More Nova Scotians will soon be able to get married by a justice of the peace. Government is improving the Civil Weddings Program and increasing the number of justices of the peace who can perform a civil wedding.
Nova Scotians interested in becoming a justice of the peace will have to make an application to the Department of Justice, provide two character references and complete training. There is also a fee of $132.70 to become an administrative justice of the peace.
“We’ve listened to Nova Scotians, and we are making improvements to ensure the program is fair, consistent and professional,” said Justice Minister Diana Whalen. “The changes we are making will give more people the opportunity to become administrative justices of the peace, and will give more couples, wherever they may live, more selection for their important wedding day.”
There are about 170 trained justices of the peace who perform about 2,500 civil weddings a year. They are not required to refresh their training, and there is no set fee for conducting a wedding. The improvements to the program will see the establishment of a set fee for civil weddings of $200, plus expenses. It will also require training for new justices of the peace and a refresh of that training every three years.
Other changes to the program include:
— current administrative justices of the peace will be required to refresh their training, and will have to pay a $50 training fee. They will also be required to refresh their training every three years
— a volunteer chief administrative justice of the peace has been appointed to assist in administering the program
— a formal complaint resolution process and clear guidelines will be established to ensure concerns about the program and the service are addressed in a consistent way
— guidelines will also be developed for how an administrative justice of the peace can advertise their services
There are also about 214 staff justices of the peace employed by the province. Only 68 of these are approved to perform weddings. In addition, there have not been any staff justices of the peace trained since 2009 while changes to the program were being considered. This has led to some accessibility issues for smaller communities who do not have enough certified justices of the peace to meet the needs of couples. The changes to the program will ensure that all staff justices of the peace can apply to be appointed as an administrative justice of the peace to preside over civil weddings outside of the courthouse.
“As a staff justice of the peace, I am very excited about the chance to enhance my skills and provide couples with the opportunity to have a civil wedding. This is something we’ve wanted for a long time,” said Diane Spafford, judicial assistant with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
For anyone wishing to become an administrative justice of the peace, or for more information on the Civil Weddings Program, visit: http://novascotia.ca/just/Court_Services/civilWed.asp .