Get help with Multi-jurisdictional Divorces

In Canada, divorce is governed by federal legislation, the Divorce Act. The process of obtaining a divorce becomes more complex when spouses live in multiple jurisdictions. When one spouse is no longer a resident of Canada, foreign and domestic laws apply.

A divorce ordered by the appropriate authority in a foreign jurisdiction is valid in Canada. We encourage you to reach out to one of our experienced Family Lawyers to understand your rights before proceeding in any jurisdiction. If you decide to proceed with an application for divorce in a foreign jurisdiction, you may be giving up certain rights you would otherwise be entitled to.

A court in a province has jurisdiction to hear and determine a divorce proceeding if either spouse has been a resident of that province for at least one year before the proceeding. If you and your spouse file divorce proceedings in different provinces on different days and neither one of you discontinue your proceeding, the court in which the first proceeding was commenced will have exclusive jurisdiction.

If you and your spouse both commence separate divorce proceedings on the same day and neither one of you discontinues your proceeding, your divorce will proceed in a Federal Court.

Property is governed by provincial legislation. In Ontario, the Family Law Act applies to property rights associated with marriage and equalization payments. If the matrimonial home was in Ontario, the Family Law Act applies.

Corollary relief refers to the arrangements made in the context of divorce, for example, child and spousal support. When spouses divorce in Canada, corollary relief orders are made under the federal Divorce Act.

The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act assists individuals in Ontario enforce support orders when an ex-spouse lives in a “reciprocating jurisdiction”. Essentially, this Act ensures that even if your spouse lives in a different province or country you will continue to receive your support payments. Each province and territory has a maintenance enforcement program to assist you. Check out our post on enforcing child and/or spousal support for more information.

When a divorce proceeds in a foreign jurisdiction, provincial legislation around spousal support does not apply. It is also important to note that divorce orders from foreign jurisdictions cannot be modified in your province.

In very limited circumstances it is possible for a province to assert jurisdiction after a divorce has commenced in a foreign jurisdiction. If you are served with an application for divorce from another jurisdiction, contact one of our Family Lawyers who can best advise you on how to move forward.

Navigating divorce is challenging enough without adding the complexities of foreign laws. Our experienced Family Lawyers would be happy to discuss your specific situation in detail. Please call our office at 905-366-0202 to book a free consultation or contact us here.

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