NS Legal Aid Frequently Asked Questions
We provide legal representation primarily in criminal, family and social justice cases. Financial, area of law, and merit qualifications must be met.
Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Legal Aid in Nova Scotia:
Applying for Legal Aid:
Can I apply for Legal Aid online?
Where do I find the addresses and telephone numbers for the Legal Aid Offices?
See “Contact Us” page of this website. Nova Scotia Legal Aid Offices are also listed in the white, blue and yellow pages of Bell Aliant phone books under both “L” for “Legal Aid” and “N” for “Nova Scotia Legal Aid”.
How do I apply for Legal Aid?
What legal matters does Legal Aid cover?
What decisions can be made about my eligibility for legal aid?
Your matter must fall within our menu of services and you must financially qualify. There must be merit to your case.
What can I do if Legal Aid won’t represent me?
Legal Aid Certificates
I applied for Legal Aid and I have been approved for a Legal Aid Certificate. What is a Legal Aid Certificate?
A Certificate allows you to find a lawyer in the Private Bar who is willing to represent you at the Legal Aid rates. If a lawyer has any questions regarding the Certificate available for your representation, please have the lawyer contact the Managing Lawyer of the Legal Aid Office where you were approved for representation.
How do I find out which lawyers accept Legal Aid Certificates?
Each Legal Aid Office has a list of local lawyers who have accepted Certificates in the past or have said they are willing to accept Certificates. This list of lawyers will be given to you if you ask for it. If you know a local lawyer not on the list, who will act for you under the terms of a Legal Aid Certificate and who meets NSLA Certificate Lawyer Practice Concentration Standards, we would issue a Certificate to that lawyer.
Legal Services Between Provinces/Territories
What do I do if I live in Nova Scotia but have a family law matter in another Province or Territory?
You must first apply to Nova Scotia Legal Aid for representation. If you are approved for representation, a Non-Resident Application will be completed and processed to obtain representation for you in the other Province/Territory. The Provinces/Territories have what is called a “Reciprocity Agreement” and this Agreement allows for representation of “non-residents”. Not all Provinces/Territories provide the same services, therefore, there is the chance your Non-Resident Application will not be approved for services.
What do I do as I don’t live in Nova Scotia but I have a family law matter in Nova Scotia?
The Provinces/Territories have what is called a “Reciprocity Agreement” and this Agreement allows for representation of “non-residents”. You must apply for Legal Aid in the Province/Territory where you are residing. If approved for legal aid services, a Non-Resident Application will be sent to Nova Scotia to seek the appointment of a lawyer in Nova Scotia on your behalf. There is the chance your Non-Resident Application will not be approved for services as Nova Scotia Legal Aid does not provide a type of legal aid service to a non-resident that it would not provide to a resident of Nova Scotia.
What do I do if I live in Nova Scotia but have a criminal matter in another Province or Territory?
You must contact Legal Aid directly in the Province/Territory where your criminal matter will be going to court. Your eligibility for Legal Aid will be determined by the criteria for Legal Aid where the matter is being heard.
What do I do if I don’t live in Nova Scotia, but I have a criminal matter in Nova Scotia?
You must contact Nova Scotia Legal Aid directly. You should contact the Legal Aid Office where you will be going to court. Your eligibility will be determined using Nova Scotia Legal Aid guidelines. For the list of offices and contact information see “Legal Aid Offices” on this website, or fill out the contact form on the “Contact Us” page. You may also apply on-line.
Mental Health Court – Dartmouth
Where is the Mental Health Court?
The Nova Scotia Mental Health Court is located at the Dartmouth Court, 277 Pleasant Street, Dartmouth, 902-722-1040.
When is court held for the Mental Health Court?
The Mental Health Court sits every Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Courtroom #5.
Is there a lawyer who can help me at court?
A Duty Counsel Lawyer is available at the court that can assist you in determining whether a referral to the Mental Health Court is right for you.
What are the requirements to qualify?
You must have a serious mental health disorder that is related to your offence(s). Please discuss what this means with your Lawyer or Legal Aid Duty Counsel.
Do I need to plead guilty?
You will need to acknowledge and may have to plead guilty depending on the specific circumstances of your case.
How often do I have to go to Court?
You must attend Court on a regular basis (sometimes weekly).
Do I have to attend appointments?
You must attend all professional appointments.
Do I have to take medications?
You will be required to take all medications prescribed by your treatment provider(s).
Can I use drugs?
You must abstain from drugs and/or alcohol use, if required, and submit to substance use testing.
Will I lose my licence?
If your offence(s) are driving related, you will be ordered not to drive for at least one (1) year.
How long is the Program?
You can expect to be involved in the Program for at least one (1) year.
Where can I get more information about the Mental Health Court Program?
Unrepresented or Detained
What if I am being arrested or detained?
Legal advice is available to arrested or detained persons in Nova Scotia 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This service is provided by Business Hours Telephone Duty Counsel (BHTDC) and After Hours “Brydges” Duty Counsel (AHTDC). If you have been arrested or detained, the officer is to initially place the call to Duty Counsel using the appropriate Duty Counsel telephone number (BHTDC or AHTDC). Once the officer has provided Duty Counsel with the information required, the Duty Counsel lawyer will speak with you.
Note: This service is only available to individuals being arrested or detained by a peace officer (police).
I don’t have a lawyer. Can I get help at court?
In the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), NSLA offers full-time Duty Counsel Lawyers onsite at the Provincial Courts and Summary Advice Counsel in the Supreme Courts (Family Division). Summary Advice Counsel for family matters is also provided on a scheduled basis at Family Courts across the Province and at every service office. Duty and Summary Advice Counsel will help you with immediate matters before the court, but do not provide continuing representation or conduct trials. They may refer you to a full-service lawyer.
Services are provided to all adults and young persons who request it. Further information regarding the particulars of each service is available at the courthouses or you can contact your local NSLA office.