary in blogs or articles, but the best source of information is a discussion with an experienced family law lawyer who has all the relevant facts about your specific situation.

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