1 Understanding the Law A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia 4th edition Edited by Cynthia L. Chewter and Renée Hartleib
2 A Note To Readers While NSAWL made every attempt to ensure that the information in this Guide was accurate as of the publication date, laws frequently change and different circumstances can lead to different legal outcomes. This Guide contains general legal information only and is not intended to serve as a replacement for professional legal or other advice. NSAWL specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use or application of any information contained in this Guide. Do not rely on this information without first consulting a lawyer to learn how the law applies to your situation. To obtain a referral for a low cost ($20+HST) half hour consultation with a lawyer, contact the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia at or toll free at Copyright 2002 Nova Scotia Association of Women and the Law (NSAWL) ISBN All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a retrieval system of any kind, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder, except that extracts from the text of this publication may be used for educational or other informational purposes provided that written acknowledgment is given to the Nova Scotia Association of Women and the Law. Applications may be sent to: NSAWL is a provincial caucus of the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL). For more information about NAWL, visit Production Credits Editing: Cynthia L. Chewter and Renée Hartleib Layout: Brenda Conroy Printing: Transcontinental Printing Web Atlantic Ltd. Printed and bound in Canada Nova Scotia Association of Women and the Law P.O. Box Scotia Square Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3S1
3 Dedication This edition of Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia is dedicated to the memory of Pattie Snow- Parker ( ), who was instrumental in the creation of the first edition of this Guide in Patricia Anne Snow was born on November 17, 1943, and grew up in the orange groves of Orange County just south of Los Angeles in Santa Ana, California. She attended California State Teachers College and graduated with a Bachelor of Education. Pattie taught high school in California and New York. In 1967, she joined the Peace Corps and lived in Nigeria, where she helped set up educational programs and taught English in rural communities. In 1970, Pattie moved to Nova Scotia, where she lived for the remainder of her life. She took a position with the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the mid-1970s, where she was administrator for the Off Campus Studies Program and World Encounter Program and Coordinator of NSCAD s Loft Studies Program in New York City. She was a tireless helpmate and advisor to many students over her 15 years in this position and a long-time friend to many. Pattie was a member of the Nova Scotia Council of Women and many other community organizations, including NSAWL and the Community Planning Association of Canada. She served on a number of boards in Nova Scotia over the years. In 1989, Pattie began her Masters degree in Women s Studies and Education at Dalhousie University, with a thesis directed toward health and the environment for women. Pattie always felt that the position of women in society could be improved through education and the sharing of knowledge. The three principal involvements in her professional and community life were education, health, and the environment. She embraced her friends, loved her family, and cared for the earth. Pattie Snow-Parker died on March 11, 1990, at the age of 46.
4 Acknowledgements The fourth edition of Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia is a project of the Nova Scotia Association of Women and the Law (NSAWL), a provincial caucus of the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL). The NSAWL project committee members were: Janice Brown, Maria Franks, Darlene Jamieson, Brenda Pate, Diane Rowe, and Vicki Stokoe. Cynthia L. Chewter and Renée Hartleib did project coordination, writing, and editing, Cari Patterson coordinated and edited an earlier draft of the manuscript, Monica McQueen updated research and Robbie Rudnicki reviewed a draft of the manuscript for clear language. We would like to thank the following people who offered advice on updating the text, suggested improvements, and reviewed the content for legal accuracy: Janice Beaton, Terry Bartlett-Visser, Janice Brown, Lynn Carey Hartwell, Clare Christie, Helen Foote, Krista Forbes, Maria Franks, Andrea Gillis, Diana Ginn, Darlene Jamieson, Mona Lynch, Brenda MacDonald, Francine McIntyre, Mary McLennan, Monica McQueen, Lara J. Morris, Martina Munden, Tanya Nicholson, Brenda Pate, Lynn Reierson, Viola Robinson, Diane Rowe, Heather Sanford, Maureen Shebib, Ann Marie Simmons, Jane Spurr, Vicki Stokoe and David Thompson. Special thanks go to the following women s advocates and community members who reviewed draft sections of the Guide for user-friendliness: Carol Charlebois (Metro Nonprofit Housing), Elsie Cholette (Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunity), Gloria Christmas (Mi kmaq Justice Institute), Christine Corston (Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women), Tim Crooks (Phoenix Youth Programs), Mary DeWolfe (Chrysalis House), Lesley Frank (Great Beginnings Annapolis Valley-Hants Community Action Program for Children), Yvonne Hanson (Youth Alternative Society), Kathleen Jennex (Coverdale Courtwork Services), Lois LeBlanc (Yarmouth Anti-Poverty Group), Meredith Matthews (Small Options), Debbie Reimer (Annapolis Valley-Hants Community Action Program for Children), Myrna Slater (Canadian Pensioners Concerned), Irene Smith (Avalon Sexual Assault Centre), Jackie Stevens (Avalon Sexual Assault Centre), Rollie Thomson (Dalhousie Law School), Lisa Tobin (Planned Parenthood Metro Clinic), Kim Vance (Women s Employment Outreach), Jo-Anne White (Metro Immigrant Settlement Association), and Cheryl Clarke (Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton). NSAWL would also like to thank Robert Parker for his assistance with our dedication of this edition to Pattie Snow- Parker. NSAWL gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Nova Scotia legal community, from those who contributed to this edition in memory of Pattie Snow-Parker, and from the Court Challenges Program of Canada.
5 Contents f Contents Preface to the Fourth Edition...9 Families and Relationships Introduction...10 The Terms Used in this Guide...10 Contracts and Relationships...10 Cohabitation Agreements...10 Separation Agreements...10 Independent Legal Advice...10 Marriage Taxation...11 Inheritance...11 Survivor Benefits...11 Spousal Support...11 Custody, Access, and Child Support...11 Property Division...11 Debts...12 The Marriage Licence and Ceremony...12 Changing your Name or Not...12 Common Law Relationships Name Change...13 Taxation...13 Inheritance...13 Survivor Benefits...13 Spousal Support...14 Custody, Access, and Child Support...14 Property Division...14 Registered Domestic Partnerships Establishing a Registered Domestic Partnership...15 Name Change...15 Taxation...15 Inheritance...15 Survivor Benefits...15 Spousal Support...15 Custody, Access, and Child Support...16 Property Division...16 Ending a Registered Domestic Partnership...16 Lesbian Relationships Homophobia and Discrimination...17 Spousal Relationships...17 Children...17 Challenging Discriminatory Laws...18 Separation Reaching a Separation Agreement or Going to Court.19 Hiring a Lawyer or Mediator or Both?...20 The Lawyer s Role...20 Collaborative Family Law...20 The Mediator s Role...21 Courts...21 Divorce Grounds for Divorce...22 Who Can Apply for Divorce?...22 Do You Need a Lawyer?...22 If You Can t Afford a Lawyer...22 Reconciliation and Counselling...23 Filing for Divorce...23 Uncontested Divorce...23 Contested Divorce...23 Annulment...24 Division of Property The Matrimonial Property Act The Matrimonial Home...25 Business Assets...26 Debts...26 How the Division of Property Works...26 Equal Division of Matrimonial Assets...26 Unequal Division of Matrimonial Assets...27 Pension Division...27 Valuing a Pension...27 Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)...27 Division of Property for Common Law Couples...28 Protecting Yourself and Your Property...28 Status Indians and their Families...28 Indian Status...28 Division of Property on a Reserve...29 Spousal Support What Factors Does the Court Consider?...30 Married Spouses Who Have Petitioned for Divorce 30 Married Spouses Who Have Not Petitioned for Divorce, Registered Domestic Partners, and Common Law Spouses...30 If You Are on Social Assistance...31 Variation of Spousal Support Orders...31 Children of Separated Parents Custody...32 The Best Interests of the Children...32 Types of Custody...33 Sole Custody...33 Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia, 4th edition 5
6 f Contents Joint Custody...33 Shared Custody...33 Split Custody...34 Variation of Custody...34 If You Plan to Move Away...34 Access...34 Problems with Access...35 If You Were Abused...35 If the Non-Custodial Parent Fails to Exercise Access 35 Denying Access...35 Variation of Access...36 When Others Apply for Custody or Access...36 Guardianship of Your Children if You Die...36 Child Support The Child Support Guidelines Add-On Expenses...37 Undue Hardship...38 Variation of Child Support...38 Paternity Suits...38 Enforcement of Child and Spousal Support...38 Children Your Child s Name...40 Child Care...40 Adoption...40 How to Adopt...40 Private Adoptions...40 Agency Adoptions...41 International Adoptions...41 If You Place Your Child for Adoption...41 Consent to Adoption...41 Dispensing with Consent...42 Finding Your Family Members After Adoption...42 Children in Need of Protection What is Child Abuse?...43 Child Protection Agencies...43 The Duty to Inform Authorities...43 Protective Services...43 If You go to Jail...44 Voluntary Temporary Care...44 Children Taken into Care...44 The Stages of a Child Protection Hearing...44 The Interim Hearing...44 The Protection Hearing...45 The Disposition Hearing...45 Orders for Temporary Care...45 Orders for Permanent Care...45 Parents Rights...46 Family Violence What Is Abuse?...47 Signs of Abuse...47 The Cycle of Violence...47 Spousal Abuse affects Children...48 Assault and the Criminal Law...48 If You or Your Children Have Been Assaulted or Threatened...48 After Your Spouse Is Arrested...48 Being a Witness in Court...49 Victim Impact Statements...49 Sentences for Spousal Assaults...49 Peace Bonds...50 How to Apply for a Peace Bond...50 The Peace Bond Hearings...50 Drawbacks of Peace Bonds...51 Emergency Protection Orders...51 Getting Help From Shelters or Other Organizations...52 Stalking and Harassment...52 Sexual Assault Where To Get Help and Support...53 Making a Complaint to Police...53 The Medical-Legal Examination...54 The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program...54 Who Represents You in Court?...54 A Sexual Assault Trial...55 Consent or No Consent...55 Counselling and Therapy Records...55 The Outcome of the Trial...56 Suing the Person Who Assaulted You...56 Women in Conflict with the Law Your Rights...57 If You Are Arrested...57 Getting a Lawyer...58 Support for Women Going to Court...59 Aboriginal Women...59 Types of Offences...59 Your First Court Appearance...59 The Bail Hearing...59 If You Are Arrested on the Weekend...60 Entering Your Plea...60 Plea Bargaining...60 If You Plead Guilty...61 If You Plead Not Guilty...61 The Trial...61 A Criminal Record...62 Adult Diversion...62 A Discharge...62 A Pardon...63 Types of Sentences Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia, 4th edition
7 Contents f Absolute or Conditional Discharge...63 Fine or Restitution...63 Probation...63 Suspended Sentence...63 Conditional Sentence...63 Intermittent Sentence...64 Provincial Jail Sentence...64 Federal Jail Sentence...64 Prostitution...64 Shoplifting...64 Money Matters Taxes...65 Spousal Support and Child Support...65 Child Care Expenses...66 Personal Tax Credits...66 Child Tax Benefit...67 HST Credit...67 Income Tax Changes...67 Status Indians...67 Credit, Debts and Loans...67 Getting Credit...67 Your Credit History...67 Discrimination...68 Co-Signing a Loan...68 Shared Financial Arrangements...68 Small Claims Court...68 Borrowing Money...69 Buying on Time...69 Collection Agencies...69 If You Owe More Than You Can Pay...69 Debtor Assistance Program...69 Debt Consolidation...69 Consolidation Order...70 Consumer Proposal...70 Orderly Payment of Debts Program...70 Bankruptcy...70 Poverty and the Law Introduction...71 Social Assistance...71 Are you Eligible?...71 What Can Make You Ineligible?...72 Housing Renting an Apartment...73 Being Accepted as a Tenant...73 The Landlord-Tenant Relationship...73 Notice to Quit...74 Security of Tenure...74 Rent Increases...74 Filing a Complaint...74 Co-op Housing...75 Buying a Home...75 Public Housing...76 Non-Profit Housing...76 Emergency Housing...76 Employment Federal and Provincial Labour Standards Codes...77 Nova Scotia Labour Standards Code...77 Minimum Wage...77 Pay Equity...77 Vacations...77 Paid Holidays...77 Pregnancy and Parental Leave...78 Losing Your Job...78 Complaint Procedure...79 Bringing a Civil Lawsuit...79 Employment Insurance...80 Appealing an EI decision...81 Workers Compensation...81 Canada Pension Plan Disability Pensions...81 Employment Counselling for Women...81 Self-Employment...81 Sexual Harassment...82 What Can You Do About Sexual Harassment?...82 Retirement...83 Human Rights Introduction...84 Direct or Indirect Discrimination...84 Exceptions...85 The Nova Scotia Human Rights Act Complaint Procedure...85 The Canadian Human Rights Act Complaint Procedure...87 Employment Equity...87 The Charter The Court Challenges Program of Canada...88 The Right to Vote Health Choice, Consent, Confidentiality...90 Minors...90 Birth Control...90 Pregnancy...90 If You Are Considering an Abortion...90 If You Are Considering Adoption...91 Reproductive Technology...91 Home Births and Midwifery...91 Sexually Transmitted Infections...92 HIV/AIDS...92 Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia, 4th edition 7
8 f Contents Living Wills and Powers of Attorney...92 Medical Consent Appointment...92 Living Wills...93 Powers of Attorney...93 Disability Grant Programs and Financial Assistance...94 Children with Disabilities and Access to Schools...94 Disability, Access and Discrimination...94 Dependence and Abuse...94 Aboriginal Women The Indian Act, Property and Wills...96 Aboriginal Rights and the Constitution...96 Other Laws...97 Immigration Refugees...98 Skilled Workers...98 Members of the Family Class...98 Business Class...99 Live-In Caregiver Program...99 Inadmissibility...99 Immigrant Women and Domestic Violence...99 Seniors Housing and Living Independently Community Home Care Changing Your Living Situation Renting a Room out to a Boarder Hiring a Live-In or Full-Time Caregiver Residential Care and Nursing Homes Elder Abuse Financial Concerns Pensions Old Age Security Monthly Spouse s Allowance Guaranteed Income Supplement Canada Pension Plan Disability Pension Divorce/Separation Pension Sharing Survivor Benefits Death Benefits Private Pensions Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) Special Social Assistance Wills Should You Make a Will with a Kit? Revoking or Changing a Will Naming an Executor Care and Custody of Children Other Laws That Affect Property After Death Resources Aboriginal Women Adoption Child Support Children s Aid Services Women in Conflict with the Law Courts Culturally Sensitive Services (Aboriginal Women, Immigrant Women, and Lesbians) Women and Disability Divorce Employment Family Issues Financial Matters Government Health Housing Public Non-Profit Housing Authorities Human Rights Immigrant Women Legal Aid Legal Assistance Lesbian Rights Maintenance Enforcement Program Mediation Men Making Change Seniors Sexual Assault Shelters Help for Girls under Victims Services The Right to Vote Other Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia, 4th edition
9 Preface f Preface to the Fourth Edition Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia was prepared by the Nova Scotia Association of Women and the Law (NSAWL). Its purpose is to provide women of all ages and from all walks of life with information about the laws that affect them. Often, it is difficult for women to access basic legal information. The need for this Guide was made clear to NSAWL and other women s groups by the many letters and phone calls received from women seeking information about the law. Men will also find this Guide useful, since most of the laws discussed affect both women and men. The fourth edition of Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia is the most comprehensive yet. It includes new information reflecting recent developments in the law pertaining to common law and same sex couples, particularly the introduction of registered domestic part- nerships in This edition was also expanded to include information on collaborative family law, international adoptions, victim impact statements, suing sexual assault perpetrators, and the Domestic Violence Intervention Act. The Resources section at the back of the Guide was updated to include fax numbers and website information wherever possible. We hope that these additions will make the Guide even more useful to women and to those who work in organizations that assist women. Please remember that this Guide provides general information only. Changes in the law can occur rapidly and the information in this Guide will go out of date. If you have a specific legal problem you should talk to a lawyer, your local legal aid office, or one of the agencies or organizations listed in the Resources section of this Guide. Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia, 4th edition 9
10 f Families and Relationships Families and Relationships Introduction There are three types of spousal relationships: marriages, registered domestic partnerships, and common law relationships. Marriages continue to enjoy the most legal protection. Marriages are created in a religious ceremony by a clergyperson, such as a priest, rabbi, or minister, or by a judge or justice of the peace in a civil ceremony. The law treats civil and religious marriages the same. A registered domestic partnership is created when two people of the same or opposite gender who wish to enter a spousal relationship sign a declaration in front of a witness and register it with Nova Scotia s Vital Statistics office. A common law relationship is created when two people of the same or opposite gender cohabit (live together) as a couple for one to three years or more, depending on the particular rights involved. Over the last ten years, many laws relating to employment benefits, taxes, parenting and rights on separation have been changed to give common law couples and registered domestic partners the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. At present, lesbian and gay couples cannot marry in Canada. A number of gay and lesbian couples successfully challenged this law in an Ontario case called Halpern v. Canada (Attorney General). Other lesbian and gay couples challenged the law in British Columbia and Quebec. When this Guide was published, these cases were working their way through the Courts towards the Supreme Court of Canada. The Terms Used in this Guide In this Guide, we refer to your partner in any intimate relationship as your spouse. The terms spouse or former spouse will be used to describe your partner after you are separated or divorced. When we refer to common law couples, we are referring to both same sex and opposite sex couples unless otherwise noted. When we refer to registered domestic partners, this includes both opposite sex and same sex couples. Because a woman may now have a male or female spouse through a common law relationship or a registered domestic partnership, we will refer to your spouse as she or he. When we are talking only about legally married couples we will use the words husband and wife as they are usually understood. When we refer to children, we are including one child. Contracts and Relationships All relationship contracts should be in writing. Oral (spoken) or tacit (unspoken) agreements may not be enforceable in court. Putting an agreement in writing ensures that there is a record of the exact terms agreed upon between the spouses. There are two main types of contracts or agreements that spouses may make regarding their relationship: Cohabitation Agreements A cohabitation agreement is a contract made before or during cohabitation (living together) that sets out the rights and responsibilities of the spouses during the relationship and establishes, in advance, what will happen in relation to support, division of property, and other issues if the relationship ends. This type of contract is called a cohabitation agreement when made between common law spouses or registered domestic partners. It is called a marriage contract when made before or during a marriage. If the contract is made before the marriage, it is sometimes also called a pre-nuptial contract. Separation Agreements A separation agreement is a contract made after a relationship ends in which the former spouses set out what will happen in relation to custody, access, child support, spousal support, and division of property. It is called a separation agreement for all couples, whether they are married, common law, or registered domestic partners. Independent Legal Advice Each spouse should review the contract with her or his own lawyer before signing it, even if you agree on everything in the contract. This is called getting independent legal advice. If one or both spouses do not get independent legal advice before signing the contract and a problem arises, the court may not enforce the contract. 10 Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia, 4th edition
11 Marriage f Marriage There are about 5,000 marriages in Nova Scotia each year. Here is a list of some of the ways in which your legal status is affected by marriage. All of these rights arise immediately after the marriage ceremony. Married couples can modify some of these rights and obligations in a marriage contract or pre-nuptial agreement. Taxation When you and your husband complete your tax returns, you must provide all required information about each other, including social insurance numbers and any other information requested on the return and on any Schedules that you complete. You and your husband can make tax-free contributions to each other s RRSPs. If you separate, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA), formerly known as Revenue Canada, permits you and your husband to transfer funds from one RRSP to the other tax-free, as part of your division of property. Inheritance You and your husband obtain rights of inheritance to each other s property. If you marry, you should make a new will. Marriage automatically revokes (cancels) any will made before the marriage except if the will specifically mentions the marriage and is made in contemplation of the marriage. Separation or divorce do not revoke a will, so you will probably want to make a new will if you separate. If your husband dies without a will, you will inherit his property, although it may be shared with the children if the value of the property is more than $50,000. Survivor Benefits You become eligible for survivor benefits if your husband dies. Survivor benefits include pension benefits, a Workers Compensation settlement if your husband died in a work accident, and the right to sue under the Fatal Injuries Act if he died in any other type of accident that was caused by the negligence of someone else. Spousal Support You and your husband become responsible to support each other during your marriage, and after separation, if necessary. If you need spousal support after separation, you can apply to the appropriate court. For more information, see the section of this Guide on Spousal Support. Custody, Access, and Child Support The Maintenance and Custody Act allows married couples that have children to apply to the Supreme Court (Family Division), or Family Court, if there is no Supreme Court (Family Division) in your area, to determine custody, access, and child support issues. If you or your husband has petitioned for divorce, the Divorce Act applies and your custody, access, and support issues are heard in the Supreme Court or Supreme Court (Family Division). In deciding which parent should have custody and what access is appropriate, the court looks at what is in the best interests of the children. Child support is set using the Federal or Provincial Child Support Guidelines, which are virtually identical. For more information, see the section of this Guide on Children of Separated Parents. Property Division Your property becomes shareable with your husband and his property becomes shareable with you. The Matrimonial Property Act creates a legal presumption that after separation, married couples will share equally all of the property each owned before the marriage and all of the property acquired during the marriage, unless an equal division of property would be unfair. (One of the factors that may make an equal division of property unfair is if the marriage lasts for only a short time.) If one of you owns significantly more property or has significantly more debt than the other when you marry, you should consider having a pre-nuptial or cohabitation agreement. Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia, 4th edition 11
12 f Marriage Debts You may be asked to co-sign your husband s applications for loans or credit cards. Co-signing will make you responsible for the debt if he does not pay. You do not become responsible for your husband s debts just because you are married. You are not responsible to creditors for your husband s debts unless you co-sign for a particular debt. If you separate, your debts and your husband s debts can be divided along with your matrimonial property. The court can order that you be responsible for all or part of your husband s debts even if you were not a co-signer on the original loan or credit card. The Marriage Licence and Ceremony You must have a marriage licence to get married in Nova Scotia. Anyone over 19 years of age is eligible to apply for a marriage licence. Anyone under 19 years of age must first obtain the consent of both parents. If your parents will not consent, you can apply to the court for permission to marry. Anyone under 16 years of age cannot marry without the consent of the court, even if her or his parents consent. The court will only grant permission to marry if you show that marriage would be in your best interests. Either the bride or groom may apply for the marriage licence. Once you apply for the licence, you must wait five days before it is issued. The Deputy Issuer of Marriage Licences will need the following information for the bride and groom: full name, age, marital status (never married, divorced or widowed), and current address. No blood tests are required. If either the bride or groom is divorced or widowed, she or he must also provide proof of the divorce or death, such as a Certificate of Divorce or a Death Certificate, as appropriate. Marriage ceremonies are performed by a clergyperson (such as a priest, minister, rabbi, or Mi kmaq elder) registered under the Solemnization of Marriage Act. Judges and most Justices of the Peace are also able to perform marriage ceremonies. For a list of Justices of the Peace who perform marriages, contact your local Deputy Issuer of Marriage Licences or visit the Nova Scotia Department of Justice website at Two people who are at least sixteen years of age must witness the marriage ceremony. The person performing the marriage ceremony will help you complete a Marriage Registration form and will file this form with the Vital Statistics office after the marriage ceremony. You will receive a temporary marriage certificate from the person who performed the marriage ceremony. If you later require a marriage certificate, you can apply to the Vital Statistics office in the province, state, or country where you were married. If you marry outside of Nova Scotia, you do not need to do anything to register your marriage here when you return. Your marriage will be registered in the place where it occurred. Changing your Name or Not There is no legal requirement that you take your husband s surname (last name) when you marry. After you marry, you have the following choice of surnames: - your birth surname - a previous married surname - your current husband s surname - any combination of the above (with or without a hyphen). If you choose to change your name, all you need to do is advise businesses, government departments, banks, and others that you will be using a different last name. You do not need to apply for a formal name change. If anyone requires official proof of your name change, show her or him your marriage certificate. If you decide not to change your name, simply sign your own name on your marriage certificate and continue to use your name as you did before your marriage. If you want to resume using your unmarried name (or a previous married name), you can do so at any time. All you need to do is to advise businesses, government departments, banks, and others of the change and have your identification cards, bank, and credit accounts changed. If proof is required, a copy of your birth certificate or previous marriage certificate should be sufficient. If you are divorcing, your Divorce Judgment can include a paragraph changing your name to any name you wish. If you want to change your first name, or if you want to change your last name to something other than your husband s name, a previous married name or your birth name, you must make an application using the Change of Name Act. 12 Understanding the Law: A Guide for Women in Nova Scotia, 4th edition