Online Dispute Resolution for Family Legal Matters a First in Canada
Nova Scotians now have improved access to the courts for resolving family legal matters.
The province’s new eCourt pilot program provides an online platform where legal counsel for both parties are able to engage in real time, online exchanges with a judge for dispute resolution. The program, which began in July, is the first online judicial dispute resolution service in the country.
“This innovative and transformative project will provide quicker and more direct access to resolutions for those experiencing divorce, child custody or spousal or child support issues,” said Mark Furey, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “By providing legal counsel with expedited and more efficient ways for advancing their cases, we are able to improve the family justice system and better support Nova Scotia families.”
eCourt offers an alternative to the traditional in-person court process, which for some can be confrontational. The online platform will also better support those who would otherwise need to arrange for childcare, transportation, time off from work or other accommodations to attend court in person.
Additional features of the program include electronic filing and exchange of motions, affidavits and other court documents, virtual conferencing and the creation of an electronic record of all online proceedings.
It is important that Nova Scotia’s Family Justice System be affordable and accessible. This new online judicial process offers a less costly, more focused and quicker dispute resolution process.
Justice R. James Williams, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division)
Nova Scotia Digital Service is excited to partner with the judiciary and the Department of Justice to support the digital transformation of how court services can be provided. eCourt is yet another example of how the province is making it safer, simpler and easier for Nova Scotians to access the programs and services they need, and in a way they expect today, digitally.
Natasha Clarke, chief digital officer, Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services
The eCourt pilot represents an important innovation for the family court system, which will strengthen access to justice for many Nova Scotian families by providing a more focused and less costly dispute resolution option.
Charlene Moore, QC, service delivery director, Nova Scotia Legal Aid
- the eCourt pilot is currently only available for those represented by legal counsel. In future it will include access for self-represented litigants
- the pilot is being launched with judges of the Unified Family Court (Family Division) in Halifax, with plans to expand to other areas later this fall
- Civil Procedure Rule 59A gives judges authority, where the court, parties and counsel agree, to use alternative dispute resolution processes
- the eCourt pilot will be used to solve simple family legal issues
- initial outcomes from the pilot show a more than 65 per cent improvement in processing time for case management conferences
- the project is partially funded through a reinvestment of provincial savings resulting from the federal government’s expansion of Unified Family Courts across the province
Information about Nova Scotia Family Law: https://www.nsfamilylaw.ca/