Can you change a support order made in BC if one of you doesn't live here?

Provincial Court
Supreme Court

Cases where you and the other person (the law calls them the other party) don't live in the same province, territory, or country are called interjurisdictional. That means that more than one legal system or set of laws is involved.

BC has agreements about enforcing and changing support orders and agreements with:

  • all other Canadian provinces and territories
  • all of the United States
  • several other foreign countries

These places are called reciprocating jurisdictions. They agree to collect on family support orders and agreements made in other reciprocating jurisdictions.

But only a Canadian court can change a support order made under the Divorce Act. See Interjurisdictional orders: When a case involves more than one province, territory, or country.

You can change your support order if:

  • you have a support order that was made in BC, but
  • you or the other person affected by the order doesn't live in BC now.

How to do this depends on:

Usually support orders say which act they're made under. If your support order doesn't say this, there are ways you can figure it out.

See Interjurisdictional orders: When a case involves more than one province, territory, or country for tips on how to figure out which act your order is made under.

If you or the other person live in another country, you need to know if that country's a reciprocating jurisdiction. See Interjurisdictional Support Orders (ISO) on the Ministry of Attorney General website for a full list of countries that have reciprocal agreements with BC.

Expand the heading that fits your situation to find out how to change your support order.

You have three options.

Option 1: Apply for a final order in BC Supreme Court

Apply to change the support order in BC Supreme Court by filing a Notice of Application (Form F31).

If the other person responds, it means:

  • they've accepted the court's jurisdiction (they agree that the court can make decisions that affect them, even if they're not in BC), and
  • the application can be heard in BC Supreme Court.

See Change a family order in Supreme Court if you both agree and Change a family order in Supreme Court if you can't agree for more information about this.

If the other person doesn't accept the court's jurisdiction, you can:

  • ask the court to order that the matter go ahead in your jurisdiction anyway, or
  • choose one of the other options listed here.

Option 2: Apply for a final order where the other person lives

Apply to change the support order in the province or territory where the other person lives.

Contact the courts in that province or territory to find out how to make an application to change the order there.

Option 3: Apply for a provisional order in BC Supreme Court

You can use sections 18 and 19 of the Divorce Act to get a provisional order.

To do this, the person who lives in BC:

  • applies to the BC Supreme Court, but
  • doesn't need to give notice of the application to (tell) the other person (called the respondent).

The BC Supreme Court:

  • will have a provisional hearing, and
  • might make an order to change the original support order.

But the order has to be confirmed in the jurisdiction where the respondent lives before it can be enforced.

The court in BC and a government agency (called the reciprocals office) will send the application to the court where the other person lives for a confirmation hearing. The court in the other jurisdiction tells the other person when the hearing's going to happen.

At the hearing, a judge decides whether the support order should be changed.

The court will tell you what the judge decided and why they made that decision.

To apply for a provisional order, file a Notice of Application (Form F31).

You have three options.

Option 1: Use the Interjurisdictional Support Order Act

You can use an Interjurisdictional Support Order (ISO) to ask for a change to your support order if:

  • you live in BC, and
  • the other person lives in another part of Canada.

If you apply under the ISO, the BC court might hold what's called a provisional hearing, depending on where the other person (the respondent) lives. You don't have to give notice to (tell) the other person to have this hearing, but the order the court issues is provisional. This means the order can only be made final after the other person has had the chance to go to court where they live.

You might need legal help to fill in the ISO forms.

See Interjurisdictional Support Orders on the Family Justice page of the Attorney General ministry website for more information. A family justice counsellor might be able to help you.

You can also write to:

Interjurisdictional Support Services
Vancouver Main Office Boxes
PO Box 2074
Vancouver BC V6B 3S3

Option 2: Apply for a final order where the other person lives

Apply to change the support order in the province or territory where the other person lives.

Contact the court in that province or territory to find out how to make an application to change the order there.

Option 3: Apply for a final order in BC Supreme Court or BC Provincial Court

If your support order was made by the BC Supreme Court, file a Notice of Application (Form F31) to get a final order. See Change a family order in Supreme Court if you can't agree to find out how to do this.

If your support order was made in BC Provincial Court, file an Application Respecting Existing Orders and Agreements. See Start a family law case to change an order in Provincial Court to find out how to do this.

If the other person is outside BC, you'll still have to serve documents on them. See Serve court documents outside BC for more information.

You'll also have to make a proper financial disclosure.

You have three options.

Option 1: Use the Interjurisdictional Support Order Act

You can use an Interjurisdictional Support Order (ISO) to ask for a change to your support order if:

  • you live in BC, and
  • the other person lives in another part of Canada.

If you apply under the ISO, the BC court might hold what's called a provisional hearing, depending on where the other person (the respondent) lives. You don't have to give notice to (tell) the other person to have this hearing, but the order the court issues is provisional. This means the order can only be made final after the other person has had the chance to go to court where they live.

You might need legal help to fill in the ISO forms.

See Interjurisdictional Support Orders on the Family Justice page of Attorney General ministry website for more information. A family justice counsellor might be able to help you.

You can also write to:

Interjurisdictional Support Services
Vancouver Main Office Boxes
PO Box 2074
Vancouver BC V6B 3S3

Option 2: Apply for a final order where the other person lives

Apply to change the support order in the province or territory where the other person lives.

Contact the court in that province or territory to find out how to make an application to change the order there.

Option 3: Apply for a final order in BC Supreme Court or BC Provincial Court

If your support order was made by the BC Supreme Court, file a Notice of Application (Form F31) to get a final order. See Change a family order in Supreme Court to find out how to do this.

If your support order was made in BC Provincial Court, file an Application Respecting Existing Orders or Agreements (Form 2). See Start a family law case to change an order in Provincial Court to find out how to do this.

If the other person is outside BC, you'll still have to serve documents on them. See Serve court documents outside BC for more information.

You'll also have to make a proper financial disclosure.

One of you lives in BC and the other lives in a country that's not a reciprocating jurisdiction.

If one person lives in BC and the other lives in another country that's not a reciprocating jurisdiction, get legal help. These cases are complicated. See Tips about getting legal help for where to find a lawyer. The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) might be able to help.

Can you appear by phone or video if the court is far away?

Only the respondent has to appear in court.

If you or the other person live far from the court where the hearing will be, ask:

  • if you can appear by phone or video, or
  • if the court would transfer your file to a court in BC that's easier for you to get to.

To ask about appearing by phone or video in Supreme Court:

Include a signed letter that explains why you want to attend by phone or video.

The registry will pass it to a judge who'll decide if you can attend by video or phone. Contact the court registry to find out if your request has been approved. If the judge agrees, the registry will tell you what to do next.

To ask about appearing by phone or video in Provincial Court, fill out a Request to Be Heard by Teleconference at the court registry. Include a signed letter that explains why you want to attend by phone or video.

The registry will pass it to a judge who'll decide if you can attend by video or phone. Contact the court registry to find out if your request has been approved. If the judge agrees, the registry will tell you what to do next.