How do you get a child support or spousal support order if the other parent or spouse lives outside BC? And how do you have an existing support order changed if the other party doesn’t live here?
If your spouse or another parent of your child lives outside BC, you can’t follow the usual procedure to get or change a support order. This is the first of two eNews articles explaining procedures under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, the law that governs support applications when the parties live in different provinces or countries.
This article tells how people living in BC can make applications when the other party lives elsewhere. The next eNews will explain how you can respond if you receive notice about a support-related application made by someone living outside BC.
How do I get an order for spousal support, child support, or both when the other party lives outside BC?
You have three choices. Depending on the circumstances you can apply for an order for child support, spousal support, or both, either:
You should talk to a lawyer about these choices, to find out which is likely to be quickest and least expensive. In the first, you must persuade a BC court to make an order affecting a party who is not living in BC (the BC court must “assume jurisdiction”) and this may not be easy.
For the second, you would need information about the law and procedures in the place where the other party lives and you’d have to figure out how to manage your case from a distance.
The third option is possible if the other party lives in another Canadian province or territory or one of these countries:
Under ISO, these provinces, territories and countries are known as “reciprocating jurisdictions”. Each of them has a law like ISO that permits its courts to recognize and enforce support orders made in the other provinces, states and countries.
If you are seeking a support order against a person who does not live in any of the places listed, you may only have the first two choices. Again, it is important to talk to a lawyer for advice.
Where can I get more information?
If your application involves someone in Quebec or another country, you may wish to contact BC’s Interjurisdictional Support Services (IJSS). IJSS cannot provide legal advice, but they can give you information and important updates about the procedures in these places. They can also give you information about:
Contact them at:
What if I want to change a support order, or apply to cancel or reduce support arrears, when the other party lives outside BC?
In the case of any other support order, ISO sets out procedures to allow a BC resident to apply to change a support order, or to cancel or reduce arrears owing on a support order.
How to apply
Whether you want a support order or already have one and want to change it, your first step is to go to the website www.isoforms.bc.ca. Use the menu on the left side of the webpage.
Click “FormSelect” and answer the questions to find the forms you need. There are guides to help you complete each form. You can fill out the forms online and print them, or ask for the forms to be mailed to you.
Once you’ve filled out the forms, you must sign them before a lawyer, notary or commissioner for taking oaths – when you do, you swear or affirm that the information in the forms is true. Then you mail the completed forms to the IJSS at:
What happens next
The IJSS office will review your application. They may contact you if a form is filled out incorrectly or if information is missing.
If you must provide a financial statement with your application, you should include supporting documents like income tax returns, pay stubs or income statements, bank statements, credit card statements and any other information that shows your financial circumstances. See Financial Documents for Family Court for lists of helpful information you might include.
The forms are not filed in a BC court, and you are not required to deliver them to the other party. What happens next depends on the law of the reciprocating jurisdiction involved in your case.
If a provisional order is necessary
In most cases, you will not have to attend court to testify or give evidence. However, some reciprocating jurisdictions may require you to attend your local Provincial Courthouse to give evidence in support of a “provisional order”.
A provisional order does not take effect when it is made. It is followed by a “confirmation hearing” in the reciprocating jurisdiction. In a confirmation hearing the other party is given a chance to provide evidence. At the end of the confirmation hearing, the judge can confirm the terms of the provisional order, change the provisional order, require more information, or dismiss the application.
If your application requires a provisional order, IJSS office will contact you about the process to obtain one.
If no provisional order is necessary
If a hearing in BC for a provisional order is not required, the IJSS office will send your application materials to the reciprocating jurisdiction, where the other party will be notified about the application. The procedure there depends on the rules in the other jurisdiction. There may be a court hearing involving the other party. The person who decides the application in the other jurisdiction may then make an order, require further information from you, or dismiss the application.
If an order is made, the other jurisdiction will send it to IJSS who will then forward a copy to you.
The time it takes for the entire process to complete will vary depending on the procedures required in the other jurisdiction.
Enforcing the order
Once a new or varied support order is made, you can have the order enforced in the other jurisdiction by filing your order with the BC Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (“FMEP”). FMEP will forward the order to the support enforcement agency in the other jurisdiction for enforcement. Find information on how to enrol with FMEP at www.fmep.ag.gov.bc.ca.