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Family Law Blog

How is Jurisdiction Decided in a Divorce Case?

How is Jurisdiction Decided in a Divorce Case?

In Family Law, divorces are often emotionally charged affairs involving complex legal arguments. When questions surrounding jurisdiction arise, it has the potential to cause greater stress and heartache on both sides. In this week’s blog, we’re going to take a look at the thorny issue of how jurisdiction is decided in divorce cases in British Columbia and hopefully clarify some of the basics.

When it comes to jurisdiction, most divorce cases in British Columbia are relatively straightforward. The most common scenario we see is both parties living in BC, with the matter settled in the Supreme Court of BC. But, what if one party leaves the province, or country before seeking a divorce? This throws a spanner into proceedings, with a conflict arising as to what court should decide the matter.

Before proceeding, it’s highly recommended you consult with a Family Law expert like the lawyers at Westside Family Law. As each divorce brings with it a unique set of circumstances, our lawyers can advise on the details of your case.

Let’s Look to the Canadian Divorce Act

Under Canada’s Divorce Act, you can instigate a claim for divorce in a province where you normally reside, or in the province your spouse normally resides, as long as you or your spouse have lived in the province for at least one year.

An important distinction to make involves claims for custody of a child. If a custody question is included in the divorce, the court can move the claim to the province where the child has the most ties.

What About British Columbian Courts?

Under BC’s Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, British Columbian courts can make orders about child and spousal support where the parties live in different jurisdictions. This could be a different province, US state or a limited number of other countries, including the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Germany, Australia, Zimbabwe and several others.

Only a judge appointed by the federal government can make orders about divorce and division of a family’s property, so the Supreme Court of BC has “exclusive jurisdiction” in those matters.

Here to Help

As family law experts, the team at Westside Family Law has been a trusted advisor to countless clients going through the difficult divorce process. Need assistance with any aspect of a divorce or separation agreement? Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.