Enforcing Out of Province Family Law Orders in BC

By Chyanne Sharma, BC Legal Coach
Consider this… you’ve just moved to BC from another country or province. You have a family law order already in place which sets out parenting time or support, but it wasn’t granted in a BC court. How can you be sure that your order will be legally recognized and enforced in BC? 

Rest assured, BC’s legal system offers avenues for the recognition and enforcement of such orders. Whether they involve child or spousal support, parenting responsibilities, or property matters, these orders can be registered and enforced in BC so that they are treated with the same authority as those orders issued within the province.

As we proceed, this blog will outline the distinctions between extra provincial orders and foreign orders. We'll also explore the various types of family orders that are applicable, and the process to get your order registered.  

What’s the difference between extra provincial orders and foreign orders?

It is common in family law for court orders to be made outside of the province of BC, but the process for registering those orders looks different depending on whether the order was made in or outside of Canada. These orders fall into one of two categories: extra provincial orders or foreign orders. An extra provincial order relates to judgments that are made in Canada but outside the jurisdiction of BC. In simpler terms, if a court in another province or territory within Canada issues an order related to family law matters, such as parenting or spousal support, it is considered an extra provincial order when brought into BC.

On the other hand, a foreign order comes into play when a person obtains a legal judgment outside of Canada, such as from a foreign court, and aims to have it recognized and enforced in BC. This often arises in family law scenarios where parties involved may have connections to more than one jurisdiction.

Orders related to parenting and the care of children

If an order related to the care of children was issued outside of BC but made under the Divorce Act, then it can be registered and enforced anywhere in Canada. This is because the Divorce Act is federal legislation and applicable to every province and territory. Therefore, these types of orders BC fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial legislation known as the Family Law Act, allowing the BC courts to enforce them. For example, sections 72 to 79 of the Family Law Act cover extra provincial orders on parenting arrangements. Once the BC court recognizes an order made outside the province, it holds the same enforceability as if the order had been issued by our own court.

Registering and enforcing an extra provincial or foreign order can be done so through the Provincial Court of BC. The Provincial Court Family Rules govern applications for the recognition of extra provincial orders that are not support orders. To do so, a party must file an application for case management order in form 10 or an application for case management order. These forms and instructions on how to complete them are available on the BC court website

Orders related to Money and Property 

There are two BC statutes that deal with the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. However, both are limited in the sense that they do not apply to all foreign judgments. The first act is known as the Enforcement of Canadian Judgments and Decrees Act (the “ECJDA”). This Act authorizes recognition and enforcement of Canadian judgments made in a provincial or territorial civil court of Canada other than BC, which requires a person to pay money or is related to a property.

The second act is the Court Order Enforcement Act (the “COEA”). This Act is limited to monetary judgments from courts in jurisdictions with which BC has entered into a reciprocal agreement. Both the ECJDA and the COEA replace the need of having to start a whole action on these foreign orders, via a simple registration system. Each act sets out the procedure for registering foreign judgments. For example, if you have a Canadian judgment or order, then you should proceed with the registration of that order under the ECJDA in the supreme court of BC. However, if you have obtained a judgment from the United Kingdom, Australia, or from the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Colorado, or Idaho, then registering your foreign order should be used under the COEA.

Registering Foreign Orders on Child and Spousal Support

BC has established reciprocal agreements for registering child and spousal support orders with all Canadian provinces and territories, the United States, and other foreign countries. These are known as reciprocating jurisdictions, meaning that BC and each of these reciprocating jurisdictions have agreed to recognize family law orders and agreements made on child and spousal support.
In BC, the law governing this is known as the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (the “ISOA”). Under this Act, you can apply to enforce a support order in one of the reciprocating jurisdictions without having to travel there and initiate a new legal proceeding. Typically, if you are the applicant, you won't be required to attend court. Instead, it is generally the responding party who appears in court to respond to your application.

The ISOA applies to both child support and spousal support, as well as written agreements that contain support provisions and are filed in court. However, it does not apply to orders made for parenting time, parental responsibilities, contact, or guardianship. It also does not apply to support orders that are made under the Divorce Act.

Accessing ISOA Forms and Guides 

Forms and guides for completing ISOA applications are available on the Ministry of Attorney General's website. To facilitate a smoother application process, we have compiled a detailed checklist outlining the necessary documents and requirements:

  1. Include detailed evidence – your ISOA forms should include all pertinent documentation and facts. Since there's no court appearance, this information, combined with any provided by the respondent, forms the sole basis for the judge’s decision.
  2. Provide full financial disclosure – as part of your application, it is mandatory to provide financial disclosure, which includes all of your tax documents.
  3. Photocopies of original documents - attach a photocopy of all original orders and relevant forms to your application. These documents must be sworn to affirm their authenticity.
  4. Certified copies of original orders – you will also be required to provide certified copies of any original orders you are seeking to register. Certified copies are photocopies of the original order that have been authenticated by a notary public confirming that it is, in fact, a true copy of the original. 

Once all the above steps are complete, you can send your sworn documents to the designated authority in the jurisdiction where you are seeking support.

Working with a legal coach to assist you with registering and enforcing an extra provincial or foreign order can ensure that you are completing the proper forms and processes. It can be confusing to navigate the legal process alone, especially when it involves different provinces or countries. A legal coach can be your guide by explaining things to you in a way that makes sense, and to ensure that your orders are registered and enforced properly. Book your free 20-minute consultation with one of our experienced family law legal coaches today to learn more.