Supreme Court

Change a support order (Divorce Act) made outside BC

Who this guide is for

This self-help guide is for anyone who:

  • lives in BC,
  • wants to apply to a BC court to change an order for child or spousal support made in a divorce proceeding in another province,
  • knows that their support order was made in Canada under the Divorce Act.

This guide doesn’t apply to:

  • support orders made outside of Canada,
  • support orders made in Canada but under provincial family law, or
  • parenting orders.

How can I tell if my order was made under the Canadian Divorce Act?

Orders about support often say they're made under the Divorce Act. Sometimes they say they're made under provincial family law (called the Family Law Act in BC). But sometimes an order doesn’t say which act it’s made under. If it isn't clear which law your support order was made under, you may need to figure this out another way. Here are some clues:

Was the order was made in one of the following courts? Only these courts have the power to make a Divorce Act order in Canada:

  • Supreme Court of British Columbia, Nova Scotia, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon Territory, Newfoundland, or Prince Edward Island
  • Court of Queen's Bench in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick
  • Superior Court of Justice (or Unified Family Court) in Ontario
  • Superior Court in Québec
  • Court of Justice in Nunavut

These courts can also make support orders under provincial or territorial laws.

If you were never legally married, your support order wasn't made under the Divorce Act.

Child support under the Divorce Act usually refers to children as "children of the marriage." Child support under provincial or territorial laws refers to children as "children."

If your order contains a paragraph granting the divorce, the order was made under the Divorce Act. (Older orders for divorce may refer to a decree nisi or a decree absolute.) However, support may still have been ordered under provincial or territorial law unless the order states that support is ordered under the Divorce Act.

If the order granting your divorce is different from the support order, compare the court file number on the divorce order with the one on the support order. If the numbers are the same, the support order was likely made under the Divorce Act.

If you still aren’t sure if your support order was made under the Divorce Act, contact the court registry where your order was made or the lawyer who helped you get your divorce. You may have to look at the documents filed in the court when the action was started.

What if my support order was made in Canada but not under the Divorce Act?

If your order wasn’t made under the Divorce Act, you can’t apply to have the BC Supreme Court change the order. You’ll have to either:

  • apply under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act,
  • go back to the court that made the order, or
  • apply to a BC provincial court and ask the other party to accept the jurisdiction of the BC court to change the order.

See our fact sheet When a case involves more than one province, territory, or country and the Interjurisdictional Support Orders website (Ministry of Justice).

What’s next if my support order was made under the Canadian Divorce Act?

Use this guide to start your own case in BC Supreme Court. The BC Provincial Court can't change Divorce Act orders.

Important: You must apply in Supreme Court even if the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program has started enforcement proceedings on the order you want changed.

Where to get more help

See our fact sheet When a case involves more than one province, territory, or country and the Interjurisdictional Support Orders website (Ministry of Justice).

Family duty counsel are available at some Supreme Court registries to help you. In Vancouver, Nanaimo, and Victoria, you can go to a Justice Access Centre for help.

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