Family Breakdown & Out-of-Province Issues

Law

Couples who are separating or divorcing may have ties to other provinces or countries. See the sections below to learn about:

  • What “jurisdiction” is and how it may affect your family law matters
  • Having a foreign marriage or foreign divorce recognized in Canada
  • Same-sex couples from other countries getting a divorce in Canada using the Civil Marriage Act
  • Separating or divorcing when one partner/spouse does not live in Alberta
  • Determining your province of residence, and the different types of “residency”
  • Residency requirements of the different laws you may need to use to solve your separation matters (including the Divorce Act, the Family Law Act, the Matrimonial Property Act, the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, and the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act)
  • Custody, access, parenting time, child support, and partner/spousal support when another province or country is involved
  • Property division when you own property in another province or country

Choose the Process tab above for forms and detailed information about the court process.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: February 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about addressing your family law matters when you are not certain about:

  • whether Alberta laws apply to your situation; and/or
  • whether it is the Alberta courts that should be dealing with your case, or if you should use the courts of another province, territory, or country.

In other words, this Information Page is about “jurisdiction.” The term “jurisdiction” refers to the right or ability of a government or a court to make decisions about things.This is explained in more detail in the “What is ‘jurisdiction’ and why does it matter?” section below.

Sometimes it is very clear that Alberta laws and Alberta courts apply. For example, if all of the parties and any children involved in a custody case currently live in Alberta and have never lived anywhere else.

In other cases, the situation is much more complex. For example, if one or both parents and the children moved to Alberta from another province or country, all still live here, but a court action was started in another province or country.

Be Aware

This is a complex area of law. Depending on the exact details of your particular situation, different laws may apply. This Information Page describes many choices you may have to make, and it can get confusing. Read the information carefully, and consider getting legal advice. For more information about that, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page. You can also contact Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). Staff at RCAS do not provide legal advice, but they can help explain the different laws.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information when Alberta laws apply, and when Alberta Courts are the right courts to use to resolve your family law issues. For information on processes you may need to follow if there is an issue around jurisdiction, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

jurisdiction

This term refers to the right or ability of a government or a court to make decisions about things. It describes either:

  • a particular government’s right, power, or authority to make laws; or
  • a particular court’s authority to deal with an issue.

For more information, see the “Jurisdiction: What is it and why does it matter?” section below.

interjurisdictional

This term has several legal meanings. On this Information Page, we will only use this word to describe certain kinds of court orders. In that sense, this term describes how court orders that are granted in one province, territory, or country may apply in another province, territory, or country.

“foreign” (used to describe laws, jurisdictions, and courts)

Something that is from outside of a certain geographic area. For an Albertan, this generally means something that is from outside of Alberta. For example, a “foreign” law may be from another Canadian province or territory, or it may be from another country. For someone in Ontario, on the other hand, an Alberta law would be a “foreign” law.

habitual residence (also called “ordinary residence”)

The place where a person lives his or her daily life. This is different from where a person might occasionally stay, or even where a person often stays. It is where a person’s life is centred. Even if they are not always there, it is the place where they regularly return.

When deciding if a person is a “habitual” or “ordinary” resident, a court will consider different factors. These may include:

  • where a person was born;
  • where a person has spent, and continues to spend, most of his or her life; and
  • where a person has ties to family and the community.

interjurisdictional support orders

Support orders (child support and partner/spousal support) that allow the courts in one province or country to recognize and enforce the court orders (and sometimes out-of-court agreements) from another province or country.

Alberta and several other provinces and countries (also called “jurisdictions”) have agreed to recognize the family support orders (and sometimes agreements) made in other places. In other words, a court order made in one jurisdiction applies and can be enforced in the other jurisdictions. When provinces and countries have such agreements with Alberta, they are called “reciprocating jurisdictions” (see below).

reciprocating jurisdictions

Countries, provinces, and territories that have agreements with Alberta to:

  • allow Alberta court orders for support (and in certain cases, written support agreements) to apply and be enforceable in that province or country; and
  • have their court orders (and in certain cases, written support agreements) accepted and enforced in Alberta.

These agreements are called “reciprocity agreements.” Alberta has reciprocity agreements with over 80 different jurisdictions, including all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries.

party

Any person involved in a dispute. It can also refer to each of the people who sign a contract.

spouse

A person who is legally married to another person.

partner

A person who is in a domestic relationship with another person. This term refers to people in romantic relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual, as well as non-romantic domestic relationships.

domestic contract

A legal agreement between 2 or more people who are either:

  • living together (whether married or not);
  • will soon be living together (whether married or not); or
  • were living together (whether married or not) and are now ending their relationship

A domestic contract allows the parties (romantic or non-romantic) to create their own terms for their relationship. This may include rights and responsibilities they have toward one another during the relationship, as well as after the relationship ends. Or, if they are ending the relationship, it allows them to decide for themselves how to resolve the issues between them. Some examples of domestic contracts are cohabitation agreements, pre-nuptial agreements, marriage agreements, and separation agreements.

guardian (of a child)

A person who has the right to make decisions for a child, and the responsibility to care for that child by providing the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter. Alberta’s Family Law Act describes the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities of the guardians of children. This role is called “guardianship.”

In Alberta, a child is a person under the age of 18, and every child must have at least one guardian. A child may have 2 or more guardians. A person does not have to be a parent to be a guardian, and not all parents are guardians (although most are).

custody

The term used in the Divorce Act to describe the decision-making power that adults (usually parents) have about a child. It refers to the ability to make major decisions about the child.

In some of the resources you will see on this Information Page, the term “guardianship” will be used. You may even see it used interchangeably with “custody.” Although these terms are similar (they both describe decision-making powers), they are not the same thing.

In general, all parents, whether they are married or not, have guardianship of their children. This means they both make decisions about the children. When married parents live happily together with their children, they are both guardians of the children. Neither is considered to have, or not have, “custody.” The issue of “custody” only comes up upon the breakdown of the marriage, when married parents are addressing their parenting issues using the Divorce Act. Custody can be arranged by either applying in court or making an agreement.

However, in the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act, the term “custody” is used to refer to any orders about the care and control of children (including guardianship and parenting time) that are from outside of Alberta and not granted under the Divorce Act. This includes orders granted from other countries.

divorce proceedings

A court action where either or both spouses ask for a divorce. This divorce could be asked for on its own, or together with related requests that the court also deals with (such as custody, access, child support, and/or spousal support).

plaintiff

The person who files the Statement of Claim for Divorce.

defendant

The spouse of the person who files the Statement of Claim for Divorce.

the pleadings

The information contained in:

  • the documents filed by the party starting a court action; and
  • the documents filed in response by the other party

For example, the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim and the Defendant’s Statement of Defence are the “pleadings” in a court action. They describe what both parties are asking for from the court.

corollary relief

The legal issues associated with a divorce, which are covered by the Divorce Act. “Corollary relief” includes: custody, access, child support, and spousal support.

application

A court process where one party (the “applicant”) asks the Court for something, and gives the Court evidence about why he or she should get it. As part of the process, the “other side” (the “respondent”) can show the Court evidence about why the applicant should not get what he or she is requesting. The respondent may even ask for something different. The applicant could then respond to that request.

Applications are smaller, individual parts of the court action, but they are related to an ongoing case. One case may have several applications. Court hearings (when the parties appear before a judge) are part of the application process, but not all applications involve going to court hearings: it is possible for the parties to come to an agreement before the hearing.

Applications can deal with:

  • preliminary matters (for example: whether the Alberta courts have the authority to hear a case);
  • temporary matters (for example: how much child support will be paid for now, while one parent looks for a job);
  • procedural matters (for example: what a person should do if they cannot find the other party to give them a copy of all the paperwork);
  • “pre-trial” matters (for example: where the children will live for now, until there is a trial on the bigger of issue of whether one parent can move away with the children); and
  • things that come up after the trial that are still related to the case.

The Court’s decision in an application is called an “order” and is generally not the final decision in the matter. Usually, a final decision comes only after trial. That decision is called a “judgment.” However, many parties choose to never go to trial. Instead, they just accept the Order(s) granted in applications as a permanent solution, without ever getting a final “judgment.”

applicant / claimant

The person who starts a court application to ask the Court to do something. The applicant/claimant is one of the “parties” in a court application. On certain forms, the term “applicant” is used; on other forms the term “claimant” is used.

respondent

The person who has a court application brought against him or her. The respondent is one of the “parties” in a court application.

“swearing” or “affirming” something

When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

If you swear that something you wrote is true, it may be called a “sworn” statement.

payor

The person paying child support or partner/spousal support to another person.

recipient

The person getting child support or partner/spousal support from another person.

enforcement

Forcing something to be done or forcing someone to act in a specific way because of a law, rule, or court order.

provisional order

A court order that is only temporary until the final outcome is decided. Provisional orders are used when there are jurisdictional issues. Specifically, the Court in one geographic area makes a court order (the “provisional order”), but the order does not take effect until the Court in the other geographic area confirms it. In other words, it is a “suggested” order until it is confirmed.

certified copy

A copy of an original document, which has a certificate from an “authorized party” that confirms that the copy is a true copy of the original document.

An authorized party is generally someone named by the organization that is asking for the certified copy. For example: if you need to prove your divorce in order to remarry in Alberta, the Alberta government will let you know who must certify the copy. Often, it can be a lawyer or a Notary Public.

The laws that may apply to you

As you work through your legal issues, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Family Law Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English

Web Divorce Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Canada
English


Web Extra-Provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act
Government of Alberta
English


Web Alberta Rules of Court
Government of Alberta
English

Web Provincial Court Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Alberta
English


PDF Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
Hague Conference on Private International Law
English

Web Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982
Government of Canada
English

Web Civil Marriage Act
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, including what they are and how they work, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If you plan on representing yourself in court, you will also need to know about “case law.” In general, “case law” refers to the idea that it is up to judges hearing individual cases to decide:

  1. the exact meaning of the words in the laws (called “interpretation”), and
  2. how that meaning applies to the people in those cases (called “application”).

This means that what happens in other cases can affect what happens in your case. It also means that there are cases decided before that govern how cases are decided now. For more information on case law, see the Our Legal System Information Page and Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Jurisdiction: What is it and why does it matter?

What is jurisdiction?

This term refers to the right or ability of a government or a court to make decisions about things.

In terms of government, “jurisdiction” refers to a particular government’s right, power, or authority to make laws.

  • The Government of Canada has “federal jurisdiction”—the laws the Government of Canada makes apply to everyone in Canada.
  • The provinces and territories of Canada have “provincial jurisdiction”—the laws those governments make apply only within that province or territory.

The exact topics that each jurisdiction can make laws about is laid out in the Constitution Act, 1867. Governments cannot make laws about topics that are not in their jurisdiction.

Similarly, governments of other countries make laws that generally only apply in their geographic area.

In terms of the court system, “jurisdiction” is also used to describe a particular court’s authority to deal with an issue. This is related to the governmental jurisdiction:

  • Federal courts (such as the Federal Court of Canada and the Tax Court) deal with the laws passed by the Government of Canada.
  • Alberta courts (the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench) have the authority to deal with Alberta laws, but they cannot deal with the laws of another province. In other words, “jurisdiction” is the geographic area where the judge has authority to make court orders.
  • Alberta courts can also deal with laws passed by the Government of Canada, if they have been given the authority to do so. For example: Alberta courts have the authority to deal with the Criminal Code of Canada (which is a federal law).

In general, courts cannot make orders using laws that are not in their jurisdiction, and courts cannot hear a matter about a person who is not in their jurisdiction.

Why does it matter?

A basic concept of law is that, in general, courts can only use the laws that apply in the geographic area where those courts are located. A court in Alberta is meant to apply the laws of Alberta. It cannot simply decide one day to apply the laws of Newfoundland or of the Netherlands to the case it is considering. It has no jurisdiction to do so.

Also, people are governed by the laws in the geographic area where they live. A person who lives in Camrose, Alberta will be governed by Canadian federal laws, Alberta provincial laws, and the city laws passed by the City of Camrose. A person living there cannot simply decide to be governed by the city laws of Moncton, the territorial laws of Yukon, and the federal laws of France instead.

In family law matters, jurisdiction can complicate things. For example:

  • If a person has just moved to Alberta, should the Alberta courts have jurisdiction? Can that person prove that they really live here? What if all of their documentation (such as driver’s licence and last year’s tax return) shows that the person lives outside of Alberta? What if they are just visiting and claiming to live here? How can courts make sure that a person lives in Alberta, so that the courts are not making decisions in cases where they have no jurisdiction?
  • What if one member of the family lives in Alberta, but their spouse/partner lives in another province? How do we know which courts have jurisdiction?
  • What if everyone lives in Alberta now, but they want to change a court order that was given where they used to live? An Alberta court cannot just change an order if it has no jurisdiction to do so.

There are many family law cases where the issue of jurisdiction can come up. If it does, a decision about which court has jurisdiction must be made before the matter can be resolved.

For more information about jurisdiction, see the following resources.

PDF The Canadian Legal System: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web What, Why and Where: Untangling Jurisdiction in Family Law
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Jurisdiction issues and domestic contracts (cohabitation, pre-nuptial, marriage, and separation agreements)

What is a domestic contract?

A domestic contract is a legal agreement between 2 or more people who are either:

  • living together;
  • will soon be living together; or
  • were living together and are now ending their relationship.

Sometimes, when people move in together, they want to create an agreement about the terms for their relationship. This may include rights and responsibilities they have toward one another during the relationship, as well as after the relationship ends. The parties can address many issues regarding their relationship, such as:

  • how bills will be divided;
  • whether one party will pay partner/spousal support to the other if they were to separate; and
  • how property will be divided between the parties if they were to separate.

These contracts can have different names, depending on the circumstances:

  • If the people making the contract are already married, the agreement is usually called a “marriage agreement.”
  • If the people making the contract are planning to get married in the near future, the agreement is usually called a “pre-nuptial agreement.”
  • If the people making the contract will live together without getting married, the contract is usually called a “cohabitation agreement.”

Jurisdiction issues when creating a domestic contract

Deciding which topics to include in the domestic contract

Different provinces and countries have different rules about what kinds of things can be included in domestic contracts. For example: not all provinces allow parents to deal with child custody issues in pre-nuptial, cohabitation, and marriage agreements. In Ontario, parents can only enter into an agreement about parenting time, custody, or access after they have separated.

If you think that you might be moving to another province, be sure to consider that province’s rules to ensure that your agreement will be enforceable in your new province.

Planning for the issue of jurisdiction in case the relationship ends

Cohabitation, pre-nuptial, and marriage agreements can include a clause that is often called a “law that governs” clause. A “law that governs” clause will lay out which province’s or country’s laws will be used to decide any future issues that might come up. This can be important if one of the parties lives in, or will move to, another province or country.

For example:

  • You signed a cohabitation agreement with your partner in Alberta.
  • You and your partner lived together for many years and had children together, but you never got married.
  • Your cohabitation agreement has some clauses about child support in it.
  • You and your partner separate.
  • You and your partner disagree about just how long child support needs to be paid after the child turns 18, and the contract is not clear.
  • You now all live in British Columbia.
  • The laws about how long child support must be paid in non-married families is different in British Columbia than it is in Alberta.
  • If your contract says nothing about the “law that governs,” the laws of British Columbia will likely apply.
  • If you had a clause in the contract saying that you intend the laws of Alberta to apply, then the British Columbia court may consider the laws of Alberta to help decide the case.

For more information about making cohabitation agreements, see the Cohabitation Agreements Information Page.

For more information about making pre-nuptial or marriage agreements, see the Pre-nuptial & Marriage Agreements Information Page.

Jurisdiction issues with a domestic contract if the relationship breaks down

If the relationship breaks down, jurisdiction issues could come up when the parties try to follow the terms of the contract. For example, the contract may not have a “law that governs” clause. As explained above, a “law that governs” clause will lay out which province’s or country’s laws will be used to decide any future issues that might come up. This can be important if one of the parties has moved to another province or country.

Jurisdiction can also be an issue if one or both of the parties tries to have the contract “set aside.” When a court “sets aside” an agreement, it believes that making one of the parties carry out their “end of the deal” would not be right. Another way of saying “setting aside” is “striking down.” By setting an agreement aside, a court is basically cancelling it. A court can set aside:

  • the whole agreement;
  • just a particular part of the agreement; or
  • several parts of the agreement.

An agreement can be set aside for many reasons, such as:

  • One party was pressured, forced, or tricked into signing the agreement. This may be called “undue influence.”
  • One party did not have the “capacity” to enter into the agreement. In other words, they did not have the legal ability to understand the agreement.
  • The parties involved in the agreement did not give each other full and accurate information. That is, they did not provide each other with complete “disclosure.”
  • Any of the parties did not understand what they were signing.

In Alberta, the agreement is generally upheld in court as long as the parties:

  • are fully informed of their legal rights;
  • get full disclosure about each other’s assets; and
  • get independent legal advice.

The law in other provinces may be similar to Alberta, but there are some differences. For example, in British Columbia the Court has struck down family law agreements because the agreement was too unfair, or “unconscionable.” If something is “unconscionable,” it is extremely unfair. In other words, it would be against our conscience to let this thing happen. Fairness and unconscionability have not yet been factors to overturn a domestic contract in Alberta, although they may become relevant in the future.

This is a complex area of law. You may wish to consider getting legal advice. For more information, see the Relationship Breakdown if You Had a Domestic Contract Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Jurisdiction issues when creating a separation agreement

Jurisdiction issues can also come up when parties are trying to reach an agreement about the issues related to their separation. Different provinces have different rules about what needs to be included in a separation agreement and what the exact requirements are. For example: in Alberta, if a married couple is making an agreement that includes property division, both parties must get independent legal advice (and they must have a special certificate to prove that they did so). This is a requirement of Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act. Other jurisdictions may not have this requirement.

What happens if one spouse lives in Alberta and the other lives in a jurisdiction where this is not a requirement? What if the property is in the jurisdiction where independent legal advice is not a requirement? Because of this confusion, if the parties live in different jurisdictions, it is a very good idea to get legal advice before trying to make a separation agreement. For more information, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Having a foreign marriage recognized in Canada

If you were married outside of Alberta and you are trying to deal with a family law issue in Alberta, you may have to prove that you were legally married outside of Alberta.

For marriages that took place in other Canadian provinces and territories, this is quite easy to do: you only need to provide your marriage certificate.

On the other hand, if you were married outside of Canada, this can be more complicated. Most of the time, if all the legal requirements of the foreign country were met, marriages performed in that country will be recognized here. However, if the marriage laws of that other country conflict with the marriage laws of Canada, the marriage may not be recognized. For example, polygamy (being married to more than one person at a time) is not legal in Canada. Therefore, if you married someone who was already married to someone else in a foreign country, your marriage will not be recognized in Canada.

For more information about having a foreign marriage recognized in Canada, see the following resources.

Web Will the Canadian government recognize my foreign marriage?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Gujarati, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Marriage FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

For information about the requirements for a legal marriage in Canada, see the Getting Married Information Page.

For more information about getting your foreign marriage recognized in Canada, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

If you are unsure whether your marriage outside of Canada meets the Canadian marriage requirements, you may want to speak with a lawyer about your rights as you deal with your family law issues. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page. If you think that you cannot afford lawyer and would like to learn about other legal help that is available in your community, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Having a foreign divorce recognized in Canada

If you got a divorce outside of Canada, you may need to have that divorce recognized in Canada. To do that, you will need to prove that your divorce was legal in that country. For information about how to do that, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

There is no need to “register” a foreign divorce with the Alberta courts. If your divorce order includes custody, access, or support, then those parts of the divorce can be registered with the Courts and enforced in Alberta, but the divorce itself does not need to be “registered.”

For more information about having a foreign divorce recognized in Canada, see the following resources.

Web About Divorce and Separation
Government of Canada
English
See “Having a foreign divorce recognized in Canada.”

Web Au sujet du divorce et de la séparation
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Pour faire reconnaître au Canada un divorce obtenu à l'étranger.”

Web Will my foreign divorce be recognized in Canada?
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
 This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereChoose your language, then see topic #11.

Web The Pitfalls of Foreign Marriage and Divorce: Part 2
RCMV Family Lawyers
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Recognition of Foreign Divorce
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Foreign Divorce: Wilson v Kovalev, 2016 ONSC 163
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law (Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, Nepali, and Tagalog)
Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, Tagalog, Other languages
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereThis resource will automatically download: only look at this on a safe computer.

Web The Difference Between Canadian and US Divorce Laws
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Having a foreign annulment recognized in Canada

If your annulment is legally valid in the country where it was granted, then it is valid in Alberta. However, an annulment that comes from a religious authority (instead of a court) is not valid in Alberta. In other words, the annulment must have been granted by a court of that country.

To have your foreign annulment recognized in Canada, you will need to prove that your annulment was legal in that country. For information about how to do that, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Non-resident same-sex couples getting a divorce in Alberta

In Canada, same-sex couples can marry. This means that they can also divorce. All couples who live in Canada can follow the exact same laws and procedures.

However, not all countries allow, or recognize, same sex marriage. As a result, people from other countries may travel to Canada to marry. After the marriage, they return to their home country. But, their marriage is not recognized in their own country. Therefore, they cannot get divorced in their country. Unlike couples who live in Canada, these couples cannot use the Divorce Act. This is because the Divorce Act says that spouses can only divorce in Canada if they live in Canada.

Canada has solved this problem through the Civil Marriage Act. This law applies to spouses who:

  • were married in Canada; and
  • now live somewhere where they can’t get a divorce (because that country does not recognize their Canadian marriage as a valid marriage).

The Civil Marriage Act allows these spouses to get a divorce in Canada.

Be Aware

A court can only use the Civil Marriage Act to grant a divorce. It cannot deal with spousal support, child support, or parenting arrangements for children. You will need to deal with these matters in your home country.

To get a divorce under the Civil Marriage Act in Alberta, there are 3 requirements. They are listed below.

1. Foreign residency

You and your spouse must each live in a jurisdiction that does not allow you to get a divorce, because the jurisdiction does not recognize your marriage as being valid. Also, each of you must have lived in that jurisdiction for at least one year before you apply to divorce in Canada.

If either of you lives in Canada, then you cannot apply for a divorce under the Civil Marriage Act. You would use the Divorce Act instead. See the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

2. Alberta marriage

You must have been married in Alberta. If you were married in another Canadian province, contact the courts in that province to find out how to get your divorce. For more information about who can help in other provinces, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

3. One year separation

You must have been living “separate and apart” for at least one year.

Tip

You can start the divorce action as soon as you separate, but you cannot ask for the Divorce Judgment until after the year is up.

The start of the period of living “separate and apart” (the separation) is usually when one spouse tells the other that he or she wants to separate. The spouse being told about the separation does not have to “agree” to the separation.

Although separation usually means living in separate places, this does not have to be the case. You may be separated from your spouse even if you continue to live in the same house. However, when you do live in the same house, it is more difficult to prove to the court that you are separated.

If you are ever in court about this issue, the judge will look at all of the facts of the situation. The key concern is when the couple stopped “marriage-like” activities such as:

  • sharing a bedroom;
  • having sex;
  • going to family events together;
  • sharing a social life;
  • eating together;
  • providing emotional comfort;
  • doing each other’s laundry; and
  • cooking and cleaning for each other.

More information

For more information about getting a divorce using the Civil Marriage Act, and how using it might affect other issues such as child custody, see the following resources.

Web Civil Marriage Act amended to allow non-residents to divorce
JP Boyd on Family Law
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Divorce under the Civil Marriage Act
Government of Alberta
English
Jurisdiction when separating or divorcing in Canada: The starting point

In Alberta and Canada, there are many laws that deal with separation and divorce issues. This can be quite confusing, but it is important to know the differences between the laws that may apply to you. You will need to know about this so you understand your choices about how to proceed (if you have a choice).

The situation can become even more confusing if your spouse or partner lives outside of Alberta (in other words, when there are jurisdiction issues).

If you are married

If two residents of Alberta are married and they want to legally end that marriage (divorce), they must use the Divorce Act. The Divorce Act is a federal law (meaning it was passed by the Government of Canada) and is the same all across Canada.

Under the Divorce Act, married people can ask for spousal support from each other, and they can also deal with custody, access, and child support matters if there are children involved. These things (spousal support, custody, access, and child support) are called “corollary relief.”

The Divorce Act does not deal with the division of property. Instead, that is dealt with under the laws of the provinces and territories. In other words, the law about the division of property is different depending on which province you live in. In Alberta, the provincial law that deals with the division of property for married spouses is called the Matrimonial Property Act. The Matrimonial Property Act only applies to people who were married to each other. It does not deal with the division of property for people who are separating but were never married to each other.

Married people who are separating can come to an agreement about corollary relief and matrimonial property—they do not have to involve the courts. However, the divorce itself can only be given by a court.

However, in Alberta, married people can choose to use a different law called the Family Law Act to deal with issues about children (such as parenting time) and support (child support or spousal support). This can only be done if the spouses have not already started a divorce action under the Divorce Act. If a divorce action has been started, the child and support issues must be dealt with under the Divorce Act.

If you are not married

For separating partners who are both residents of Alberta and who were never married, there is no choice. If they go to court, they must deal with their separation issues using the Family Law Act. However, the Family Law Act does not deal with property.

Jurisdiction when separating or divorcing in Canada: When one spouse or partner does not live in Alberta

When one spouse or partner does not live in Alberta, the situation is more complicated because more than one jurisdiction is involved. For such situations, there are laws (or special parts of laws) that deal with the “interjurisdictional” issues if the parties want or need to use the courts to resolve their issues. For example, the Divorce Act has sections that deal with divorce-related processes when there are jurisdiction issues. Alberta also has additional laws that address what to do in family breakdown situations when the parties live in separate jurisdictions.

As a starting point, you will need to know if the person who is away from Alberta will be gone only temporarily (and will come back to Alberta to live), or if the person is has moved away permanently (or at least seems to have left permanently).

Sometimes, a person may only be away temporarily. These situations can be inconvenient to deal with. For example: a person may work outside of Alberta for weeks or months at time. This can be a problem if you are trying to “serve” court paperwork on that person. To “serve” a person means that court documents must be personally given to the other party  (not mailed or emailed). This can be difficult and expensive if the person lives far away, or even in a foreign country.

If the person is gone only temporarily, it is generally not necessary to use the laws that deal with interjurisdictional issues. Instead, there are ways in the “regular” processes to deal with such challenges and inconveniences. For example, it is possible to get permission from the Alberta courts to serve a person outside of Alberta, or to serve in a manner that is not “in person” (such as by mail). This way, the legal process can continue inside Alberta.

The rest of this section discusses situations where a spouse/partner or the children are permanently living outside of Alberta.

Be Aware

To use any of the laws described below, there are specific requirements about where the spouses/partners and children “live” (or “reside”). Be sure to read the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section below to find out if you meet the requirements and what your options are.

Divorce Act proceedings, applications, and orders: If one party and/or the children are living in another Canadian province or territory

The Divorce Act is a federal law that applies across Canada. This means that, in certain situations, divorce proceedings and/or applications may be moved between provinces and territories if required. Also, because this law applies all across Canada, it is relatively easy to enforce or change Divorce Act orders, no matter where the parties are in the country.

The term “divorce proceedings” refers to a court action where either or both spouses ask for a divorce. This divorce could be asked for on its own, or together with requests about custody, access, child support, and/or spousal support.

The term “applications” refers to smaller, individual parts of the divorce action, but they are related to the ongoing case.

Divorce proceedings when there are no custody & access issues: Transfer is not possible

If there are no custody and access issues as part of the divorce action, divorce proceedings cannot be transferred. Instead, a party can only ask that the divorce proceedings in another province be “struck” (meaning “stopped”), so that the proceedings can be re-started in Alberta. For more information about striking proceedings in another Canadian jurisdiction, see the “Divorce: When the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere and you want to stop them and start again in Alberta” section below.

“Transferring” divorce proceedings and all other applications when there are custody & access issues

If a divorce action has been started in one jurisdiction in Canada, and if there are custody and access matters, a party can request that all of the divorce-related issues (the divorce itself and all custody, access, child support, spousal support issues) be transferred to a different jurisdiction within Canada. This is allowed under section 6(1) of the Divorce Act. For more information, see the “Divorce: If divorce proceedings were started elsewhere in Canada, and you want to transfer the proceedings to Alberta” section below.

“Transferring” only the applications about custody & access

Under the Divorce Act, if a custody and/or access application has been started in another jurisdiction, it is possible for a party to ask that an application about custody and access be transferred to another jurisdiction (without having to transfer all of the proceedings, such as the divorce itself). This is allowed by section 6(2) of the Divorce Act. For more information, see the “Divorce: When the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere in Canada, and you want a custody and access application to be transferred to Alberta” section below.

“Transferring” other applications (other than those about custody & access)

The Divorce Act does not allow the parties to “transfer” other kinds of applications (such as child support or spousal support). Therefore, if the application has already been started in the other jurisdiction, you cannot ask that other Court to “transfer” that application to your province or territory.

Instead, you may wish to respond to that application, and attend the hearing in person or electronically (if there is a hearing), or have someone represent you at that hearing.

Or, if you meet the requirements, you can ask the Court to “strike” (stop) all of the divorce proceedings. For more information about striking proceedings in another Canadian jurisdiction, see the “Divorce: When the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere and you want to stop them and start again in Alberta” section below.

Changing Divorce Act orders (custody, access, and support orders)

Divorce Act orders may also be changed across Canada. This means that, even if an order was given in one province or territory (for example: Ontario), it is possible for an application to change that order to be filed in another province or territory (for example: Alberta), if both parties agree. If that happens, the application can then be done through affidavits and/or any means of telecommunications. For more information, see the “Divorce: If you already have an order from another jurisdiction and you want to change (“vary”) it” section below.

Enforcing Divorce Act orders

Divorce Act orders can be enforced across Canada. This means that an order that was given in one province or territory (for example: Ontario) can generally be registered and enforced in another province or territory (for example: Alberta). If that happens, the order will apply in Alberta—exactly as if it had been granted by a court in Alberta. For more information, see the “Divorce: If you already have an order from another jurisdiction and you want to enforce it in Alberta” section below.

Family Law Act applications and orders: If one party and/or the children are living in another Canadian province or territory

If one party lives outside of Alberta (but still in Canada), it may still be possible to deal with family breakdown issues using Alberta’s Family Law Act. For more information about when that might be possible, see the sections that start with “Family Law Act” below.

However, because the Family Law Act (FLA) is an Alberta law, and only applies in Alberta, it does not work in the same way as the Divorce Act. Unlike the Divorce Act, the Family Law Act does not have options for:

  • starting proceedings in other provinces or territories;
  • transferring proceedings to another province or territory; or
  • registering, enforcing, and changing FLA orders outside of Alberta.

Other provinces and territories have laws similar to Alberta’s Family Law Act (and in some cases they are even called the Family Law Act too). Those laws also apply only within their own provinces and territories. Since it is so common and easy for people to move between provinces and territories, this can cause problems.

As a result, each province has additional laws to try to deal with situations where the parties live in different parts of Canada. These additional laws allow parties to:

  • apply for court orders without having to travel to another province or territory; and
  • ask that court orders from other provinces and territories be registered, enforced, and/or changed in their own province or territory (again, without having to travel to make that request).

These laws are the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act and the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act.

The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act

The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO Act) is a law that only deals with support orders (child support and partner/spousal support).

Using the ISO Act, a party can apply for:

  • a first-time support order in certain other jurisdictions without having to go to that other jurisdiction; or
  • a change to an existing support order from the other jurisdiction.

People in these other jurisdictions can do the same thing.

However, there are 2 restrictions:

  1. Only certain jurisdictions are permitted to use use the ISO Act. These are called “reciprocating jurisdictions.” They are jurisdictions that have signed a special agreement with Alberta.
  2. The ISO Act cannot be used if the parties already have a support order made in divorce proceedings in Canada. If they do, the parties would use the Divorce Act instead.

For more information, see the “Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act” section below.

The Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act

The Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO) is a law that only deals with orders about the care and control of children. In other words, it deals with: guardianship, custody, access, and parenting time.  

Using the EPECO, a party can ask the Alberta Courts to enforce or change an Order from another province/territory.

However, the EPECO cannot be used if the parties want to enforce or change a custody order made in divorce proceedings in Canada. If they want to do that, the parties would use the Divorce Act instead.

Be Aware

If the children have been abducted and taken to the other jurisdiction, there are different things to consider. See the “Child abduction” sections below for more information.

For more information, see the “Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act” section below.

Other laws: If one party and/or the children are living outside of Canada

If one party lives outside of Canada, the situation becomes even more complicated. However, it may still be possible to deal with family breakdown issues using Canadian law.

Specifically, it may be possible to use the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act and the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act.

The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act

The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO Act) is a law that only deals with support orders. In other words, it deals with: child support and spousal/partner support.  

Using the ISO Act, a party can apply for:

  • a first-time support order in certain other jurisdictions without having to go to that other jurisdiction; or
  • a change to an existing support order from the other jurisdiction.

People in these other jurisdictions can do the same thing.

However, it is only possible to use the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act if the other country is a “reciprocating jurisdiction.” A “reciprocating jurisdiction” is a country, province, or territory that has an agreement with Alberta to:

  • allow applications for support (or applications to change support) that were started in Alberta to be heard in that province or country;
  • allow applications for support (or applications to change support) that were started in that other province or country to be heard in Alberta;
  • allow Alberta court orders for support (and in certain cases, written support agreements) to apply and be enforceable in that province or country; and
  • allow their court orders (and in certain cases, written support agreements) to be accepted and enforced in Alberta.

These agreements are called “reciprocity agreements.” Alberta has reciprocity agreements with over 80 different jurisdictions, including all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries. For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

For more information, see the “Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act” section below.

The Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act

The Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO) is a law that only deals with orders about the care and control of children. In other words, it deals with: guardianship, custody, access, and parenting time.  

Using the EPECO, a party can ask the Alberta Courts to enforce or change an Order from another country.

Be Aware

If the children have been abducted and taken to the other jurisdiction, there are different things to consider. See the “Child abduction” sections below for more information.

For more information, see the “Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act” section below.

Parens patriae (“parent of the nation”) jurisdiction

This term refers to the concept that the government has the power (through the courts) to take any action necessary to protect any child who is:

  • connected to its jurisdiction; and
  • in need of protection.

Generally, in order to use this parens patriae jurisdiction, there must be a legal need that requires the Court to step in. For example, the Court may choose to take action if there is a jurisdictional issue, and a child who is connected to the jurisdiction is in need of protection, and there is no other law that provides the ability to step in. This is not very common.

More information

For more information about jurisdiction issues when dealing with separation or divorce, see the following resource.

Web Considering Jurisdiction in Interprovincial Custody Applications
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Coming to an agreement about your jurisdiction issues

Much of this Information Page deals with the laws that can be used if the parties must go to court to deal with their separation or divorce. Although in some cases the parties want or need to go to court, going to court is not always necessary.

No matter where you live, you do not necessarily have to go to court to decide your issues related to separation and divorce. It may be possible to agree, either on your own or with the help of a third party. Court is merely one option in a range of possibilities.

If the parties and the children do not all live in the same jurisdiction, there are often ways to make sure that the out-of-court agreements become court orders that are enforceable and changeable in all the jurisdictions that apply to the family.

For more general information about coming to an agreement, either on your own or with the help of a third party, see the following Information Pages.

For more information about what to do with agreements to help ensure that they will be registered and enforceable in Alberta, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Alberta residency & family breakdown

As described above, the Alberta Courts do not generally have the authority to make orders for families that live in another province. This means you will need to know each party’s “residency.” In other words, do the people involved “live” (or “reside”) in Alberta?

The laws

In Alberta, when dealing with issues around the breakdown of your relationship, there are different laws that you may use, depending on your exact circumstances. The 5 main laws are summarized below. Each of these laws has residency requirements to determine if they will apply or not. Be sure to read about the “Different kinds of residency” just below, as well as the detailed information about each of these laws in the sections that follow.

Be Aware

Depending on your exact circumstances, there may be other laws that can apply to your situation. The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, and you may want to get the advice of lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Divorce Act 

This law applies only to people who were legally married. This law deals with the divorce itself as well as custody and access to children, child support, and spousal support (these issues are also called “corollary relief”). The Divorce Act is a federal law that applies across Canada, and its orders can be enforced across Canada.

Matrimonial Property Act 

This law also applies only to people who were legally married. It only deals with the division of property, and it applies only in Alberta. Each province/territory in Canada has its own similar laws that deal with the division of property in family breakdown and some of them use this same title for their law.

Family Law Act 

This law deals with many kinds of family issues, including the care and control of children, contact with children, child support, and partner support. In general, this law applies to partners who were not in a married relationship. However, the Family Law Act can also apply to people who were married, if they decide to use that law instead of the Divorce Act. Specifically, for parenting and support issues, married people have a choice which law they use when they separate: they can use Divorce Act or the Family Law Act. The Family Law Act applies only in Alberta. Each province/territory has its own similar laws and some of them use this same title for their law.

Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act 

This Alberta law deals with situations when the parties live in separate jurisdictions and do not have a support order granted under the Divorce Act. Using this law, a party can apply for a support order (child support or partner support) in a “reciprocating jurisdiction” without having to go there. A party can also apply to change an existing support order from a reciprocating jurisdiction without having to go to that jurisdiction. Similarly, a person in one of the reciprocating jurisdictions can do the same thing in Alberta without having to come here.

Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act 

This is an Alberta law that allows a party to ask the Alberta Courts to enforce or change an Order about the care and control of children, if that order is from outside of Alberta (whether it is from another province/territory or another country). However, this law can only be used if the Order the parties are trying to enforce was not made under the Divorce Act.

Different kinds of residency

In law, there can be different ways to determine where a person “resides.” Which method is used can depend on which laws are involved. The 3 main ways Alberta courts determine residency are listed below.

“Habitual” or “ordinary” residence

These terms refer to where a person lives his or her day-to-day life. This is different from where a person might occasionally stay, or even where a person often stays. It is where a person’s life is centred. Even if they are not always there, it is the place where they regularly return.

Factors that can be considered include:

  • where a person was born;
  • where a person has spent, and continues to spend, most of his or her life; and
  • where a person has ties to family and the community.

When it comes to children, there some additional factors that can be considered, including:

  • where the child’s roots are (such as where the child last lived with both parents/guardians, and where the child has lived since the separation with the agreement of both parents/guardians);
  • where the child’s extended family lives;
  • where the child has the strongest bonds (such as connections to daycare, school, church, service and health care providers, community);
  • where the parents/guardians have a home, job, and social life;
  • where there are other court orders already in place;
  • whether there is a difference between court processes that will affect how quickly and inexpensively the issue can be resolved; and
  • whether there is a difference between the laws that will affect the welfare of the child.

In many cases, the issue of where a person is ordinarily resident will be clear. But sometimes it is not as easy to tell. For example: what if you have 2 homes in 2 different provinces, and the time that you and/or the children spend in each is almost equal? In such a situation, the Alberta courts may not have the right to hear the matter. Or, they may want to hear some of the details before they decide if they can hear the matter.

“Real and substantial” connection

In some child-related matters, in order for an Alberta court to hear the case, the children involved must have a “real and substantial” connection to Alberta. Or the connection to Alberta must be the “most substantial” when compared to any other jurisdiction. If the Court finds that the children have no “real and substantial” connection to Alberta, the Alberta courts may not have the authority to hear the case.

The concept of “real and substantial” connection is not defined in any laws. However, some courts have discussed it. As a result, although there are no clear “rules” about exactly what a “real and substantial” connection looks like, judges have decided that it cannot be “artificial” or “superficial.” However, unlike “ordinary” or “habitual” residence, it can be minimal (very little). As long it is not superficial (just on the surface), it might  be enough to be considered residency.

Although a “real and substantial” connection does not necessarily mean the same thing as “ordinary” or “habitual” residence, many of the same factors listed above are often considered when deciding if a child has a “real and substantial” connection to a location. Also, the connection is more than just a personal connection: it deals with a child’s real and continuing legal connection to a jurisdiction. In other words, one parent will not successfully “change” a child’s ordinary residence just by taking that child to a place where the child might already have a personal connection (such as a place the children have visited several times to see family). Similarly, one parent cannot “change” a child’s ordinary residence just by moving the children to that new province without the permission of the other parent/guardian.

Forum non conveniens (“the forum that is not convenient”)

Forum non conveniens is an approach that does not come from a specific law, but from the “common law.” Common law is essentially a set of rules, created by court decisions over time, to address issues when there was not a written law (a “statute”) that covered the issue.

Forum non conveniens is used by the Court when the law being used does not clearly state when the Court should take jurisdiction, and if there is a more appropriate Court to be used. In other words, the Court examines whether it would be “inconvenient” for the people involved if it took jurisdiction in the matter, and whether there is a more “convenient” Court that should take the matter. The Court will look at various things when deciding this, including where the best and most evidence is located, and where the parties involved live (including the children, if there are any).

More information about residency in family breakdown

For more general information about residency in family breakdown, see the following resources.



Web England or Ontario: Which Court Should Grant This Divorce?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Habitual Residence of the Child
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Residency and moving children without the permission of the other parent/guardian

As described above, when it comes to issues about children, a key consideration is where the children currently live.

This does not mean that a parent/guardian who takes a child away to another province, territory, or country will get the Court in that new area to accept jurisdiction. In fact, usually the opposite is true. Generally, if a child was removed from one area without the consent of the other parent/guardian, the Court in the new jurisdiction will not allow that person to benefit from such actions. As a result, these cases generally have to move back to the children’s “habitual” residence.

Family Violence

There are some exceptions to this approach, such as cases where the parent can prove that they left for the safety and well-being of the children.

For more information about the residency of children, see the following resources.



Web Recent case law: Determining a child’s habitual residence
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.



Web Habitual Residence Definition
Duhaime.org
English
This is a private source. Learn more here
Residency requirements under the Divorce Act

Starting the divorce action

In order to start divorce proceedings (custody, access, child support, spousal support, and the divorce itself) in Alberta, at least one spouse must have been “ordinarily resident” in Alberta for at least one year.

The matter will be clear if you have lived in the province, and have not left the province, in the past year. Sometimes, however, it is not as easy to tell. In these situations, the Alberta courts may not have the right to hear the matter (or they may want to hear some of the details before they decide if they can hear the matter). Also, if one party is ordinarily resident in Alberta and the other is not, or if any of your issues will involve courts in another province (or have already), the issue is more complicated and it may not be possible for the matter to be heard in Alberta.

Dealing with child-related issues under the Divorce Act

If at least one spouse is ordinarily resident in Alberta, that spouse could apply to start an action for a divorce in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, and could ask for custody, access, child support, and/or spousal support (these things are called “corollary relief”) as part of that divorce.

However, when you are deciding whether or not to start the Divorce Act action in Alberta, you must keep in mind where the children live. If the children do not live in Alberta, but live in the jurisdiction where your spouse lives (or even another jurisdiction), the Alberta court may not accept or keep jurisdiction. This is because, for issues about children, the courts generally prefer that matters be dealt with in the jurisdiction where the children have the “most substantial” connection.

Specifically:

  • Under section 6(2) of the Divorce Act, even if a divorce action has been started in one jurisdiction in Canada, a party can ask that any applications about custody and access be transferred to another jurisdiction, if the children have the most substantial connection to that other jurisdiction. For more information about this, see the “Divorce: When the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere in Canada, and you want a custody and access application to be transferred to Alberta” section below.
  • Also, under section 6(1) of the Divorce Act, if there are custody and access matters being heard, a party can even request that all of the divorce proceedings (custody, access, child support, spousal support, and the divorce itself) be transferred to the jurisdiction where the children have the most substantial connection. For more information about this, see the “Divorce: If divorce proceedings were started elsewhere in Canada, and you want to transfer the proceedings to Alberta” section below.

More information about the Divorce Act

If you are not sure if you are married or not, see the Getting Married Information Page.

If you are married, and if it is clear that residency requirements have been met, see the following Information Pages about making Divorce Act applications in Alberta:

If you are married and unsure which law to use to deal with your family matters, see the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider” section of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

For information about the Divorce Act in situations where only one spouse is a resident of Alberta, or residency is not clear, see the sections starting with “Divorce” below.

Residency requirements under the Matrimonial Property Act

If you wish to apply to the Alberta Courts for a division of matrimonial property, the person asking the Court for the division must show the Court that at least one of the following conditions applies:

  • both spouses (or former spouses) currently live in Alberta;
  • if both spouses (or former spouses) do not currently live in Alberta, their last joint residence was in Alberta;
  • if the spouses (or former spouses) did not live together since the date of their marriage, both of them lived in Alberta at the time of the marriage; or
  • a Statement of Claim for Divorce has been filed in Alberta (for more information about what this is, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page)
Remember

The Matrimonial Property Act applies only to people who are married to each other or are divorced from each other. If you were not married and want to divide your property, see the Property Division for Unmarried Couples Information Page.

If you are not sure if you were married or not, see the Getting Married Information Page.

If you are married, or were married, and it is clear that the residency requirements have been met, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page for information about making property applications in Alberta.

For information about the Matrimonial Property Act in situations where only one spouse is a resident of Alberta, or residency is not clear, see the sections starting with “Matrimonial Property Act” below.

Residency requirements under the Family Law Act

The Alberta Family Law Act (FLA) does not specifically state when a court has jurisdiction. As a result, the common law rules of forum non conviens apply—see the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above for information about what that is.

This has resulted in the following general approach.

  • If a relationship breakdown issue relates to the children of the relationship, the children and at least one of the guardians must be “habitually resident” in Alberta (see the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above).
  • If a relationship breakdown issue does not relate to children (for example: partner support), both parties must be “habitually resident” in Alberta.

In many cases, the issue of where the parties and/or the children reside will be clear. But sometimes it is not as easy to tell. For example, if one party is resident in Alberta and the other is not, or if any of the issues will involve courts in another province (or have already), the issue is more complicated.

If it is clear that the Family Law Act residency requirements have been met, see the following Information Pages about making Family Law Act applications:

If you are married and unsure which law to use to deal with your family matters, see the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider” section of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

For information about Family Law Act applications in situations where only one partner is a resident of Alberta, or residency is not clear, see the sections starting with “Family Law Act” below.

Residency requirements under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act

The Alberta Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO Act) is a law that comes from agreements that Alberta has made with over 80 different jurisdictions (called “reciprocity agreements”). These other jurisdictions include all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries.

Under these reciprocity agreements, Alberta and these other jurisdictions will recognize and honour each other’s laws and orders about support. In other words, the ISO Act makes it possible for the support orders to apply in both places.

To use the ISO Act:

  • the parties must live in different and reciprocating jurisdictions; and
  • one of them must habitually reside in Alberta.

However, there are additional requirements about who can use the ISO Act. For more information about that, see the “Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act” section below.

Be Aware

If the other party lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction, you do not have to use the ISO Act. You can apply directly in the other province or country. To do so, you must hire a lawyer there.

For more general information about the ISO Act, see the following resources.

Web Apply for interjurisdictional child support
Government of Alberta
English
This also has a link to the list of reciprocating jurisdictions.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English
Residency requirements under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act

The Alberta Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO Act) is a law that allows a person to ask the Alberta Courts to enforce or change a custody order from outside of Alberta (whether it is from another province/territory or another country).

The use of the term “custody” in the name of the law can be confusing. In general, in Alberta, the word “custody” is the term used in the Divorce Act to describe the decision-making power that adults (usually married parents) have about a child. The term “custody” is not used to describe court orders about the care and control of children granted under Alberta’s Family Law Act.

However, in the case of the EPECO Act, the term “custody” does not have anything to do with the federal Divorce Act. The enforcement of Divorce Act custody orders is ruled by the Divorce Act itself—enforcing custody orders under the Divorce Act does not require the use of the EPECO Act.

Instead, under the EPECO Act, the term “custody orders” refers to court orders about the care and control of children that were granted in either:

  • other countries, under the laws of those countries; or
  • other Canadian provinces or territories, under provincial/territorial laws that are similar to Alberta’s Family Law Act (not the Divorce Act).

For the purposes of this section about the EPECO Act, however, we will use the term “custody,” as that is the term used in that law. Just remember: this is not for parents using the Divorce Act.

To make an application under the EPECO Act, the Alberta Courts will have to find that the child has a “real and substantial” connection to Alberta.

Be Aware

If the child still has a real and substantial connection to the place where the original order was made, and one parent tries to make an EPECO Act application in Alberta, the other parent can apply to have the application moved to that other jurisdiction.

For more information about the EPECO Act, see the “Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act” section below.

Divorce: When divorce proceedings have NOT been started in another jurisdiction and you are thinking of starting divorce proceedings in Alberta

As you read this information, it is important to keep in mind that the issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, especially if you are dealing with a court in another country. You may wish to consider getting legal advice (and maybe even have a lawyer in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Remember

If you are married, you have a choice about which law to use to address your issues about children and support: you can use either the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act. To help you decide which law to use, you may want to compare the information in this section (about the Divorce Act) to the “Family Law Act: When court paperwork has not been started in another jurisdiction” section below. For information on other things to consider when choosing, see the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider” section of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Being “ordinarily resident” in Alberta

To start Divorce Act proceedings in Alberta, at least one spouse must have been “ordinarily resident” in Alberta for at least one year. In addition, if there are children involved, where the children live will also be very important.

You will need to be sure that the parties who need to be “ordinarily resident” in Alberta really do ordinarily reside in Alberta. For more information about what that means, see the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above.

If your spouse is not a resident of Alberta, he or she may try to go to court in another province or territory, and may argue that you are not ordinarily resident in Alberta. In such a case, you will have to prove to the Alberta Court that you are indeed ordinarily resident in Alberta.

Be Aware

You cannot lie to the Court and say that you are ordinarily resident in Alberta when you are not. It is against the law to give information that you know is false to a court.

If you are not sure if you meet the definition of being “ordinarily resident” in Alberta, consider getting legal advice, as that is a critical question. If you try to start divorce proceedings in Alberta and the Court decides that you are not “ordinarily resident” in Alberta, you may have spent time and money for nothing. For more information about getting legal advice, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Starting the divorce proceedings in Alberta: Things to consider

If at least one spouse has been ordinarily resident in Alberta for at least one year, that spouse could apply to start a divorce action in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. However, your spouse, who lives in another jurisdiction, may want his or her jurisdiction to handle the matter. Although each of you may be allowed to start a court action in the jurisdiction where you live, one jurisdiction will have to be chosen in the end.

If at all possible, a good option is to try to agree on which jurisdiction to use. For more information about different ways to come to an agreement, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

If each of you starts a court action in the jurisdiction where you live, and if you cannot come to an agreement about which jurisdiction to use, the jurisdiction where the first set of paperwork is filed will generally be considered to have jurisdiction.

Be Aware

If you both file for divorce in provinces/territories on the same day, and neither action is “discontinued” (in other words, stopped) within 30 days, the Federal Court of Canada will have jurisdiction. If that occurs, you will want to consider getting legal advice. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

When deciding whether to start Divorce Act proceedings in Alberta, you may want to consider the following.

  • If there is not much for you and your spouse to argue about, dealing with your divorce in a court outside of Alberta may not cost much more than dealing with it in Alberta.
  • On the other hand, if you think you and your spouse will argue about many topics, the extra cost of dealing with the matter in another jurisdiction may be reason to try to get the Alberta Court to accept jurisdiction.

If you want to start divorce proceedings in Alberta and deal with spousal support

If you think you will be asking the Court to deal with spousal support at the same time as the rest of your divorce, you may have other things to consider.

For example, if your spouse lives in a different country, you may wish to consider the law about spousal support (sometimes called “alimony”) in that other jurisdiction. Different counties have different laws about who is entitled to spousal support, how much he or she may be entitled to, and for how long. You may wish to learn about the law of spousal support in that other jurisdiction, and consider how the laws of each jurisdiction will affect you.

If you want to start divorce proceedings in Alberta and deal with child-related issues

If you think you will need to apply to a court to deal with child-related issues (such as custody, access, and child support) at the same time as the rest of your divorce, you will need to keep in mind where the children live.

If the children do not live in Alberta, but live in the jurisdiction where your spouse lives (or even another jurisdiction), the Alberta court may not accept or keep jurisdiction. This is because, for issues about children, the courts generally prefer that matters be dealt with in the jurisdiction where the children have the “most substantial” connection.

Also, even if the Alberta Court did at first accept jurisdiction, if the divorce proceedings include an issue about the custody of children, a party can ask for a transfer (this is allowed under section 6 of the Divorce Act). Specifically, if the children are more “substantially connected” to another province or territory, a party can ask that either:

  • all of the divorce proceedings be transferred to that different province or territory; or
  • at least the custody and access issues be transferred to that different province or territory.

Another issue to keep in mind is whether the other jurisdiction is outside of Canada. If the other jurisdiction is outside of Canada, the laws about custody, access, and child support may be very different than the law in Canada. Be sure to learn about the laws in that other jurisdiction, as this may be a reason to try stop (or “strike”) the action in the other jurisdiction and ask the Alberta Court to accept jurisdiction.

Be Aware

If the children have been abducted and taken to the other jurisdiction, there are different things to consider. See the “Child abduction” sections below.

Starting the divorce proceedings in Alberta: Once you have decided

If it is clear that residency requirements have been met, and you have decided that Alberta is the jurisdiction where you want to apply, see the following Information Pages about starting a divorce action and making Divorce Act applications in Alberta:

Divorce: If divorce proceedings were started elsewhere in Canada, and you want to transfer the proceedings to Alberta

If your divorce proceedings have been started in another province or territory, and if custody and access issues are included in your divorce action (in other words, they are included in the pleadings), it may be possible to have all of the divorce proceedings transferred to Alberta. This is allowed under section 6(1) of the Divorce Act.

When considering whether or not to transfer divorce proceedings, a court will base its decision on which province or territory the children are more “substantially” connected to. For more information about what “substantially” connected means, see the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above.

For detailed information about applying to have divorce proceedings transferred to Alberta, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Remember

Transferring divorce proceedings is only possible when custody and access issues are mentioned in the pleadings. If they are not, it is not possible to “transfer” the proceedings. Instead, you would have to first apply to end the proceedings in the other jurisdiction. For more information about how to do this, see the “Divorce: When the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere and you want to stop them and start again in Alberta” section below.

 
Divorce: When the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere in Canada, and you want a custody and access application to be transferred to Alberta

In some cases, a parent does not need or want all of the divorce proceedings transferred to Alberta. For example, a recent move may bring up a custody issue, but all other divorce-related issues (such as child support and spousal support) have been resolved and the divorce itself will be granted soon.

In such cases, even if one Canadian jurisdiction has already accepted jurisdiction for the divorce proceedings, it is possible to have an application about custody and access transferred to a different province or territory. This is allowed under section 6(2) of the Divorce Act.

When considering such an application, a court will base its decision on which province or territory the children are more “substantially connected” to. For more information about what “substantially connected” means, see the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above.

For detailed information about applying to have custody and access issues transferred to Alberta, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Divorce: When the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere and you want to stop them and start again in Alberta

Being “ordinarily resident” in Alberta

Before asking the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to accept jurisdiction for your divorce proceedings, you will need to be sure that you are “ordinarily resident” in Alberta, and have been for at least one year (and you may have to prove that).

This is a critical question. If you are not “ordinarily resident” in Alberta and you try to ask the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to accept jurisdiction for your divorce proceedings, the Court may refuse, and you will have spent time and money for nothing. For more information about what being “ordinarily resident” means, see the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above.

Remember

You cannot lie to the Court and say that you are ordinarily resident in Alberta when you are not. It is against the law to give information that you know is false to a court.

  

Challenging the jurisdiction of divorce proceedings that were started in another Canadian jurisdiction

If your spouse has started an action under the Divorce Act in another Canadian jurisdiction, you have a few options.

  1. You could work through your divorce in that other jurisdiction, even if you live in Alberta.

  2. If there are custody and access issues started, you could apply for a “transfer” of the custody and access proceedings. For more information, see the “Divorce: When the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere in Canada, and you want a custody and access application to be transferred to Alberta” section above.

  3. You could apply to that other court to ask that the Divorce Act pleadings be “struck” (stopped) in that jurisdiction. This is called “challenging the jurisdiction.” If the pleadings are struck in that other jurisdiction, you could then file your Divorce Act paperwork in Alberta.

When deciding whether or not to challenge the jurisdiction, there are several things you may wish to consider.

  • In order for the other court to accept jurisdiction, your spouse must have been “ordinarily resident” in that jurisdiction for at least one year before the start of the proceedings.
  • If there is not much for you and your spouse to argue about, dealing with your divorce in a court outside of Alberta may not cost much more than dealing with it in Alberta.
  • On the other hand, if you think you and your spouse will argue about many topics, the extra cost of dealing with the matter in another jurisdiction may be reason to try to get the Alberta Court to accept jurisdiction.

If you will also be dealing with child-related issues as part of your divorce, there are additional things you may wish to consider when deciding whether or not to challenge jurisdiction. A few examples are listed below.

  • A critical factor in deciding which court has jurisdiction is where the children are ordinarily resident. Are the children ordinarily resident in that other jurisdiction?
  • If the children do not live in Alberta, but live in the jurisdiction where your spouse lives (or even another jurisdiction), the Alberta court may not accept jurisdiction.
  • If the children spend equal time in both jurisdictions, and each of you have been ordinarily resident in your jurisdictions for one year, each of you may be allowed to start a court action in the jurisdiction where you live.

Also, even if the Alberta Court did at first accept jurisdiction for the divorce proceedings, a party can ask that custody and access issues be transferred to a different province or territory if the children are more “substantially connected” to that other province or territory. This is allowed under section 6 of the Divorce Act.

Be Aware

If the children have been abducted and taken to the other jurisdiction, there are different things to consider. See the “Child abduction” sections below.

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law. You may wish to consider getting legal advice (and maybe even have a lawyer in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Challenging the jurisdiction of divorce proceedings that were started outside of Canada

The law about divorce varies from country to country (and sometimes even between states or provinces within countries). So, too, do the laws about spousal support and child support. The laws in the jurisdiction where your spouse has filed for divorce may be very different than the laws in Canada. They may be better for you than the laws of Canada, they may be better for your spouse than they are for you, or they may be better or worse for the children than the laws of Canada.

Be sure to learn about the law in that other jurisdiction. This may provide a reason to try to stop the proceedings in the other jurisdiction and ask the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to accept jurisdiction.

Be Aware

If the children have been abducted and taken to the other jurisdiction, there are different things to consider. See the “Child abduction” sections below.

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, especially if you are dealing with a court in another country. You may wish to consider getting legal advice (and maybe even have a lawyer in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Divorce: When your former spouse lives in a different Canadian jurisdiction and one of you wants to change a support order

In general, once a province or territory has accepted jurisdiction for an action, applications in that action will be made in that same province or territory (unless the jurisdiction changes).

However, changing support orders (child support and spousal support) under the Divorce Act works a little differently. Specifically, it is possible for a former spouse to apply to change a support order in their own province or territory, even if the order they want to change was made in a different province or territory.

For example:

  • you live in Alberta;
  • your former spouse lives in Nova Scotia;
  • a spousal support order was granted in Nova Scotia;
  • if you want to apply to change that Nova Scotia support order, you can do it through the Alberta courts;
  • your former spouse would then respond through the courts in Nova Scotia.

Another example:

  • you live in Alberta;
  • your former spouse lives in Yukon;
  • a spousal support order was granted in Alberta;
  • if your former spouse wants to apply to change that Alberta support order, he or she can do it through the Yukon courts;
  • you would then respond through the courts in Alberta.

A third example:

  • you live in Alberta;
  • your former spouse lives in Manitoba;
  • a spousal support order was granted in Manitoba;
  • if your former spouse wants to apply to change that Manitoba support order, he or she can do it through the Manitoba courts;
  • you would then respond through the courts in Alberta.

A last example:

  • you live in Alberta;
  • your former spouse lives in Quebec;
  • a spousal support order was granted in Alberta;
  • if you want apply to change that Alberta support order; you can do it through the Alberta courts;
  • your former spouse would then would then respond through the courts in Quebec.

In such cases, applying to change an existing support order is only the first step. After hearing the application to change (“vary”) support, the Court that heard the application cannot just make an “order” for support. If it makes an order, it must be a “provisional” order for support, which will not be in effect until it is “confirmed” in the other person’s jurisdiction.

An example of how this works

You want to make an application to vary a support order that was granted in Nova Scotia. You live in Alberta. You would apply in Alberta, using Alberta paperwork. The Alberta Court will then make a “provisional” order. A provisional order is an order that has no force or effect: it is a “suggested” order. After that, the Alberta Court will send the transcript of the hearing and all related documents to the courthouse closest to your former spouse’s current home in Nova Scotia.

Your former spouse will then have to fill out his or her own package of paperwork and a hearing date will be set at his or her local courthouse. This is called a “Confirmation Hearing.” At this hearing, your former spouse will be given a copy of your evidence, and he or she will be able to present his or her own evidence. Sometimes additional information will be needed from you, and the application will be sent back to you. You will respond with the requested information.

Once all of the evidence is presented, the judge in the court in Nova Scotia can then:

  • confirm the provisional order (in which case it will now be in force);
  • confirm but change parts of the provisional order; or
  • refuse to confirm the provisional order.

This whole process usually takes about 6-12 months, but it can take longer.

For more information about how to apply for a provisional order to change support, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

If you are the payor and you are applying to reduce your support, the Maintenance Enforcement Program will not change your support payment amounts until the court in the other jurisdiction has made an order. If you cannot afford to pay the same amount of support while you are waiting for the order to be confirmed in the other jurisdiction, you should apply to the Court for a “Stay of Enforcement.” For information about how to do that, see the “Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program” sections of the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page and/or the Spousal Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Remember

The information above is about orders granted under the Divorce Act. If your financial support order (child support or partner/spousal support) was granted under a Canadian law other than the Divorce Act, see the “Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act” section below.

Divorce: If you already have an order from another jurisdiction and you want to enforce it in Alberta

Sometimes, when people who used to be married move to Alberta from another part of Canada, or from another part of world, they come with court orders that deal with things such as custody, access and support. Although the parties to these orders can obey the court orders without ever needing to involve the Alberta court system, sometimes parties do not follow the orders. If that happens, one or both of the parties may want to ask the Alberta courts to “enforce” the order.

“Enforcing” an order means making sure that what the court ordered is actually done. When a judge makes an order, the parties are expected to do what the judge has decided: the ability to have the order enforced (for example, by the Alberta Maintenance Enforcement Program, or by the police) is not usually included. Therefore, you will need to take additional steps if you want your court order to be enforced.

Sometimes, in order to ask for help with enforcement you must apply directly to the court. Sometimes, you must first “register” the order. “Registering” an order means letting the Alberta Courts know about the order. This is done so that the Order can be treated just as if the Order had been made in Alberta.

The exact steps that you will need to follow depend on various things, including:

  • whether the order is a Divorce Act order from somewhere else in Canada;
  • whether the order is an order from a law similar to the Divorce Act but from outside of Canada (and if so, which country); and
  • what the order is about (custody, access, child support, or spousal support).

Enforcing Divorce Act custody & access orders from another Canadian jurisdiction

Divorce Act orders are in force all across the country. As a result, an Alberta court can enforce a Divorce Act custody order that was granted in another Canadian province or territory. This is permitted under section 20 of the Divorce Act.

To ask the Court for help with enforcement, you must apply to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. This is the same process that a person would follow if the Order was granted in Alberta. For more information about how to do this, see the “Divorce in general: If you live in Alberta and want to enforce an order granted in another jurisdiction” section on the Process tab of this Information Page.

Remember

The above information is about orders granted under the Divorce Act. If your court order about who has care and control of the child was granted under a Canadian law other than the Divorce Act, see the “Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act” section below.

Enforcing custody & access orders from a non-Canadian jurisdiction

To enforce a custody and access order from a jurisdiction outside of Canada, you can apply to the Alberta Courts using the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act. For more information, see the “Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act” section below.

Enforcing Divorce Act support orders (child support and spousal support) from another Canadian jurisdiction

Divorce Act orders are in force all across the country. As a result, an Alberta court can enforce a Divorce Act support order that was granted in another Canadian province or territory. This is permitted under section 20 of the Divorce Act.

To make sure that children and spouses are given what they are entitled to, Alberta has a system to make sure that court orders are followed: the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This program:

  • collects and delivers court-ordered child support and spousal/partner support; and
  • can take action to enforce those court orders.

Even if the payor lives outside of Alberta, as long as the payor lives in a jurisdiction that has a “reciprocity agreement” with Alberta, the recipient can register with MEP. A reciprocity agreement is an agreement that:

  • allows Alberta court orders (and in certain cases, written agreements) to apply and be enforceable in that province or country; and
  • allows their court orders (and in certain cases, written agreements) to be accepted and enforced in Alberta.

Alberta has reciprocity agreements with over 80 different jurisdictions, including all the Canadian provinces and territories.

To enforce your Divorce Act support order, you will need to register your order with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and with MEP. For more information about how to do that, see the “Divorce in general: If you live in Alberta and want to enforce an order granted in another jurisdiction” section of Process tab of this Information Page.

Remember

The above information is about orders granted under the Divorce Act. If your support order (child support or partner/spousal support) was granted under a Canadian law other than the Divorce Act, see the “Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act” section below.

Enforcing support orders (child support and spousal support) from a non-Canadian jurisdiction

To make sure that children and spouses are given what they are entitled to, Alberta has a system to make sure that court orders are followed: the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This program:

  • collects and delivers court-ordered child support and spousal/partner support; and
  • can take action to enforce those court orders.

Reciprocating jurisdictions

Alberta has “reciprocity agreements” with over 80 different jurisdictions, including all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries. A reciprocity agreement is an agreement that:

  • allows Alberta court orders (and in certain cases, written agreements) to apply and be enforceable in that province or country; and
  • allows their court orders (and in certain cases, written agreements) to be accepted and enforced in Alberta.

As a result, even if the payor lives outside of Alberta, as long as the payor lives in a jurisdiction that has a reciprocity agreement with Alberta, the recipient can register with MEP. For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

To enforce your support order, you will need to register your order with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and with MEP. For more information about how to do that, see the “Divorce in general: If you live in Alberta and want to enforce an order granted in another jurisdiction” section of Process tab of this Information Page.

Non-reciprocating jurisdictions

Enforcing support orders from a non-reciprocating jurisdiction is very complex and not always possible. Consider getting legal advice to discuss your options. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Divorce: If you already have an order from another jurisdiction and you want to change (“vary”) it

Changing Divorce Act custody & access orders from another Canadian jurisdiction

If you still agree that the Court in the province or territory where your former spouse lives should have jurisdiction, you can apply to change the custody/access order in that other province or territory.

If you think that the Court in Alberta should have jurisdiction instead, you can apply to have the custody and access issues transferred to Alberta—see the “Divorce: When the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere in Canada, and you want a custody and access application to be transferred to Alberta” section above for more information.

Remember

The information above is about orders granted under the Divorce Act. If your court order about who has care and control of the child was granted under a Canadian law other than the Divorce Act, see the “Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act” section below.

Changing custody & access orders from a non-Canadian jurisdiction

To change a custody and access order from a jurisdiction outside of Canada, you can apply to the Alberta Courts using the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act. For more information, see the “Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act” section below.

Changing support orders (child support or spousal support) from another Canadian jurisdiction

Under the Divorce Act, it is possible for a party who lives in one province or territory to change (or “vary”) a support order that was made in another province or territory.

To do so, you must file an application with the Alberta courts, using Alberta paperwork. The Alberta Court will then make a “provisional” order. This means that the Order will not be in effect until it is “confirmed” in the other person’s jurisdiction.

Once the Order is made, the Alberta Court will send the transcript of the hearing and all related documents to the courthouse closest to your former spouse’s current home.

Your former spouse will then have to fill out his or her own package of paperwork and a hearing date will be set at his or her local courthouse. This is called a “Confirmation Hearing.” At this hearing, your former spouse will be given a copy of your evidence, and he or she will be able to present his or her own evidence. Sometimes additional information will be needed from you, and the application will be sent back to you.

Once all of the evidence is presented, the judge in that court can:

  • confirm the provisional order (in which case it will now be in force);
  • confirm but change parts of the provisional order; or
  • refuse to confirm the provisional order.

This whole process usually takes about 6-12 months, but it can take longer.

If you are the recipient of support, and if you need support (child and/or spousal support) between the time of the application in Alberta and the time when the provisional order will be confirmed, you can ask the Alberta court to make an “interim” (temporary) order for support during this time. The Court may or may not grant that request.

If you are the payor and you are applying to reduce your support, the Maintenance Enforcement Program will not change your support payment amounts until the court in the other jurisdiction has made an order. If you cannot afford to pay the same amount of support while you are waiting for the order to be confirmed in the other jurisdiction, you can apply to the Court for a “Stay of Enforcement.” This can help you avoid penalties for not paying. For information about how to do that, see the “Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program” sections of the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page and/or the Spousal Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

For more information about how to apply for a provisional order to change support, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Remember

The information above is about orders granted under the Divorce Act. If your financial support order (child support or partner/spousal support) was granted under a Canadian law other than the Divorce Act, see the “Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act” section below.

Changing support orders (child support or spousal support) from non-Canadian jurisdictions

Reciprocating jurisdictions

If the jurisdiction where the Order was made is a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” it is possible to apply to have the Order changed (also called “varied”). This can be done under the Alberta Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO Act).

The ISO Act is a law that comes from agreements that Alberta has made with over 80 different jurisdictions (called “reciprocity agreements”). These other jurisdictions include all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries.

Under these reciprocity agreements, Alberta and these other jurisdictions will recognize and honour each other’s laws and orders about support. In other words, the ISO Act makes it possible for the support orders to apply in both places.

For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

For more information, see the “Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act” section below.

Non-reciprocating jurisdictions

Changing support orders from a non-reciprocating jurisdiction is very complex and not always possible. Consider getting legal advice to discuss your options. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Matrimonial Property Act: When court paperwork HAS NOT been started in another jurisdiction
Remember

The Matrimonial Property Act only applies to people who are married to each other or are divorced from each other. If you were not married, you cannot use the Matrimonial Property Act to divide your property.

Starting the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA) action

If you wish to apply to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench for a division of matrimonial property,you must show the Court that at least one of the following conditions applies:

  • both spouses (or former spouses) currently live in Alberta;
  • if both spouses (or former spouses) do not currently live in Alberta, their last joint residence was in Alberta;
  • if the spouses (or former spouses) did not live together since the date of their marriage, both of them lived in Alberta at the time of the marriage; or
  • a Statement of Claim for Divorce has been filed in Alberta.

However, even if you can start an MPA action in Alberta, there are things to keep in mind that might affect your decision about whether or not you want to start an MPA action in Alberta.

  • If you have started or plan to start a divorce action in Alberta, you may want to keep all of your matters in Alberta.
  • On the other hand, the Alberta Courts cannot make orders about property that is located outside of Alberta. If all or most of your property is outside of Alberta, Alberta may not be best option to try to divide that property. Also, depending on where your property is, you may have to start an action in more than one jurisdiction.
  • The laws about the division of matrimonial property are different in every jurisdiction. Be sure to learn about the laws in the other jurisdiction(s) where you could start an action to divide to matrimonial property.

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, especially if you are dealing with a court in another country. You may wish to consider getting legal advice (and maybe even have a lawyer in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Matrimonial Property Act: When court paperwork HAS been started in another jurisdiction

To deal with marriage-related property actions that have been started outside of Alberta, you must deal with the courts in that other jurisdiction. To learn about how to do that, you can contact organizations that provide legal information in that province or territory. See the “Finding legal information in other provinces” section of the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Family Law Act: When court paperwork HAS NOT been started in another jurisdiction

As you read this information, it is important to keep in mind that the issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, especially if you are dealing with a court in another country. You may wish to consider getting legal advice (and maybe even have a lawyer in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Remember

If you are married, you have a choice about which law to use to address your issues about children and support: you can use either the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act. To help you decide which law to use, you may want to compare the Family Law Act information in this section to the “Divorce: When divorce proceedings have not been started in another jurisdiction and you are thinking of starting divorce proceedings in Alberta” section above. For information on other factors you may wish to consider when choosing, see the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider” section of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Being resident in Alberta

In order to start Family Law Act proceedings in Alberta, the residency requirements must be met. Specifically:

  • If a relationship breakdown issue relates to the children of the relationship, the children and at least one of the guardians must be “habitually resident” in Alberta.
  • If a relationship breakdown issue does not relate to children (for example: partner support), both parties must be “habitually resident” in Alberta.

For more information about what it means to be “habitually resident,” see the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above.

If you are not sure if you (and the children, if there are any) are resident in Alberta, consider getting legal advice, as that is a critical question. If you try to start proceedings under the Family Law Act and the Court decides that you do not meet the residency requirements, you may have spent time and money for nothing. For more information about getting legal advice, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Remember

You cannot lie to the Court and say that you meet the residency requirements when you do not. It is against the law to give information that you know is false to a court.

Starting Family Law Act proceedings in Alberta: Things to consider

If you (and the children, if there are any) are resident in Alberta, you could apply to start Family Law Act proceedings in Alberta. However, if your former partner lives in another jurisdiction, he or she may want his or her jurisdiction to handle the matters.

Although each of you may be allowed to start a court action in the jurisdiction where you live, one jurisdiction will have to be chosen in the end.

If at all possible, the best option is to try to agree on which jurisdiction to use. For more information about different ways to come to an agreement, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

If you both start a court action in the jurisdiction where you live, and if you cannot come to an agreement about which jurisdiction to use, the issue will have to be decided by the courts.

When deciding whether to start Family Law Act proceedings in Alberta, you may want to consider the following.

  • If there is not much for you and your former partner to argue about, dealing with your matters in a court outside of Alberta may not cost that much more than dealing with them in Alberta.
  • On the other hand, if you think you and your former partner will argue about many topics, the extra cost of dealing with the matters in another jurisdiction may be reason to try get the Alberta Courts to accept jurisdiction.
  • Different jurisdictions have different laws about topics such as guardianship, parenting time, contact, child support, and partner support. You may wish to learn about the law in that other jurisdiction, and consider how the laws of each jurisdiction will affect you (and the children, if there are any).

Starting the Family Law Act applications in Alberta: Once you have decided

If it is clear that the Family Law Act residency requirements have been met, and you have decided that Alberta is the jurisdiction where you want to apply, see the following Information Pages about making Family Law Act applications:

Family Law Act: When court paperwork HAS been started in another jurisdiction and you want to challenge that jurisdiction and apply in Alberta

Being resident in Alberta

Before trying to challenge the jurisdiction of a court outside of Alberta and asking the Alberta Courts to accept jurisdiction under the Family Law Act, you will need to be sure that you can prove that you (and the children, if there are any) are resident in Alberta. For more information about what that means, see the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above.

If you are not sure if you meet the FLA residency requirements, consider getting legal advice, as that is a critical question. If you try to start proceedings under the Family Law Act and the Court decides that you do not meet the requirements, you may have spent time and money for nothing. For more information about getting legal advice, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Remember

You cannot lie to the Court and say that you meet the residency requirements when you do not. It is against the law to give information that you know is false to a court.

Challenging the jurisdiction when the paperwork is started in another Canadian province or territory

If your former partner has started an action in another Canadian jurisdiction under a law that is equivalent to Alberta’s Family Law Act, and if you are resident in Alberta, you have 2 main options:

  1. You can work through your matters in the other jurisdiction.
  2. You can apply in that other court to ask that the application be stopped in that jurisdiction. If the application is stopped in that other jurisdiction, you could then file your Family Law Act paperwork in Alberta.

When deciding whether or not to challenge the jurisdiction, there are several things you may wish to consider.

  • For the other court to accept jurisdiction, your former partner must meet that jurisdiction’s residency requirements (including any requirements for the residency of the children).
  • If there is not much for you and your former partner to argue about, dealing with your matters in a court outside of Alberta may not cost much more than dealing with it in Alberta.
  • On the other hand, if you think you and your former partner will argue about many topics, the extra cost of dealing with the matters in another jurisdiction may be reason to try to get the Alberta Court to accept jurisdiction.
  • Different jurisdictions have different laws about topics such as guardianship, parenting time, contact, child support, and partner support. You may wish to learn about the law in that other jurisdiction, and consider how the laws of each jurisdiction will affect you (and the children, if there are any).
Remember

If you are married, you have a choice about which law to use to address your issues about children and support: you can use either the Family Law Act or the Divorce Act. This means that you may also be able to challenge the jurisdiction by starting a Divorce Act action in the province where you (and the children, if there are any) are ordinarily resident. To help you decide which law to use, you may want to compare the Family Law Act information in this section to the “Divorce: When divorce proceedings have not been started in another jurisdiction and you are thinking of starting divorce proceedings in Alberta” section above. For information on other factors you may wish to consider when choosing, see the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider” section of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law. You may wish to consider getting legal advice (and maybe even have a lawyer in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Be Aware

If the children have been abducted and taken to the other jurisdiction, there are different things to consider. See the “Child abduction” sections below.

Challenging the jurisdiction when the paperwork is started outside of Canada

The law about separation and its child-related and support-related issues varies from country to country (and sometimes even between states or provinces within countries). The laws in the jurisdiction where your former partner has filed his or her paperwork may be very different than the laws in Alberta. They may be:

  • better for you than the laws of Alberta;
  • better for your former partner than they are for you; or
  • better or worse for the children than laws in Alberta.

Be sure to learn about the law in that other jurisdiction. This may provide a reason to try to stop the proceedings in the other jurisdiction and ask the Alberta Courts to accept jurisdiction.

Be Aware

If the children have been abducted and taken to the other jurisdiction, there are different things to consider. See the “Child abduction” sections below.

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, especially if you are dealing with a court in another country. You may wish to consider getting legal advice (and maybe even have a lawyer in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Family Law Act (or its equivalent): If you want to enforce orders from another jurisdiction

Sometimes, former partners move to Alberta from another part of Canada, or from another part of world. There may be court orders from that other jurisdiction that deal with things such as guardianship, parenting, and support. The former partners can continue to obey the court orders without ever needing to involve the Alberta court system. However, sometimes parties do not follow the orders. If that happens, one or both of the parties may want to ask the Alberta courts to “enforce” the order.

“Enforcing” an order means making sure that what the court ordered is actually done. When a judge makes an order, the parties are expected to do what the judge has decided. The ability to have the order enforced (for example, by the Maintenance Enforcement Program, or by the police) is not usually included. Therefore, you will need to take additional steps if you want your court order to be enforced in Alberta.

  • Sometimes, you must apply directly to the court.
  • Other times, you must first “register” the Order. “Registering” an order means letting the Alberta Courts know about the Order. This is done so that the Order can be treated as if it had been made in Alberta.

The exact steps that you will need to follow depend on:

  • where the order is from; and
  • what the order is about (the care and control of children or support issues).

Enforcing orders about the care and control of children

Whether your order is from another Canadian jurisdiction or another country, you can apply to the Alberta Courts to enforce an order about the care and control of children. This can be done using the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO Act).

Be Aware

The terms “custody” and “access” may not appear on that Order. It may have terms such as “parenting time” instead. The EPECO Act applies to any order about the care and control of children, no matter what terms the order uses for this. The order may or may not use the terms “parenting time,” “custody,” or “access.”

For more information, see the "Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act" section below.

Remember

The EPECO Act cannot be used to enforce custody orders granted under the Divorce Act. For that, you would need to use the Divorce Act instead. See the “Divorce: If you already have an order from another jurisdiction and you want to change (“vary”) it” section above.

Enforcing support orders (child support and spousal support)

If the order is from another jurisdiction in Canada

To make sure that children and partners are given what they are entitled to, Alberta has a system to make sure that court orders are followed: the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This program:

  • collects and delivers court-ordered child support and spousal/partner support; and
  • can take action to enforce those court orders.

Alberta has “reciprocity agreements” with over 80 different jurisdictions, including all the Canadian provinces and territories. A reciprocity agreement is an agreement that:

  • allows Alberta court orders (and in certain cases, written agreements) to apply and be enforceable in that province or country; and
  • allows their court orders (and in certain cases, written agreements) to be accepted and enforced in Alberta.

As a result, even if the payor lives in another Canadian province or territory, the recipient can register with Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program.

For more information about how to do this, see the section called “Family Law Act (or its equivalent): If you want to enforce orders granted in another jurisdiction” on the Process tab of this Information Page.

If the order is from outside of Canada, but from a “reciprocating” jurisdiction

To make sure that children and partners are given what they are entitled to, Alberta has a system to make sure that court orders are followed: the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). This program:

  • collects and delivers court-ordered child support and spousal/partner support; and
  • can take action to enforce those court orders.

Alberta has “reciprocity agreements” with over 80 different jurisdictions, including all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries. A reciprocity agreement is an agreement that:

  • allows Alberta court orders (and in certain cases, written agreements) to apply and be enforceable in that province or country; and
  • allows their court orders (and in certain cases, written agreements) to be accepted and enforced in Alberta.

As a result, even if the payor lives outside of Canada, as long as the payor lives in a jurisdiction that has a reciprocity agreement with Alberta, the recipient can register with Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program. For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about how to do this, see the section called “Family Law Act (or its equivalent): If you want to enforce orders granted in another jurisdiction” on the Process tab of this Information Page.

If the order is from outside of Canada, and from a “non-reciprocating” jurisdiction

Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program cannot enforce an order from a non-reciprocating jurisdiction (even if both parties are here now). You will need to get a new court order. For information about how to that, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page

You may wish to consider getting legal advice. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

You can also contact Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). Staff at RCAS do not provide legal advice, but they can help explain the different laws.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Family Law Act (or its equivalent): If you want to change orders from another jurisdiction

Meeting the residency requirements

Before asking the Alberta Courts to change an order from another jurisdiction, you will need to be sure that you (and the children, if there are any) are residents of Alberta. This is a critical question. If you do not meet those requirements, the Alberta Court may refuse to hear your matter, and you will have spent time and money for nothing. For more information about what “ordinarily resident” means, see the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above.

Remember

You cannot lie to the Court and say that you meet the residency requirements when you do not. It is against the law to give information that you know is false to a court.

Changing orders about the care and control of children

Whether your order is from another Canadian jurisdiction or another country, you can apply to the Alberta Courts to change an order about the care and control of children. This can be done using the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO Act).

Be Aware

The terms “custody” and “access” may not appear on that Order. It may have terms such as “parenting time” instead. The EPECO Act applies to any order about the care and control of children, no matter what terms the order uses for this. The order may or may not use the terms “parenting time,” “custody,” or “access.”

For more information, see the "Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act" section below.

Remember

The EPECO Act cannot be used to change custody orders granted under the Divorce Act. For that, you would need to use the Divorce Act instead. See the “Divorce: If you already have an order from another jurisdiction and you want to change (“vary”) it” section above.

  

Changing support orders (child support and spousal support) from another jurisdiction

If the Order is from another Canadian jurisdiction

You can apply to have the Order changed (also called “varied”). This can be done under the Alberta Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO Act).

The ISO Act is a law that comes from agreements that Alberta has made with over 80 different jurisdictions (called “reciprocity agreements”), including all of the Canadian provinces and territories. Under these reciprocity agreements, Alberta and these other jurisdictions will recognize and honour each other’s laws and orders about support. In other words, the ISO Act makes it possible for the support orders to apply in both places.

Remember

The ISO Act cannot be used to change support orders granted under the Divorce Act. For that, you would need to use the Divorce Act instead. See the “Divorce: If you already have an order from another jurisdiction and you want to change (“vary”) it” section above.

For more information, see the “Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act” section below.

Be Aware

You do not have to use the ISO Act. You could apply directly in the other province. To do so, you must hire a lawyer there.

If the Order is from outside of Canada, and it is a “reciprocating jurisdiction”

If the jurisdiction where the Order was made is a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” it is possible to apply to have the Order changed (also called “varied”). This can be done under the Alberta Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO Act).

The ISO Act is a law that comes from agreements that Alberta has made with over 80 different jurisdictions (called “reciprocity agreements”). These other jurisdictions include all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries.

Under these reciprocity agreements, Alberta and these other jurisdictions will recognize and honour each other’s laws and orders about support. In other words, the ISO Act makes it possible for the support orders to apply in both places.

For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

The ISO Act cannot be used to change support orders granted under the Divorce Act. For that, you would need to use the Divorce Act instead. See the “Divorce: If you already have an order from another jurisdiction and you want to change (“vary”) it” section above.

For more information, see the “Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act” section below.

Be Aware

If the other party lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction, you do not have to use the ISO Act. You can apply directly in the other country. To do so, you must hire a lawyer there.

If the Order is from outside of Canada, and it is a “non-reciprocating jurisdiction”

Changing a support order from a non-reciprocating jurisdiction is very complex and not always possible. Consider getting legal advice to discuss your options. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

You can also contact Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). Staff at RCAS do not provide legal advice, but they can help explain the different laws.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
The Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act

What is it?

The Alberta Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO Act) is a law that comes from agreements that Alberta has made with over 80 different jurisdictions (called “reciprocity agreements”). These other jurisdictions include all the Canadian provinces and territories, all of the U.S. states, and some other foreign countries.

Under these reciprocity agreements, Alberta and these other jurisdictions will recognize and honour each other’s laws and orders about support. This includes any recalculations made by organizations that are the equivalent of the Recalculation Program in Alberta. In other words, the ISO Act makes it possible for the support orders to apply in both places.

For more information, see the following resources.


Who can use it?

Parties can use the ISO Act if they are “habitually resident” in Alberta and if one of the following applies to their situation.

  • they were never married;
  • they are divorcing, or are already divorced, and the divorce action was outside of Canada;
  • they have started a Divorce Act action outside of Alberta, but no order for support has been made yet;
  • they were divorced elsewhere in Canada, but the divorce action did not deal with support; or
  • they are still married, but no divorce action has been started anywhere in Canada.

In other words, parties cannot use the ISO Act forms if a support order has already been granted under the Divorce Act.

Remember

If the other party lives in a reciprocating jurisdiction, you do not have to use the ISO Act. You can apply directly in the other province or country. To do so, you must hire a lawyer there.

 

How does it work?

Using the ISO Act, the party living in Alberta can apply for a support order (child support and/or partner support) in a reciprocating jurisdiction where the other party lives without having to go there. Similarly, the party living in Alberta can apply to change or enforce a support order that was made in the reciprocating jurisdiction where the other party lives.

Also, a party living in Alberta can respond to an application to make, change, or enforce a support order from the reciprocating jurisdiction where the other party lives (again without having to go there).

ISO Act Applications from Alberta

To make an ISO Act application in Alberta, the Alberta resident fills out specific forms, depending on what the applicant is asking for.

  • If the application is for a first order of support, the paperwork is filed with the Alberta Provincial Court.
  • Applications to change (or “vary”) an existing support order are filed with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

Once the Alberta Court gets your paperwork, it will send the application to the reciprocating jurisdiction. You will get a letter from the Alberta Court saying that the paperwork has been sent. Your paperwork will then be reviewed by the reciprocating jurisdiction. If more information is needed, the reciprocating jurisdiction will let you know (either by contacting you directly or through the Alberta Court). The complete package then goes to a court hearing in the reciprocating jurisdiction.

The other party (the respondent) will be given a copy of your application. A court date will be set in the reciprocating jurisdiction, and the respondent will be told to file his or her own package of sworn documents at that reciprocating court. At the hearing, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will look at all of the documents that were filed. If the respondent attends the hearing, the Court may hear evidence from him or her. If it has all of the information it needs, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction may then make an order.

Sometimes the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will want more information from you before making an order. If this happens, the court will make a “Request for Further Information” telling you what it needs. The Court will send this document to the Alberta Court, which will then pass the request on to you. What you send back must be sworn. The court case in the reciprocating jurisdiction will continue when it receives your additional information. When the process is complete, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction can make an order. That Court will then send the Order to the Alberta Court, which will send you a copy.

The process is somewhat different if the respondent lives in the United Kingdom or New Zealand. In those jurisdictions, the reciprocating Courts require a “provisional” order. A provisional order is an order that has no force or effect: it is a “suggested” order. The order does not take effect until a court in the other jurisdiction “confirms” the order. As a result, the applicant must complete both the regular ISO Act forms, plus an additional form called a “form of order.” The forms must be filed with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. A judge in Alberta will review the forms and make a provisional order, which is then sent to the reciprocating jurisdiction for a “Confirmation Hearing.”

At the Confirmation Hearing, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will review the applicant’s evidence and hear the respondent’s evidence. The judge in that Court can then:

  • confirm the provisional order (in which case it will now be in force);
  • confirm but change parts of the provisional order; or
  • refuse to confirm the provisional order.

This whole process usually takes 6-12 months, but it can take longer.

For more information about this, including the forms you will need, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Responding to an ISO Act application from outside of Alberta

As a respondent, the Alberta resident will be informed when the other party has made an application for child support and/or spousal support in a reciprocating jurisdiction. The application will be either for a first support order, or to change (also called “vary”) an existing support order.

Alberta Courts will send the respondent a “Notice of Hearing,” which will tell him or her the court date and time. There will also be a package of documents to fill out, with a date by which they must be filed with the right court:

  • If the application is for a first-time support order, the paperwork must be filed with the Alberta Provincial Court.
  • If the application is to change (or “vary”) an existing support order, the paperwork must be filed with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

Sometimes the Court will want more information from either or both parties before making an order. If this happens, there may be a “Request for Further Information” telling the respondent what it needs. The applicant has 12 months to provide the additional information. If they don’t provide the information within this time, the Alberta Court can dismiss the application.

Once the Court has everything it needs, the Alberta Court can hear the matter and make a decision. The respondent is told when the hearing will take place and he or she can attend. The respondent will be given a certified copy of any order granted by the court.

For more information about this, including the forms you will need, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Registering your Order with the Maintenance Enforcement Program

If you are a resident of Alberta, once you have your ISO Act order, you will want to register with the Maintenance Enforcement Program.

See the following resources for information about:

  • how to register your support order;
  • all of MEP’s powers and abilities; and
  • steps you need to take and forms you may need to complete in order to have MEP enforce your Order.
Web Maintenance Enforcement Program: How to register
Government of Alberta
English


Web MEP changes – contact info and arrears
Government of Alberta
English

Web MEP forms
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Maintenance for Adult Children Information Sheet
Government of Alberta
English

The Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act

What is it?

The Alberta Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO Act) is a law that allows a person to ask the Alberta Courts to enforce or change a “custody” order from outside of Alberta (whether it is from another province/territory or another country).

The use of the term “custody” in the name of the law can be confusing. In general, in Alberta, the word “custody” is the term used in the Divorce Act to describe the decision-making power that adults (usually married parents) have about a child. The term “custody” is not used to describe court orders about the care and control of children granted under Alberta’s Family Law Act.

However, in the case of the EPECO Act, the term “custody” does not have anything to do with the federal Divorce Act. The enforcement of Divorce Act custody orders is ruled by the Divorce Act itself—enforcing custody orders under the Divorce Act does not require the use of the EPECO Act.

Instead, under the EPECO Act, the term “custody orders” refers to court orders about the care and control of children that were granted in either:

  • other countries, under the laws of those countries; or
  • other Canadian provinces or territories, under provincial/territorial laws that are similar to Alberta’s Family Law Act (not the Divorce Act).

For the purposes of this section about the EPECO Act, however, we will use the term “custody,” as that is the term used in that law. Just remember: this is not for parents using the Divorce Act.

Who can use it?

To make an application under the EPECO Act, the Alberta Courts will have to find that the child has a “real and substantial” connection to Alberta. See the “Alberta residency & family breakdown” section above for more information about what this means.

Be Aware

If the child still has a real and substantial connection to the place where the original order was made, and one parent tries to make an EPECO Act application in Alberta, the other parent can apply to have the application moved to that other jurisdiction.

How does it work?

To ask for something under the EPECO Act, a party must make an application to the Alberta courts.

To enforce an order

Under the EPECO Act, to grant an order to enforce a custody order from another province, territory, or country, the Alberta Court must determine that the child in question does not have a real and substantial connection to the location where the original order was made.

To change an order (also called “varying”)

Under the EPECO Act, to grant an order to change a custody order from another province, territory, or country, the Alberta Court must determine that the child in question:

  • no longer has a real and substantial connection to the location where the original order was made; and
  • has a real and substantial connection to Alberta.

Orders under the Alberta EPECO Act are only binding in Alberta. This means that if a child moves to another jurisdiction, the applicant will need to make another court application to change the custody order in that jurisdiction as well.

For more information about how to make an EPECO Act application, including the forms you will need, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Child abduction (by a parent or guardian): Within Canada

Child abduction by a parent or guardian happens when one parent takes, detains, and conceals a child from the other parent/guardian, without the consent and knowledge of that other parent/guardian. This is called “parental abduction,” and it is much more serious than simply not returning the child on time after a visit. Although parental abduction is not common, it does happen.

In such cases, the civil law (including the Divorce Act, the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act, and an action for “contempt of court”) can be used to try to enforce your court orders about the care and control of the child. In certain circumstances, it may also be possible to involve the criminal justice system.

This is an extremely complex area of law. You will want to consider getting the advice of lawyer (perhaps even one in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

If your children have been abducted by the other parent/guardian, call 911.

See the following resources for more information.

Web What is child abduction and is it a crime?
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Parental Child Abduction
MissingKids.ca
English

Web Abduction Information
Child Abduction Legal Information
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Episode 213- Child Abduction with Crystal Dunahee
AdviceScene
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Abduction Within Canada
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Child Abduction Law
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Parental Abduction: What Is It and What Can I Do?
Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Child abduction (by a parent or guardian): Outside of Canada

Child abduction by a parent or guardian happens when one parent takes, detains, and conceals a child from the other parent/guardian, without the consent and knowledge of that other parent/guardian. This is called “parental abduction,” and it is much more serious than simply not returning the child on time after a visit. Although cases where children are abducted to other countries are not common, they do sometimes occur.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

In cases of international abduction, the matter may be governed by an international treaty known as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Convention”).

However, the matter will only be governed by the Convention if both countries involved have signed the treaty. By doing so, the countries have agreed to have the Convention apply to them. This is called being a “party” to the treaty. The term to describe a government who has signed the Convention is “signatory government.” Canada is party to the Convention, and all Canadian provinces and territories have the Convention’s requirements in place to deal with cases of international abductions (such as establishing “Central Authorities” to handle issues).

Under the Convention, signatory governments are required to take steps to return an internationally abducted child if:

  • there is a court order stating that the child (aged 16 or younger) habitually resides in Canada in the care and control of a particular person;
  • the child has been abducted out of Canada; and
  • the child has been taken out of the care and control of that person.

There are a few limited exceptions to this requirement. For example:

  • if the person who had care and control of the child, and who was left behind, consented to the removal of the child;
  • if the child would be exposed to grave risk of harm if returned; or
  • if the child wishes to remain in the other country and is old enough to have his or her views considered.

In addition, the amount of time that has passed can affect whether a signatory government will return the child. Specifically, when a request for the return of a child is made more than one year after the child was abducted, the court in the country where the child was taken (or where the child now lives) can refuse to return the child if it finds that the child is now settled in the new country.

If your children have been abducted by the other parent/guardian, call 911.

This is an extremely complex area of law. You will want to consider getting the advice of lawyer (perhaps even one in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

A list of the countries that have signed the Convention is in the following resource.

Web Status table: Members of the organisation
Hague Conference on Private International Law
English

A list of Central Authorities throughout Canada is in the following resource.

Web International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
Government of Canada
English
See “Directory of resources.”

Web Enlèvement international d’enfants : Un guide à l’intention des parents délaissés
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Répertoire de ressources.”

For more general information about the Convention, see the following resources.

Web Child Abduction Homepage
Hague Conference on Private International Law
English

Web Custody, Child Abduction and the Hague Convention
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English

Web Enforcing Orders in Family Matters
Clicklaw
English
See “The Hague Convention.”

Web Child Abduction Legal Information: The Law
Child Abduction Legal Information
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

PDF Protecting children across international frontiers
Hague Conference on Private International Law
English, French, Spanish

For more general information about international abduction, see the following resources.




Web Child abduction and custody issues
Government of Canada
English

Web Enlèvements d'enfants et problèmes de garde
Government of Canada
French

Web Parental Child Abduction
MissingKids.ca
English

Video International Child Abduction
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Abduction Information
Child Abduction Legal Information
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Episode 213- Child Abduction with Crystal Dunahee
AdviceScene
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Travel Outside Canada: Will My Child Custody Arrangement Be Recognized?
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Non-Convention countries

If your child has been abducted to a country that is not a signatory to the Convention, it may still be possible for you to take action to have your child returned. This may include both civil and criminal actions, and could take place in either Canada or the other jurisdiction.

This is an extremely complex area of law. You will want to consider getting the advice of lawyer (perhaps even one in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

For many of the issues described on this Information Page, being Aboriginal does not change anything. However, if you live on-reserve there can be major differences. For more information, see the Family Breakdown if You Live on Reserve Information Page.

Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

One or both of the spouses in the relationship may not be citizens or permanent residents of Canada. For example, the can be:

  • in the process of immigrating;
  • conditional permanent residents;
  • on a study permit or student work visa;
  • on a work permit; or
  • hired as a temporary foreign worker.

In these situations, the situation can be even more complex. This is especially true if one spouse is being sponsored by the other for immigration, or if the relationship involves domestic violence.

If any of the above applies to you, be sure to also review the Family Breakdown and the Immigration Process Information Page and the following resource.

Web Marriage Breakdown
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
If one or both of the parties are involved in criminal proceedings

If one or more of the spouses is involved in criminal law issues at the time of family breakdown, the situation can get even more complex. If you are experiencing family breakdown and one or more of you is involved in criminal proceedings, be sure to also review the Family Breakdown and Criminal Law Information Page.

Process

There is detailed information below about how to solve your family law matters when other provinces or countries are involved. See the sections below to learn about:

  • Having a foreign marriage, foreign divorce, or foreign annulment recognized in Canada
  • Applying for a divorce under the Civil Marriage Act
  • Applying to transfer some or all of your Divorce Act matters to Alberta from another jurisdiction
  • Dealing with changes to Divorce Act orders, or enforcement of Divorce Act orders when one party lives outside of Alberta (applying and responding)
  • Dealing with child support or partner support under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (applying and responding)
  • Dealing with enforcement of custody, access, and parenting time matters under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (applying and responding)
  • Your options when dealing with matrimonial property across borders
  • Your options if your child has been abducted

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

 

Last Reviewed: February 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about the processes for addressing your family breakdown matters when you have an issue of jurisdiction.

Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues that will help you understand better what to ask for and how to get it. Once you have the basics down, you will be in a better position to learn about the process you need to follow to resolve your legal issues.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page. For information on the law that governs your situation, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to read the information below, understand how it applies to your situation, and know what actions you may need to take.

Having a foreign marriage recognized in Canada

Only marriages that took place in Alberta are registered by Alberta Vital Statistics. You do not need to register your out-of-province marriage with Vital Statistics. Your marriage certificate from the other province or country is generally enough “proof” of the marriage.

However, if you have to prove your marriage (such as in divorce proceedings), it is your responsibility to have the foreign marriage certificate translated (if it is not in English or French). See the following resource to find a translator near you.

Interactive Member Directory
Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta
English

Also, if there is any doubt about whether your marriage was legal in the country where it occurred, it will be your responsibility to prove that it was legal. To do that, you may need:

  • a confirmation letter from an official department of that country’s government; or
  • a written legal opinion from a lawyer who practices in that country.

Again, such documents may need to be translated.

It may be possible to find a lawyer who practices law both in Alberta and in that country. For information on how to do that, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Having a foreign divorce recognized in Canada

There is no need to “register” a foreign divorce with the Alberta court. However, if your divorce order includes custody, access, or support, then those parts of the divorce can be registered with the Courts and enforced in Alberta. The rest of this Information Page describes how to do that.

Canada generally recognizes a divorce from another country if:

  • the divorce was legal under the laws of that country; and
  • one or both spouses lived in that country for a full year immediately before applying for the divorce.

It is your responsibility to prove that the divorce was legal and that you lived in the country that granted it for a full year immediately before applying for the divorce.

Tip

If neither of you lived in that country for a full year immediately before applying for the divorce, your divorce may still be legal. The person who applied for the divorce will have to prove they have a “real and substantial connection” with the country.

To prove your divorce, you will need to provide a “certified copy” of official divorce documentation. This must be from the authority to grant divorces in the country where you were divorced.

  • A certified copy is a copy of an original document, which has a certificate from an “authorized party” that confirms that the copy is a true copy of the original document.
  • An authorized party is generally someone named by the organization that is asking for the certified copy. For example: if you need to prove your divorce in order to remarry in Alberta, the Alberta government will let you know who must certify the copy. Often, it can be a lawyer or a Notary Public.

A certified copy does not certify that the original document is genuine. It only confirms that it is a true copy of the original document.

If the divorce paperwork is not in English or French, it will be your responsibility to have it translated by a certified translator. See the following resource to find a translator near you.

Interactive Member Directory
Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta
English
Be Aware

A Canadian authority may also ask for a letter from a lawyer giving a legal opinion as to why your divorce should be recognized under Canadian law. To find a lawyer to help with this, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Having a foreign annulment recognized in Canada

You may have to prove that your annulment was granted by a court. In that case, it is your responsibility to have the foreign court order translated if it is not already in English or French. See the following resource to find a translator near you.

Interactive Member Directory
Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta
English

If there is any doubt about whether your annulment was legal in the country where it occurred, it will be your responsibility to prove that it was legal. To do that, you may need:

  • a confirmation letter from an official department of that country’s government; or
  • a written legal opinion from a lawyer who practices in that country.

Again, such documents may need to be translated.

It may be possible to find a lawyer who practices law both in Alberta and in that country. For information on how to do that, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Starting a court action: Court fees

In most cases, it costs money to start a court action. Sometimes, you will also need to pay a fee if you are responding to an application that someone else started. The exact amount that you will need to pay the court will depend on what your legal issues are. Each court has a list for how much certain applications cost.

For a current list of fees and options if you can’t afford the fees, see the following resources.

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Waiving a filing fee
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Court Fees & Waivers in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Be Aware

The court fees recently changed. Some fees have increased, and some applications that used to be free now have a fee.

 

Divorce under the Civil Marriage Act

Same sex spouses who do not live in Canada may be able to get a divorce in Canada using the Civil Marriage Act. See the “Non-resident same-sex couples getting a divorce in Alberta” section on the Law tab of this Information Page for more information.

Remember

To use the Civil Marriage Act to divorce in Canada, you must have gotten married in Canada.

You can apply for a divorce under the Civil Marriage Act in 3 different ways:

  • both spouses apply jointly;
  • one spouse applies with the other spouse’s consent; or
  • in limited circumstances, one spouse applies without the consent of the other spouse.

Each of these options is described in more detail below.

As with all court documents, there will be a filing fee.

Remember

To apply for the divorce in Alberta, you will need to prove that you were married in Alberta. To do so, you will need a marriage certificate issued by the Province of Alberta. You can get this from any Alberta registry agent.

Web Find a registry agent
Government of Alberta
English

If a judge grants your divorce, it will take effect on the day the judgment is given.

Joint application

A “joint” divorce is a divorce application where the separating spouses agree to get the divorce, and they file a single set of paperwork together. This kind of application is sometimes called a “desk divorce.” It is called a “desk divorce” because you do not have to appear in front of a judge. Instead, your paperwork is simply sent up to a judge’s office and is dealt with at the judge’s desk.

To complete the joint divorce application, you will need the following forms:

  • Joint Statement of Claim
  • Request for Divorce
  • Affidavit of Applicants
  • Divorce Judgment
  • Request for Certificate of Divorce

You can find all of these forms in the following resource. Note that all of these forms automatically download when you click on the link. Only look at these forms on a safe computer.

Web Divorce under the Civil Marriage Act
Government of Alberta
English

For instructions on how to complete these forms, see the following resource.

Application by one spouse with consent of the other

This is for situations when one party does not want to do all the paperwork, or is not available to do all the paperwork. So, the other party does all the paperwork, and the unavailable party just has to sign the consent.

The forms for this kind of application are not available online.

The Alberta government has Information Coordinators who may be able to help with general questions, and they can give you the forms you will need. See the following resource to find out who can help in your area. These Information Coordinators are not lawyers and they cannot help you fill out the forms. You may still need to get legal advice about this topic.

Web Support in preparing court forms
Government of Alberta
English
See “Court forms information coordinator locations” and choose “Family Law Issues.”

Application by one spouse without the consent of the other

In some circumstances, it may be possible for one spouse to apply for the divorce without the other spouse’s consent. However, the spouse making the application must first get a court order declaring that the other spouse:

  • is incapable of making decisions about his or her status because of a mental disability;
  • is unreasonably withholding consent; or
  • cannot be found.

This court order can be from Alberta, or from the jurisdiction where one of the spouses lives.

To complete this application, you will need to talk to a lawyer. See the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the  Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page for information about your options.

 

Determining “ordinary” or “habitual” residency & “real and substantial connection”

As described on the Law tab of this Information Page, the Alberta Courts generally do not have the authority to make orders for families that live in another province. This means you will need to know each party’s “residency.” In other words, do the people involved “live” (or “reside”) in Alberta? If you are going to court, you may need to give written proof that you live in Alberta.

As part of this, people who are familiar with the life of the person in question can sign an affidavit to share their knowledge with the Court. There is no specific form for this. For information about how to prepare this affidavit, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

To prove your residency, you need to show that you meet the requirements for residency set by the Act you are applying under. For more information about this, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

Coming to an agreement about your jurisdiction

It is possible for more than one geographic area to have jurisdiction over your issue. In such a case, you and the other party can agree on which province or country will have jurisdiction. That is, you can agree which province or country’s laws and courts will be used to settle your issues.

For more information about coming to an agreement about jurisdiction and other separation-related issues, see the following Information Pages.

Be Aware

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, and you may want to get the advice of lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

When divorce proceedings have NOT been started anywhere, and you want to start divorce proceedings in Alberta

If divorce proceedings have not been started in any other jurisdiction (inside or outside of Canada), you can start them in Alberta.

However, to do so, you must meet the residency requirements—see the "Alberta residency & family breakdown" section of the Law tab of this Information Page

If you meet the requirements and decide to start a divorce action in Alberta, you can follow the regular procedures for doing so. For information about this, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Remember

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, and you may want to get the advice of a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

If divorce proceedings HAVE been started elsewhere and you want to challenge and “move” all of the divorce-related issues to Alberta

This section describes your options:

  • when the proceedings were started somewhere else inside Canada; and
  • when the proceedings were started somewhere else outside Canada.

When the proceedings were started somewhere else inside Canada

Dealing with the other jurisdiction

To challenge jurisdiction in a divorce action that has already been started in another Canadian province or territory, you must apply in that other province or territory to have the pleadings “struck” (in other words, to stop the divorce action).

To learn how to do that, you can contact organizations that provide legal information in that province or territory. For more information about who can help in other provinces, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Starting the divorce action in Alberta

If you are successful with striking the pleadings in the other jurisdiction, you can then start a divorce action in Alberta. To do so, you can follow the regular procedures. For information on how to do that, see the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Remember

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, and you may want to get the advice of a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

When the proceedings were started outside of Canada

When a divorce action has already been started outside of Canada, and one of the spouses wants to have the divorce case take place in Alberta, it can get very complicated. If it is not handled properly, it can lead to many problems and costs.

You will want to consult a lawyer. You may even want to consult to a lawyer from each jurisdiction (or one who practices law in both jurisdictions). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Divorce Act: If the divorce proceedings were started, but you want only the custody and access issues transferred

This section describes your options if your action was started in Canada under the Divorce Act and:

  • you live in Alberta and you want custody and access issues moved to Alberta; or
  • you live outside Alberta and you want custody and access issues moved from Alberta to your jurisdiction.
Be Aware

If your divorce action was started under a similar law outside of Canada, this section does not apply to you. Instead, you may be able to deal with your family law matters under Alberta’s Family Law Act. Or you may have to deal with your matter in that other jurisdiction. It depends on your situation. This can get very complicated. If it is not handled properly, it can lead to many problems and costs. You will want to consult a lawyer. You may even want to consult to a lawyer from each jurisdiction (or one who practices law in both jurisdictions). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

If you live in Alberta and you want custody and access issues moved to Alberta

Dealing with the other jurisdiction

If the divorce proceedings were started elsewhere in Canada, and you want the custody and access issues transferred to Alberta, you will have to ask for the transfer in the other jurisdiction. The exact steps that you must take will depend on the other province or territory and what their laws and procedures allow.

To learn about how to do that, you can contact organizations that provide legal information in that province or territory. For more information about who can help in other provinces, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Starting custody and access proceedings in Alberta

If you are successful in having the custody and access issues transferred to Alberta, you can then start your proceedings in Alberta by following the regular procedures. For more information, see the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Remember

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, and you may want to get the advice of a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page. You can also ask at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you are outside Alberta and you want custody and access issues moved from Alberta to your jurisdiction

Dealing with Alberta courts

If you want the custody and access issues transferred from Alberta to another jurisdiction where you are ordinarily resident, you will first have to ask for the transfer in Alberta.

To do that, you will need the Court of Queen’s Bench “General Application” kit.

This kit includes an Affidavit. An Affidavit is a document where you include the facts that the Court will need to see. If there are any documents that you want the judge to see, you must write about them in the Affidavit, and attach those documents to your paperwork.

More information about this process is on the Process tab of the Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act Information Page.

  • For information about the process of making a Divorce Act application with the “General Application” form, see the “Making divorce-related Applications” section.
  • If you are a spouse who is responding to an Application to transfer custody and access issues from Alberta to another province or jurisdiction, see the “Responding to divorce-related Applications” section.
Remember

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law, and you may want to get the advice of a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page. You can also ask at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Starting custody and access proceedings in the other province or territory

If you are successful in having the custody and access issues transferred from Alberta, you can then start your proceedings in your province or territory by following the regular procedures in that jurisdiction.

To learn about how to do that, you can contact organizations that provide legal information in your jurisdiction. For more information about who can help in other jurisdictions, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Divorce Act: If you live in Alberta and want to change an Alberta support order, but your former spouse lives elsewhere in Canada
Be Aware

The information in this section only applies if your Alberta order was granted under the Divorce Act and if the Alberta courts still have jurisdiction.

In general, once the Alberta courts accept jurisdiction, applications under the Divorce Act will be made in Alberta, unless a court changes the jurisdiction. This is true for all applications that do not deal with support issues.

However, support orders (child support and spousal support) work a little differently.

When a former spouse now lives in a different province or territory, you can only apply for a provisional order” for support. This is because any order granted in one jurisdiction (the provisional order) is not in effect, and cannot be enforced until it is confirmed in the other jurisdiction.

Be Aware

This need for “confirmation” may require an extra step if you are the payor of the support, and you are applying to reduce your support. The Maintenance Enforcement Program will not change your support amount until the court in the other jurisdiction has made an order. If you cannot afford to pay the original amount of support while you wait for this order, you may want to apply to the court for a “Stay of Enforcement.” For information about how to do that, see the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Applying for a “provisional order” of support

Child support

To apply for a provisional order changing child support, use the following kit.

As part of this application, you must provide income information about yourself (this is called “financial disclosure”). If you do not give the Court your financial disclosure, you will not be allowed to file your Application. To give the Court your financial disclosure, you must use the following kit.

PDF Instructions: Providing Financial Disclosure
Government of Alberta
English
This form will automatically download on your computer.
Be Aware

In very rare circumstances, it may be possible to apply for child support without the required financial information. However, you will first have to apply to the Court for special permission. The legal term for this is “applying for a fiat.” This is a complicated procedure. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

The financial information that must be given is listed in section 21 of the Child Support Guidelines. This includes:

  • Your complete tax returns for the last 3 years
  • Your Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue for the last 3 years
  • If you have not filed tax returns, other proof of your income (such as T4 forms or Statements of Business Revenue and Expenses)
  • Pay stubs or other documents showing all of your income earned this year

A “tax return” is all of the paperwork you send to Canada Revenue Agency when you do your taxes every year. A “Notice of Assessment” is the paperwork that Canada Revenue Agency then sends back to you with a summary of the information in your tax return, explaining whether you are getting a refund or if you owe any taxes. For examples of what these documents look like, see the following resources.


Web Income Tax Notice Of Assessment
Dominion Lending Centres Inc.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For information about how to complete a tax return and get a copy of a Notice of Assessment, see the following resources.

Web All about your tax return
Government of Canada
English
See “Completing a tax return” and “How to obtain a copy of your notice of assessment or reassessment.”

Web Tout sur votre déclaration de revenus
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Remplir une déclaration de revenus” et “Comment obtenir une copie de votre avis de cotisation ou de nouvelle cotisation.”

However, this is not all of the information that must be provided. There is much more information that must be included. The exact information you need to provide depends on your situation. For example: if you are self-employed, work through a corporation that you control, or are in a business partnership, you must also provide financial statements, corporate tax returns and other proof of income (see kit instructions). For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you are asking for any special or extraordinary expenses, you must attach receipts for those expenses, if you have them.

Be Aware

Depending on your circumstances, there may be other kinds of financial information that you must provide. Be sure to read the instructions carefully. It is important to provide complete and accurate information. Otherwise, the court in the other jurisdiction can ask for more information before confirming the order. This will make the whole process take longer.

Before making the application, you may wish to learn about the law about child support and what is required to get a change in child support. For information about that, see the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

The Court of Queen’s Bench has created a booklet that has helpful information about making an application.

Tip

This process can take quite a while. You may need an increase in child support between the time of the application in Alberta and the time when the provisional order will be confirmed. In this case, you can ask the Alberta court to make an “interim” order for such support during this time. The Court may or may not grant that request.

Spousal support

To apply for a provisional order changing spousal support, use the following kit.

The financial information you must attach is:

  • your complete tax return for each of the past 3 years;
  • the Notice of Assessment form for each of the past 3 years; and
  • your pay stub or other proof showing the income you have received from all sources this year.

A “tax return” is all of the paperwork you send to Canada Revenue Agency when you do your taxes every year. A “Notice of Assessment” is the paperwork that Canada Revenue Agency then sends back to you with a summary of the information in your tax return, explaining whether you are getting a refund or if you owe any taxes. For examples of what these documents look like, see the following resources.


Web Income Tax Notice Of Assessment
Dominion Lending Centres Inc.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For information about how to complete a tax return and get a copy of a Notice of Assessment, see the following resources.

Web All about your tax return
Government of Canada
English
See “Completing a tax return” and “How to obtain a copy of your notice of assessment or reassessment.”

Web Tout sur votre déclaration de revenus
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Remplir une déclaration de revenus” et “Comment obtenir une copie de votre avis de cotisation ou de nouvelle cotisation.”

If you are self-employed, work through a corporation that you control, or are in a business partnership, you must also provide financial statements, corporate tax returns, and other proof of income (see kit instructions). For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

Depending on your circumstances, there may be other kinds of financial information that you must provide. Be sure to read the instructions carefully. It is important to provide complete and accurate information. Otherwise, the court in the other jurisdiction can ask for more information before confirming the order. This will make the whole process take longer.

Before making the application, you may wish to learn about the law about spousal support and what is required to get a change in spousal support. For information about that, see the Spousal Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

The Court of Queen’s Bench has created a booklet that has helpful information about making an application.

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and at least 2 copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you. The other is for the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

At the courthouse, and with the help of a court clerk, you will be able to pick a court date. Your matter will be scheduled in “chambers.” This is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list.

After you have been given a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of your copies. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

In most cases, you can go to court without serving the other party. He or she will be served once the application is sent to the province or territory where he or she lives. However, the judge may tell you in court that you need to serve the other party.

You will have to serve the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). You can do this by either:

  • dropping off copies of each court form at the MEP office; or
  • sending them to MEP by recorded mail.

The addresses are on the Affidavit of Service form included in the kits above.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve MEP: you must also prove that you served MEP. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Personal Service. The form you need is included in the kits listed above. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

When you filed your paperwork with the Court, you were given a court date and time. You need to be there on that day.

Tip

It is a good to idea to bring copies of your paperwork with you in case you need them.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Preparing for chambers

You will be appearing in “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list. Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may be in court in the morning or the afternoon. For more information on chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are in the correct courtroom. When you enter the Courthouse, you can ask a staff member for directions.

For most people, going to court will be a brand new experience. It may also come as a bit of surprise. Being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows, and you will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information on preparing for court in Queen’s Bench.


Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

For more information, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

Family Court Counsellors

In some locations, Family Court Counsellors (FCCs) may be available to help you learn about the court process. FCCs can also help present the facts to the judge. To get this help you will need to talk to them long before your court date!

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

Being in chambers

Chambers hearings are in courtrooms that are open to the public, where the judge hears a list of different cases by different people. Yours is one case on the list.

If, at the beginning of the hearing, the judge tells you to serve the other party, you must do so. The person who completes the service must then complete an Affidavit of Personal Service.

If the judge tells you to serve, the Court will adjourn (delay) the hearing until after this service takes place.

Duty counsel

In some courthouses, you may have the option of speaking with “duty counsel.” Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free. This can include what the judge may think of your requests and the “merits of your claim.” There are no income restrictions to speak with duty counsel, but the service is limited. They are only at certain courthouses on certain days. Also, there may be many people waiting to speak with them. If you need to speak to duty counsel, make sure you get to the courthouse early. Check with your judicial centre to verify the times and days duty counsel will be available.

For information about what matters duty counsel can help with, and which judicial centres have duty counsel available, see the following resource.

Web Duty Counsel - Legal Assistance at Court
Legal Aid Alberta
English

What happens next

The order that you received is a provisional order. This means that the order is not in effect at this time.

Once you have your provisional order, you must fill in the Provisional Order Information Form and file it with the Court of Queen’s Bench clerks.

PDF Provisional Order Information (Form FL-19 / CTS3837)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Once the Order and Provisional Order Information Form are filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench, the clerk will prepare a package of information to be sent to the Court in the jurisdiction where your former spouse lives. This package includes the court forms, the transcript, and the provisional order.

The Court in the other jurisdiction will set up a court date and serve your former spouse with a copy of the package from Alberta. Your former spouse can then file his or her own evidence with that Court and go to a hearing. The Court in the other jurisdiction will make an order which will do one of the following:

  • confirm the provisional order as it is;
  • confirm but vary the provisional order (you will get a change in the support, but it will be different from the change granted in the provisional order);
  • refuse to confirm the provisional order (there will be no change in the support); or
  • send the matter back to Alberta so that you can provide further evidence.

This whole process usually takes about 6-12 months, but it can take longer. You will receive a copy of the Order from the other jurisdiction once it is received by the Alberta court.

Registering the new order with the Maintenance Enforcement Program

Once you have a new order for support, you can register it with the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). For information about how to do this, see the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page or the Spousal Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Divorce Act: If you live in Alberta and your (former) spouse lives in another province and wants to change a support order granted outside of Alberta

The information in this section applies if:

  • the order you want to change was made under the Divorce Act;
  • your spouse lives outside Alberta (but inside Canada); and
  • the place where your spouse lives has jurisdiction (not Alberta).

In general, once a province or territory has accepted jurisdiction, applications under the Divorce Act will be made in that province or territory, unless a court changes the jurisdiction. This is true for all applications that do not deal with support issues.

However, support orders (child support and spousal support) work a little differently.

Former spouses who live in a different province or territory can only apply for a provisional order for support. This is because any order granted in one jurisdiction (the provisional order) is of not in effect, and cannot be enforced until it is confirmed in the other jurisdiction.

If your former spouse applied to change a court order in another jurisdiction, you may only find out about it when you receive a copy of the provisional order. This is normal. You will now have a chance to give your evidence to the Alberta Court, and the Alberta Court will make the final decision.

The Court of Queen’s Bench has created a booklet that has helpful information about applications.

Time limits

In the package of paperwork you received, there is a deadline for when to file your response. You must file your response by that date.

If you do nothing

If you do not respond within these time limits, the hearing will continue without any information from you. Your former spouse may get what he or she has requested. In other words, the provisional order from the other jurisdiction can be “confirmed” by the Alberta court. You will not have your side heard. If the Alberta court grants an order, you will have to follow it, even though you did not respond.

If you agree with what your former spouse is asking for

If you agree with what your former spouse is asking for, you do not need to fill out any forms. The application will go ahead and you will be given a copy of the final order.

If you do not agree: Responding to the application for a change in support

Child support

Before responding to the application, you may wish to learn about the law about child support and what is required to get a change in child support. For information about that, see the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

To respond to a provisional order to change child support, use the following form.

When you give your response, you must provide income information about yourself (this is called “financial disclosure”). If you do not give the Court your financial disclosure, you will not be allowed to file your Application. To give the Court your financial disclosure, you must use the following kit.

PDF Instructions: Providing Financial Disclosure
Government of Alberta
English
This form will automatically download on your computer.
Be Aware

In very rare circumstances, it may be possible to apply for child support without the required financial information. However, you will first have to apply to the Court for special permission. The legal term for this is “applying for a fiat.” This is a complicated procedure. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

The financial information that must be given is listed in section 21 of the Child Support Guidelines. This includes:

  • Your complete tax returns for the last 3 years
  • Your Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue for the last 3 years
  • If you have not filed tax returns, other proof of your income (such as T4 forms or Statements of Business Revenue and Expenses)
  • Pay stubs or other documents showing all of your income earned this year

A “tax return” is all of the paperwork you send to Canada Revenue Agency when you do your taxes every year. A “Notice of Assessment” is the paperwork that Canada Revenue Agency then sends back to you with a summary of the information in your tax return, explaining whether you are getting a refund or if you owe any taxes. For examples of what these documents look like, see the following resources.


Web Income Tax Notice Of Assessment
Dominion Lending Centres Inc.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For information about how to complete a tax return and get a copy of a Notice of Assessment, see the following resources.

Web All about your tax return
Government of Canada
English
See “Completing a tax return” and “How to obtain a copy of your notice of assessment or reassessment.”

Web Tout sur votre déclaration de revenus
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Remplir une déclaration de revenus” et “Comment obtenir une copie de votre avis de cotisation ou de nouvelle cotisation.”

However, this is not all of the information that must be provided. There is much more information that must be included. The exact information you need to provide depends on your situation. For example: if you are self-employed, work through a corporation that you control, or are in a business partnership, you must also provide financial statements, corporate tax returns, and other proof of income. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you are asking for any special or extraordinary expenses, you must attach receipts for those expenses, if you have them.

Be Aware

Depending on your circumstances, there may be other kinds of financial information that you must provide. Be sure to read the instructions carefully. It is important to provide complete and accurate information. Otherwise, the court in the other jurisdiction can ask for more information before confirming the order. This will make the whole process take longer.

The Court of Queen’s Bench has created a booklet that has helpful information about applications.

Spousal support

Before responding to the application, you may wish to learn about the law about spousal support and what is required to get a change in spousal support. For information about that, see the Spousal Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

To respond to a provisional order to change spousal support, use the following form.

You must attach financial information. The financial information you must attach is:

  • Your complete tax returns for the last 3 years
  • Your Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue for the last 3 years
  • If you have not filed tax returns, other proof of your income (such as T4 forms or Statements of Business Revenue and Expenses)
  • Pay stubs or other documents showing all of your income earned this year

A “tax return” is all of the paperwork you send to Canada Revenue Agency when you do your taxes every year. A “Notice of Assessment” is the paperwork that Canada Revenue Agency then sends back to you with a summary of the information in your tax return, explaining whether you are getting a refund or if you owe any taxes. For examples of what these documents look like, see the following resources.


Web Income Tax Notice Of Assessment
Dominion Lending Centres Inc.
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For information about how to complete a tax return and get a copy of a Notice of Assessment, see the following resource.

Web All about your tax return
Government of Canada
English
See “Completing a tax return” and “How to obtain a copy of your notice of assessment or reassessment.”

Web Tout sur votre déclaration de revenus
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Remplir une déclaration de revenus” et “Comment obtenir une copie de votre avis de cotisation ou de nouvelle cotisation.”

If you are self-employed, work through a corporation that you control, or are in a business partnership, you must also provide financial statements, corporate tax returns, and other proof of income. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

Depending on your circumstances, there may be other kinds of financial information that you must provide. Be sure to read the instructions carefully. It is important to provide complete and accurate information. Otherwise, the court in the other jurisdiction can ask for more information before confirming the order. This will make the whole process take longer.

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must make 2 copies of everything. You must file the originals at the Court of Queen’s Bench. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them.

Plan to go to the hearing

The Notice of Confirmation Hearing form tells you when and where court will be held. Go to that hearing. If you do not agree with what the Applicant has asked for, you must go to court. Even if you do agree, you may want to consider going to court. If you do not go to court on that day, the court may make an order without you there.

Tip

It is a good to idea to bring copies of your paperwork with you in case you need them.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Preparing for the hearing

Your hearing will be set at a special time along with other similar applications. It will be in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and the judge will hear a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list. Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may be in court in the morning or the afternoon. These hearings are very similar to family “chambers” hearings in the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information on chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are in the correct courtroom. When you enter the Courthouse, you can ask a staff member for directions.

For most people, going to court will be a brand new experience. It may also come as a bit of surprise. Being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows, and you will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information on preparing for court in Queen’s Bench.


Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

For more information, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

What happens next

At the hearing, the Court will make an order that will do one of the following:

  • confirm the provisional order as it is;
  • confirm but vary the provisional order (you will get a change in the support, but it will be different from the change granted in the provisional order);
  • refuse to confirm the provisional order (there will be no change in the support); or
  • send the matter back to the other province if further evidence is required (at which point there would be another hearing the future.

You will get a copy of that order. Your former spouse will have a copy sent to him or her in the other jurisdiction.

Registering the new order with the Maintenance Enforcement Program

Once you have a new order for support, you can register it with the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). For information about how to do this, see the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page or the Spousal Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Divorce in general: If you live in Alberta and want to enforce an order granted in another jurisdiction
Be Aware

This section applies if you are accepting the jurisdiction of the other court.

The process to enforce divorce-related court orders from foreign jurisdictions depends on:

  • the kind of order; and
  • the jurisdiction.

This section describes your options for:

  • Enforcing a custody and access order from another Canadian jurisdiction
  • Enforcing a support order (child support or spousal support) from another Canadian jurisdiction
  • Enforcing a custody and access order from a jurisdiction outside of Canada
  • Enforcing a support order (child support or spousal support) from a jurisdiction outside of Canada

Enforcing a custody and access order from another Canadian jurisdiction

The Divorce Act says the order is in force all across the country.

As a result, you can begin the process by simply filing your order with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. This is called “registering” the order. To do so, you must:

  • Have a “certified copy” of that Order (see the Glossary for more information about what this is). If you do not have one, contact the Court where the Order was granted, and ask for a certified copy of the Order.
  • Make 2 photocopies of the certified copy of the Order.
  • Bring all 3 copies to the Court of Queen’s Bench filing counter.
  • The Court will keep the certified copy and give you an Alberta file number, which you can write on your photocopies. You or the clerk will also stamp your photocopies as “filed” copies.

See the following resource for Queen’s Bench locations and contact information.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

After you register the Order, if the Order is not being followed by your former spouse, you can apply to the Court to ask for help with enforcement. To do that, you must apply to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. You would follow the same process as if the Order had been granted by an Alberta court.

For information about how to apply for enforcement of a custody and access order in Alberta, see the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Enforcing a child support or spousal support order from another Canadian jurisdiction

The Divorce Act says the order is in force all across the country.

As a result, you can begin the process by simply filing your order with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. This is called “registering” the order.

To register your foreign Order, you must:

  • Have a certified copy of that Order (see the Glossary for more information about what this is). If you do not have one, contact the Court where the Order was granted, and ask for a certified copy of the Order.
  • Make 2 photocopies of the certified copy of the Order.
  • Bring all 3 copies to the Court of Queen's Bench filing counter.
  • The Court will keep the certified copy and give you an Alberta file number, which you can write on your photocopies. You or the clerk will also stamp your photocopies as “filed” copies.

See the following resource for Queen’s Bench locations and contact information.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

You will then send one of the stamped photocopies of the Order to the Maintenance Enforcement Program. For information about how to do that, see the “Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program” section of the Process tab of either:

Enforcing a custody and access order from a jurisdiction outside of Canada

If your Order is not in English or French, you will first need to get a certified translation of the Order. You can find a certified translator in the following resource.

Interactive Member Directory
Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta
English

To ask for enforcement, you can apply to the Alberta Courts using the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act. For information about how to do that, see the “EPECO Act: You live in Alberta and you want to apply to enforce or change a custody order granted in another jurisdiction” section below.

Remember

The terms “custody” and “access” may or may not be on that Order. It may have terms such as “parenting time” instead. That is fine. For the EPECO Act to apply, it needs to be an order about the care and control of children.

Enforcing a child support or spousal support order from a jurisdiction outside of Canada

Alberta has “reciprocity agreements” with over 80 different jurisdictions. As long as the payor lives in a jurisdiction that has a reciprocity agreement with Alberta, you can register your child support order with Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program.

For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

If your support Order is from a reciprocating jurisdiction

If your Order is not in English or French, you will first need to get a certified translation of the Order. You can find a certified translator in the following resource.

Interactive Member Directory
Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta
English

Then, you must file your foreign child support or spousal support Order with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. This is called “registering” the order. To do so you must:

  • Have a certified copy of your Order (see the Glossary for more information about what this is). If you do not have one, contact the Court where the Order was granted, and ask for a certified copy of the Order.
  • Make 2 copies of the certified copy of the Order.
  • Bring all 3 copies to the Court of Queen's Bench filing counter.
  • The Court will keep the certified copy and give you an Alberta file number, which you can write on your photocopies. You or the clerk will also stamp your photocopies as “filed” copies.

You will then send one of the stamped photocopies of the Order to the Maintenance Enforcement Program. For information about how to do that, see the “Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program” section of the Process tab of either:

Although those Information Pages are about support orders under Canada’s Divorce Act, the process of registering with MEP is the same.

If your support Order is not from a reciprocating jurisdiction

If the jurisdiction is not a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” your matter is more complicated. Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program cannot enforce an order from a non-reciprocating jurisdiction. This is true even if both parties are here in Alberta now.

You may be able to get a new child support or spousal support order under Alberta’s Family Law Act. Or you may have to deal with your matter in that other jurisdiction. It depends on your situation.

To find out what your options are, you will want to talk to a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Divorce in general: If you live in Alberta and want to change an order granted in another jurisdiction
Be Aware

This section applies if you are accepting the jurisdiction of the other court.

The process to change divorce-related court orders from jurisdictions outside of Alberta depends on:

  • the kind of order; and
  • the jurisdiction.

The section describes your options for:

  • Changing a custody and access order from another Canadian jurisdiction
  • Changing a support order (child support or spousal support) from another Canadian jurisdiction
  • Changing a custody and access order from a jurisdiction outside of Canada
  • Changing a support order (child support or spousal support) from a jurisdiction outside of Canada

Changing a custody and access order from another Canadian jurisdiction

If you still agree that the Court in the other province or territory is the Court that should have jurisdiction, you can apply to change your Order there. For more information about who can help in other provinces, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

If you think that the Court in Alberta should have jurisdiction, you can apply to have the custody and access issues transferred to Alberta. For information about this, see the “Divorce Act: If the divorce proceedings were started, but you want only the custody and access issues transferred” section above.

Changing a child support or spousal support order from another Canadian jurisdiction

The Divorce Act has a process to change support orders (child support and spousal support) when the parties live in different provinces. This process must be used no matter which province or territory had jurisdiction, or which party applies for the change.

For information about this process, see the “Divorce Act: If you live in Alberta and your (former) spouse lives in another province and wants to change a support order granted outside of Alberta” section above.

Changing a custody and access order from a jurisdiction outside of Canada

You can apply to the Alberta Courts using the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act. For information about how to do that, see the “EPECO Act: You live in Alberta and you want to apply to enforce or change a custody order granted in another jurisdiction” section below.

Remember

The terms “custody” and “access” may or may not be on that Order. It may have terms such as “parenting time” instead. That is fine. For the EPECO Act to apply, it needs to be an order about the care and control of children.

Changing a child support or spousal support order from a jurisdiction outside of Canada

The process to change support orders (child support and spousal support) granted outside of Canada will depend on where the Order was granted.

Alberta has “reciprocity agreements” with over 80 different jurisdictions. For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

If your support Order is from a reciprocating jurisdiction

If the Order you want to change is from a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” you can apply to the Alberta Courts using the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act. For information about how to do that, see the section below that applies to you.

  • If you are the recipient of the support, see the section called “ISO Act: You live in Alberta, you are the recipient, and you want to apply to change a support order”
  • If you are the payor of the support, see the section called “ISO Act: You live in Alberta, you are the payor, and you want to apply to change a support order”

If your support Order is not from a reciprocating jurisdiction

If the Order you want to change is not from a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” your situation is more complicated. You may be able to get a new child support or spousal support order under Alberta’s Family Law Act. Or you may have to deal with your matter in that other jurisdiction. It depends on your situation.

To find out what your options are, you will want to talk to a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Matrimonial Property Act: When court paperwork HAS NOT been started in another jurisdiction
Remember

The Matrimonial Property Act applies only to people who are married to each other or are divorced from each other. If you were not married, you cannot use the Matrimonial Property Act to divide your property.

If you decide to start a Matrimonial Property Act action in Alberta, you can follow the regular procedures for doing so. For information about how to that, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Remember

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law. You may wish to consider getting the advice of lawyer about whether or not you should try to start a Matrimonial Property Act action in Alberta. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Matrimonial Property Act (or its equivalent): When court paperwork HAS been started in another jurisdiction

To deal with marriage-related property actions that have been started outside of Alberta, you must deal with the courts in that other jurisdiction.

To learn about how exactly do that, you can contact organizations that provide legal information in that province or territory. For information about how to find such organizations, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Family Law Act: When court paperwork HAS NOT been started in another jurisdiction

If you decide to start Family Law Act proceedings in Alberta, you can follow the regular procedures for doing so. For information about that, see the following Information Pages.

If you also want to deal with property issues in Alberta, the processes will depend on whether or not you are married, or were married.

Remember

The issue of jurisdiction is a complex area of law. You may wish to consider getting the advice of lawyer about whether or not you should try to start a court action in Alberta. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Family Law Act: When court paperwork HAS been started in another jurisdiction and you want to challenge that jurisdiction and apply in Alberta

If the other jurisdiction is in Canada

Court paperwork for a family law issue not under the Divorce Act may have been started in another Canadian province or territory. You may want to challenge the jurisdiction of that province or territory so that you can apply in Alberta under the Family Law Act instead. But, you must also apply in that other province or territory to have those proceedings stopped.

For information about what steps you need to take, you will want to consult an Alberta lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

To learn about what needs to be done in the other jurisdiction, you can also contact organizations that provide legal information in that province or territory. For information about how to find such organizations, see the Solving Legal Problems & Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

If the other jurisdiction is outside of Canada

If court paperwork for a family law issue has been started outside of Canada, you may want to challenge the jurisdiction of that country so that you can apply in Alberta under the Family Law Act instead.

This is a very complex area of law. To find out what your options are, you will want to talk to a lawyer. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Family Law Act (or its equivalent): If you want to enforce orders granted in another jurisdiction

Be Aware

This section only applies if you are accepting the jurisdiction of the other court.

The steps that you will need to follow depend on various things, including:

  • where the order is from; and
  • whether the order is about the care and control of children, or about support issues.

The rest of this section describes your options for:

  • Enforcing an order about the care and control of children from another jurisdiction (inside or outside of Canada)
  • Enforcing a support order (child support or spousal support) from another jurisdiction (inside or outside of Canada)

Enforcing orders about the care and control of children

Whether your order is from another Canadian jurisdiction or another country, you can apply to the Alberta Courts to enforce an order about the care and control of children. This can be done using the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO Act).

For information about how to do that, see the section below called “EPECO Act: You live in Alberta and you want to apply to enforce or change a custody order granted in another jurisdiction.”

Remember

The terms “custody” and “access” may or may not be on that Order. It may have terms such as “parenting time” instead. That is fine. For the EPECO Act to apply, it needs to be an order about the care and control of children.

Enforcing support orders (child support or partner support)

Alberta has “reciprocity agreements” with over 80 different jurisdictions. These other jurisdictions include:

  • all the Canadian provinces and territories;
  • all of the U.S. states; and
  • some other foreign countries.

As long as the payor lives in a jurisdiction that has a reciprocity agreement with Alberta, you can enforce your support order through Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP).

For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

If your support Order is from a reciprocating jurisdiction

If your Order is not in English or French, you will first need to get a certified translation of the Order. You can find a certified translator in the following resource.

Interactive Member Directory
Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta
English

To begin the process of enforcing your Order, you must file the Order with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. This is also called “registering” the order. To do so you must:

  • Have a certified copy of your Order (see the Glossary for more information about what this is). If you do not have one, contact the Court where the Order was granted, and ask for a certified copy of the Order.
  • Make 2 copies of the certified copy of the Order.
  • Bring all three copies to the Court of Queen's Bench (QB) filing counter.
  • The Court will keep the certified copy and give you an Alberta file number, which you can write on your photocopy. You or the clerk will also stamp your photocopies as “filed” copies.

The next step is to send one of the stamped copies to the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP). For information about how to that, see the “Registering with the Maintenance Enforcement Program” section of the Process tab of the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page. Although that Information Page is about child support orders under Alberta’s Family Law Act, the process of registering with MEP is the same.

If your support Order is not from a reciprocating jurisdiction

If the jurisdiction is not a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” your matter is more complicated. Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program cannot enforce an order from a non-reciprocating jurisdiction. This is true even if both parties are here in Alberta now.

You may be able to get a new child support or partner support order under Alberta’s Family Law Act. Or you may have to deal with your matter in that other jurisdiction. It depends on your situation.

To find out what your options are, you will want to talk to a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Family Law Act (or its equivalent): If you want to change orders granted in another jurisdiction

The steps that you will need to follow depend on various things, including:

  • where the order is from; and
  • whether the order is about the care and control of children, or about support issues.

The rest of this section describes your options for:

  • Changing an order about the care and control of children from another jurisdiction (inside or outside of Canada)
  • Changing a support order (child support or spousal support) from another jurisdiction (inside or outside of Canada)

Changing orders about the care and control of children

Whether your order is from another Canadian jurisdiction or another country, if your children are ordinarily resident in Alberta, you can apply to the Alberta Courts to change an order about the care and control of children. This can be done using the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO Act).

For more information, see the section below called “EPECO Act: You live in Alberta and you want to apply to enforce or change a custody order granted in another jurisdiction.”

Remember

The terms “custody” and “access” may not appear on that Order. It may have terms such as “parenting time” instead. For the EPECO Act to apply, it needs to be an order about the care and control of children.

Changing support orders (child support and partner support)

The process to change a support order will depend on the jurisdiction where the Order was granted.

Alberta has “reciprocity agreements” with over 80 different jurisdictions. These other jurisdictions include:

  • all the Canadian provinces and territories;
  • all of the U.S. states; and
  • some other foreign countries.

For a list of reciprocating jurisdictions, see the following resource.

Web Enforcement programs outside Alberta
Government of Alberta
English

If your support Order is from a reciprocating jurisdiction

If the Order you want to change is from a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” you can apply to the Alberta Courts using the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act. For information about how to do that, see the section below that applies to you.

  • If you are the recipient of the support, see the section called “ISO Act: You live in Alberta, you are the recipient, and you want to apply to change a support order”
  • If you are the payor of the support, see the section called “ISO Act: You live in Alberta, you are the payor, and you want to apply to change a support order”

If your support Order is not from a reciprocating jurisdiction

If the Order you want to change is not from a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” your situation is more complicated. You may be able to get a new support order under Alberta’s Family Law Act. Or you may have to deal with matter in that other jurisdiction. It depends on your situation.

To find out what your options are, you will want to talk to a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

ISO Act: You live in Alberta and you are applying to get financial support for the first time (child support and/or partner support)

When you make a first-time application for child support under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO Act), you will have many forms to complete. You will need to hand in these documents at your local courthouse.

Be Aware

In general, first-time applications for support are filed with the Provincial Court. However, for some jurisdictions, the documents must be filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench. Staff at the courthouse can help make sure that you file your documents in the correct court.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Read all of the forms carefully. Each form comes with instructions. Be sure to carefully read these instructions too. For more information, see the following guide.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English

For more information and help with your documents, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

In this application, you are the “Claimant” and the other party is the “Respondent.”

Before you begin: Understanding how to put together and “swear” your ISO Act application

When people go to court, they must “swear” evidence. When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

In an ISO Act application, your application package will speak for you. For that to happen, it must be sworn or affirmed. To do this, all the forms you complete will be attached to Form A at the time it sworn. Together, they make up a complete ISO Act application. You will swear the whole application. The formal requirements that prove the swearing are then included on the final page of Form A. For this reason, you may want to consider having “working copies” of all forms, and have separate “good copies” to use when the application package is sworn.

For more information about this process, see the following resource.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4-5.

Completing the Forms: Forms you need for any kind of support (child support and/or partner support)

Use the following forms if you are applying for:

  • child support;
  • partner support; or
  • both child support and partner support.

Form A

This form is for both:

  • a first-time application; and
  • an application to change an existing order.

Because this is a first-time application, you will need to fill out the “For Support” sections (not the “For Support Variation” sections—that is what you fill out if you are asking to change an existing order).

You will not fill out Form A all at once. The choices you make on Form A will send you to other forms and guides. As you finish each form you can come back and complete a section of Form A. Use the Worksheet section at the end of the ISO Guide to make a note of any documents you need to get, or work to be done.

Form A is available here:

Form B

This is the form that sets out information that identifies the parties (you and your former partner or spouse).

Form B is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form B: Identification Information
Government of Alberta
English

Form F

In this form, you give the Court financial information about the Respondent. This form will be used if the Respondent doesn’t go to court, or doesn’t file his or her own papers and documents. Although this does not happen very often, it can happen.

If the Respondent does not go to Court, or does not give the Court the financial information it asks for, the Court can make an order based on the information that you have given about the Respondent’s finances.

Form F is not a required form for you, but it is probably best for you to fill it out. If the Respondent does not go to Court, or does not give the Court financial information, Form F is your formal request for an order. Without this request and information, the Court may not be able to make an order.

Form F is available here:

Form K

This is a financial statement. Not everyone has to fill this out.

If all of the following apply to you, then you do not have to fill out Form K.

  • Your only claim is for child support at the “table amount”; and
  • you filled out Form E; and
  • you did not fill out Forms G, H, J, L, or M.

However, even if all of the above apply to you, it might be in your best interest to fill out Form K anyway. If you think the Respondent might disagree with your application, filling out Form K now will save you a lot of time later. This is because the Court may ask for it before it makes a decision. There is an example you can read about on the form.

But, if you have asked for:

  • an amount different than the “table amount” (for example: due to an undue hardship claim or the Respondent’s high income);
  • special expenses;
  • support for yourself;
  • support for any child over the “age of majority”;
  • support for a child in a split or shared custody arrangement;
  • a change to the order you have now

then you must fill out Form K.

If you fill out a Form K, you will need to attach specific financial information, including:

  • Your complete tax returns for the last 3 years
  • The Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue for the last 3 years
  • If you have not filed tax returns, other proof of your income (such as T4 forms or Statements of Business Revenue and Expenses)
  • Pay stubs or other documents showing all of your income earned this year

If you are self-employed or have income from sources other than employment, there is other information you must provide. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Form K is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form K: Financial Statement
Government of Alberta
English

Form O

This is the form that must be filled out if you want Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program to enforce your order.

Form O is available here:

PDF Form O: Request for Enforcement
Government of Alberta
English

Completing the Forms: Additional forms for child support

If you are applying for child support, you will need to fill out the following forms in addition to the forms listed just above.

Form C

This is the form that asks for evidence of parentage. In other words, proof that the other party is the biological parent of the children. The form asks you whether you have evidence for any of 9 ways to claim parentage.

You must use Form C if all of the following statements apply:

  • you do not already have a child support order naming the other party; and
  • you do not have a court order that says the Respondent is the parent of the child; and
  • you want to claim child support for the child.

You must fill out a Form C for each child.

Form C is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form C: Evidence of Parentage
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

If you have assigned your maintenance (support) rights to Child Support Services (CSS), you must contact CSS. You do not have the right to change the Order without involving CSS.

Web Child Support Services
Government of Alberta
English

Form D

This form is also about biological parentage. You will need this form if you filled out Form C and either:

  • you believe that the Respondent will say, “it’s not my child” or “I should not have to support the child”; or
  • you could not check off any of the 9 “presumptions of parentage” boxes on Form C.

If you are asking for support for more than one child, you will need one Form D for each child whose parentage may be disputed.

If you already have a court order or a written agreement saying that the Respondent is the parent of the child, or will pay support, you do not need to fill out Form D.

Form D is available here:

Form E

This form is the “claim” for child support. This is the form that you must use if you do not have a child support order (or written agreement) at this time. If you have an order or written agreement now, use Form M instead.

The ISO Guide will be very helpful in filling out this form, as it explains the Alberta Child Support Guidelines. You will need to complete Form E to know whether you also need to complete Form G (described below).

For more information about the Alberta Child Support Guidelines, see the Child Support under the Family Law Act Information Page.

Form E is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form E: Child Support Claim
Government of Alberta
English

Form G

This is the form that you must use if you are making a claim for a child support amount that is not in the Child Support Guidelines Table. It is important that you read the ISO Guide for Form E, and fill out Form E, before you start Form G.

With Form G you will tell the Court the reasons why the order should be for an amount that is different from what would normally apply under the Alberta Child Support Guidelines. You also state what that amount should be. Form G describes the 5 reasons the Court uses to decide whether something other than the “table amount” should be used. Not all of these reasons will apply to you. But more than one reason can apply, especially with more than one child.

Form G is available here:

Form H

Form H is for special expense claims. You use this form if you are asking the Court to order the Respondent to pay a share of a child’s special or extraordinary necessary expenses.

Form H is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form H: Special Expense Claim
Government of Alberta
English

Form L

You only need to fill out this form if you are claiming support for a child who is the “age of majority” or older.

Form L is available here:

Completing the Forms: Jurisdictions with additional required forms

Some foreign jurisdictions have additional paperwork to fill out or steps to take.

Ontario

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is Ontario, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Ontario: Support Deduction Order Information Form
Government of Alberta
English

Quebec

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is Quebec, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following forms. Also, all forms must be filed at the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.


PDF Provisional Order (under I.S.O. Act)
Government of Alberta
English

If you are applying for child support, you must also complete the following form.

United States

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is in the United States, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following forms.

PDF United States: General Testimony
Government of Alberta
English

PDF United States: Uniform Support Petition
Government of Alberta
English

If you are applying for child support, you must also complete the following form.

United Kingdom

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is in the United Kingdom, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form. Also, all forms must be filed at the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

PDF Provisional Order (under I.S.O. Act)
Government of Alberta
English

Australia

If you are applying for child support, and the reciprocating jurisdiction is in Australia, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Australia: Application for child support assessment
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

For spousal support applications, Australia does not require any additional forms.

New Zealand

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is in New Zealand, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form. Also, all forms must be filed at the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

PDF Provisional Order (under I.S.O. Act)
Government of Alberta
English

Swearing your forms

You can swear your documents at Resolution and Court Administration Services. You will need to bring photo ID.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Filing” the paperwork

Make 4 copies of all your forms. File the forms with the court. The clerk will keep the originals and 3 copies, and stamp your copy and return it to you.

Remember

Most first-time ISO applications must be filed with the Provincial Court. However, for applications involving Quebec, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, the documents must be filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench.

See the following resources for courthouse locations.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

What happens next

Once the Alberta Court gets your paperwork, it will send the application to the reciprocating jurisdiction. You will get a letter from the Alberta Court saying that the paperwork has been sent. Your paperwork will then be reviewed by the reciprocating jurisdiction.

Be Aware

If more information is needed, the reciprocating jurisdiction will let you know (either by contacting you directly or through the Alberta Court).

The complete package then goes to a court hearing in the reciprocating jurisdiction.

The hearing

The other party (the Respondent) will be given a copy of your application. A court date will be set in the reciprocating jurisdiction. The Respondent will be told to file his or her own package of sworn documents at that reciprocating court.

At the hearing, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will look at all of the documents that were filed. If the Respondent attends the hearing, the Court may hear evidence from him or her. The Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction may then make an order.

More information may be needed

Sometimes the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will want more information from you before making an order. If this happens, the Court will make a “Request for Further Information” telling you what it needs. The Court will send this document to the Alberta Court, which will then pass the request on to you. What you send back must be sworn (see above). The court case in the reciprocating jurisdiction will continue when it receives your additional information.

The end of the process

When the process is complete, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction can make an order. That Court will then send the Order to the Alberta Court, which will send you a copy. A copy of order will also be given to the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP).

The United Kingdom and New Zealand have additional requirements

The process is somewhat different if the Respondent lives in the United Kingdom or New Zealand. In those jurisdictions, the reciprocating Courts require a “provisional” order. A provisional order is an order that has no force or effect: it is a “suggested” order. The order does not take effect until a court in the other jurisdiction “confirms” the order. As a result, the Claimant must complete both the regular ISO Act forms, plus an additional form called a “form of order.” The forms must be filed with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. A judge in Alberta will review the forms and make a provisional order, which is then sent to the reciprocating jurisdiction for a “Confirmation Hearing.”

At the Confirmation Hearing, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will review the Claimant’s evidence and hear the Respondent’s evidence. The judge in that Court can then:

  • confirm the provisional order (in which case it will now be in force);
  • confirm but change parts of the provisional order; or
  • refuse to confirm the provisional order.
ISO Act: You live in Alberta and you are responding to a first-time application for financial support (child support and/or partner support)

You have received a package of documents that says that your former spouse or partner, who is in a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” is asking the Alberta Court to make an order for financial support (child support and/or partner support).

In this application, you are the “Respondent” and the other party is the “Claimant.”

You will have many forms to complete. Read all of the forms carefully. Each form comes with instructions. Be sure to carefully read these instructions too. For more information, see the following guide.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

In general, first-time applications for support are filed with the Provincial Court. However, for some jurisdictions, your application may be set to be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Be sure to read your Notice of Hearing carefully to know which court you will need to go to.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

For more information and help with your documents, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Before you begin: Understanding how to put together and “swear” your ISO Act paperwork

When people go to court, they must “swear” evidence. When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

In an ISO Act application, your application package will speak for you. For that to happen, it must be sworn or affirmed. To do this, all the forms you complete will be attached to Form N at the time it sworn. Together, they make up a complete ISO Act application. You will swear the whole application. The formal requirements that prove the swearing are then included on the final page of Form N. For this reason, you may want to consider having “working copies” of all forms, and have separate “good copies” to use when the application package is sworn.

For more information about this process, see the following resource.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4-5.

Completing the Forms: Forms you need for any kind of support (child support and/or partner support)

Use the following forms if you are responding to an application for:

  • child support;
  • partner support; or
  • both child support and partner support.

Form N

This form is your “answer” to the application. In Form N, you must choose whether you agree with what the Claimant is asking.

  • If you agree, you check off the box that says “Agree and consent.”
  • If you do not agree, you check off the box that says “Do not agree.”

Form N is available here:

Even if you agree, you must also complete a Form K (see below).

If you do not agree, there will be more detailed information that you need to provide. Your options are listed below. Which ones you need to fill out will depend on your situation.

Form K

This is a financial statement that shows the income you earn. This is necessary because the Child Support Guidelines are based on the parents’ income. Even if you agree with the Claimant’s application, you must fill in a Form K.

Form K is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form K: Financial Statement
Government of Alberta
English

When you fill out a Form K, you must attach specific financial information, including:

  • Your complete tax returns for the last 3 years.
  • Your Notices of Assessment from the last 3 years.
  • If you have not filed tax returns, other proof of your income (such as T4 forms or Statements of Business Revenue and Expenses).
  • Pay stubs or other documents showing all of your income earned this year.

If you are self-employed or have income from sources other than employment, there is other information you must provide. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Completing the Forms: Additional forms for child support

If you are responding to an application for child support, you will need to fill out the following forms in addition to the forms listed just above.

Form I

You will need to complete this form if:

  • you do not agree with the application; and
  • you are asking the Court to order an amount different than the table amount.

With Form I you will tell the Court the reasons why the order should be for an amount different than the table amount. You will also tell the Court what you think the child support amount should be.

Form I covers the 5 reasons the Court uses to decide whether something other than the “table amount” should be used. Not all of these reasons will apply to you. But more than one reason can apply, especially with more than one child.

Form I is available here:

Form H

Form H is for special expense claims. You use it if you want the order to include special or extraordinary expenses that are different from the what the applicant is asking for. You are asking the Court to make an order for the expenses you claim.

Form H is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form H: Special Expense Claim
Government of Alberta
English

Form L

This form is about support for a child who is the “age of majority” or older. You will check off the box indicating that you are the Respondent and sign in the blank line at the bottom of the form when you swear your documents.

Form L is available here:

Swearing your forms

You can swear your documents at Resolution and Court Administration Services. You will need to bring photo ID.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Filing” the paperwork

Make 2 copies of all your forms. File the forms with the court. The clerk will keep the originals, and stamp your copies and return them to you.

See the following resources for courthouse locations.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Go to court on the hearing date

The “Notice of Hearing” tells you when and where the court hearing will be. If you do not agree with everything that the Claimant has asked for, you must go to court. Even if you do agree, it is recommended that you go to court.

Bring both copies of your forms with you. If there is a lawyer in court as a “Friend of the Court,” give one copy to him or her.

For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

When the hearing is over

You will be given a certified copy of the Order granted by the Court. A copy will also be given to the Claimant and the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP).

ISO Act: You live in Alberta, you are the recipient, and you want to apply to change a support order (child support and/or partner support)

When you apply to change support under the ISO Act, you will have many forms to complete. You will need to hand in these documents at your local Court of Queen’s Bench. Read all of the forms carefully. Each form comes with instructions. Be sure to carefully read these instructions too. For more information, see the following guide.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English

In this application, you are the “Claimant” and the other party is the “Respondent.”

Be Aware

If you have assigned your maintenance (support) rights to Child Support Services (CSS), you must contact CSS. You do not have the right to change the Order without involving CSS.

Web Child Support Services
Government of Alberta
English

Before you begin: Understanding how to put together and “swear” your ISO Act application

When people go to court, they must “swear” evidence. When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

In an ISO Act application, your application package will speak for you. For that to happen, it must be sworn or affirmed. To do this, all the forms you complete will be attached to Form A at the time it sworn. Together, they make up a complete ISO Act application. You will swear the whole application. The formal requirements that prove the swearing are then included on the final page of Form A. For this reason, you may want to consider having “working copies” of all forms, and have separate “good copies” to use when the application package is sworn.

For more information about this process, see the following resource.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4-5.

Completing the Forms: Forms you need to change any kind of support (child support and/or partner support)

Use the following forms if you are applying to change:

  • child support;
  • partner support; or
  • both child support and partner support.

Form A

This form is for both:

  • a first-time application; and
  • an application to change an existing order.

Because this is an application to change child or partner support, you will need to fill out the “For Support Variation” sections (not the “For Support” sections—that is what you fill out if you are asking for a first-time order).

You will not fill out Form A all at once. The choices you make on Form A will send you to other forms and guides. As you finish each form you can come back and complete a section of Form A. Use the Worksheet section at the end of the ISO Guide to make a note of any documents you need to get, or work to be done.

Form A is available here:

Form B

This is the form that sets out information that identifies the parties (you and your former partner or spouse).

Form B is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form B: Identification Information
Government of Alberta
English

Form F

In this form, you give the Court financial information about the Respondent. This form will be used if the Respondent doesn’t go to court, or doesn’t file his or her own papers and documents. Although this does not happen very often, it can happen.

If the Respondent does not go to Court, or does not give the Court the financial information it asks for, the Court can make an order based on the information that you have given about the Respondent’s finances.

Form F is not a required form for you, but it is probably best for you to fill it out. If the Respondent does not go to Court, or does not give the Court financial information, Form F is your formal request for an order. Without this request and information, the Court may not be able to make an order.

Form F is available here:

Form K

This is a financial statement. You must fill out this form.

When you fill out a Form K, you must attach specific financial information, including:

  • Your complete tax returns for the last 3 years.
  • The Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue for the last 3 years.
  • If you have not filed tax returns, other proof of your income (such as T4 forms or Statements of Business Revenue and Expenses).
  • Pay stubs or other documents showing all of your income earned this year.

If you are self-employed or have income from sources other than employment, there is other information you must provide. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Form K is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form K: Financial Statement
Government of Alberta
English

Form M

In this form, you tell the Court why you want to change your support order. For example, maybe there have been changes in your life or in the life of the Respondent. Or, if you are applying to change child support, maybe there have been changes in the needs of the children.

Form M is available here:

Completing the Forms: Additional forms for child support

If you are applying to change child support, you will need to fill out the following forms in addition to the forms listed just above.

Form G

This is the form that you must use if you are making a claim for a child support amount that is not in the Child Support Guidelines Table. It is important that you read the ISO Guide for Form E, and fill out Form E, before you start Form G.

With Form G you will tell the Court the reasons why the order should be for an amount that is different from what would normally apply under the Alberta Child Support Guidelines. You also state what that amount should be. Form G describes the 5 reasons the Court uses to decide whether something other than the “table amount” should be used. Not all of these reasons will apply to you. But more than one reason can apply, especially with more than one child.

Form G is available here:

Form H

Form H is for special expense claims. You use this form if you are asking the Court to order the Respondent to pay a share of a child’s special or extraordinary expenses.

Form H is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form H: Special Expense Claim
Government of Alberta
English

Form L

You only need to fill out this form if you are claiming support for a child who is the “age of majority” or older.

Form L is available here:

Completing the Forms: Jurisdictions with additional required forms

Some foreign jurisdictions have additional paperwork to fill out or steps to take.

Ontario

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is Ontario, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Ontario: Support Deduction Order Information Form
Government of Alberta
English

Quebec

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is Quebec, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following forms.


PDF Provisional Variation Order (under I.S.O. Act)
Government of Alberta
English

If you are applying to change a child support order, you must also complete the following form.

United States

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is in the United States, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following forms.

PDF United States: General Testimony
Government of Alberta
English

PDF United States: Uniform Support Petition
Government of Alberta
English

United Kingdom

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is in the United Kingdom, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Provisional Variation Order (under I.S.O. Act)
Government of Alberta
English

Australia

If you are applying to change a child support order, and the reciprocating jurisdiction is in Australia, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Australia: Child Support or maintenance change
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

For an application to change spousal support, Australia does not require any additional forms.

New Zealand

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is in New Zealand, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Provisional Variation Order (under I.S.O. Act)
Government of Alberta
English

Swearing your forms

You can swear your documents at Resolution and Court Administration Services. You will need to bring photo ID.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Filing” the paperwork

Make 4 copies of all your forms. File the forms with the court. The clerk will keep the originals and 3 copies, and stamp your copy and return it to you.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

What happens next

Once the Alberta Court gets your paperwork, it will send the application to the reciprocating jurisdiction. You will get a letter from the Alberta Court saying that the paperwork has been sent. Your paperwork will then be reviewed by the reciprocating jurisdiction.

Be Aware

If more information is needed, the reciprocating jurisdiction will let you know (either by contacting you directly or through the Alberta Court).

The complete package then goes to a court hearing in the reciprocating jurisdiction.

The hearing

The other party (the Respondent) will be given a copy of your application. A court date will be set in the reciprocating jurisdiction. The Respondent will be told to file his or her own package of sworn documents at that reciprocating court.

At the hearing, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will look at all of the documents that were filed. If the Respondent attends the hearing, the Court may hear evidence from him or her. The Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction may then make an order.

More information may be needed

Sometimes the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will want more information from you before making an order. If this happens, the Court will make a “Request for Further Information” telling you what it needs. The Court will send this document to the Alberta Court, which will then pass the request on to you. What you send back must be sworn (see above). The court case in the reciprocating jurisdiction will continue when it receives your additional information.

The end of the process

When the process is complete, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction can make an order. That Court will then send the Order to the Alberta Court, which will send you a copy.

The United Kingdom and New Zealand have additional requirements

The process is somewhat different if the Respondent lives in the United Kingdom or New Zealand. In those jurisdictions, the reciprocating Courts require a “provisional” order. A provisional order is an order that has no force or effect: it is a “suggested” order. The order does not take effect until a court in the other jurisdiction “confirms” the order. As a result, the Claimant must complete both the regular ISO Act forms, plus an additional form called a “form of order.” The forms must be filed with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. A judge in Alberta will review the forms and make a provisional order, which is then sent to the reciprocating jurisdiction for a “Confirmation Hearing.”

At the Confirmation Hearing, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will review the Claimant’s evidence and hear the Respondent’s evidence. The judge in that Court can then:

  • confirm the provisional order (in which case it will now be in force);
  • confirm but change parts of the provisional order; or
  • refuse to confirm the provisional order.
ISO Act: You live in Alberta, you are the payor, and you are responding to an application to change support (child support and/or partner support)

You have received a package of documents that says that your former spouse or partner, who is in a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” is asking the Alberta Court to change your child support and/or spousal support Order.

In this application, you are the “Respondent” and the other party is the “Claimant.”

You will have many forms to complete. You will need to hand in these documents at your local Court of Queen’s Bench. Read all of the forms carefully. Each form comes with instructions. Be sure to carefully read these instructions too. For more information, see the following guide.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English

For more information and help with your documents, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Before you begin: Understanding how to put together and “swear” your ISO Act paperwork

When people go to court, they must “swear” evidence. When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

In an ISO Act application, your application package will speak for you. For that to happen, it must be sworn or affirmed. To do this, all the forms you complete will be attached to Form N at the time it sworn. Together, they make up a complete ISO Act application. You will swear the whole application. The formal requirements that prove the swearing are then included on the final page of Form N. For this reason, you may want to consider having “working copies” of all forms, and have separate “good copies” to use when the application package is sworn.

For more information about this process, see the following resource.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4-5.

Completing the Forms: Forms you need for any kind of support (child support and/or partner support)

Use the following forms if you are responding to an application to change:

  • child support;
  • partner support; or
  • both child support and partner support.

Form N

This form is your “answer” to the application. In Form N, you must choose whether you agree with what the Claimant is asking.

  • If you agree, you check off the box that says “Agree and consent.”
  • If you do not agree, you check off the box that says “Do not agree.”

Form N is available here:

Even if you agree, you must also complete a Form K (see below).

If you do not agree, there will be more detailed information that you need to provide. Your options are listed below. Which ones you need to fill out will depend on your situation.

Form K

This is a financial statement. You must fill out this form.

When you fill out a Form K, you must attach specific financial information, including:

  • Your complete tax returns for the last 3 years.
  • The Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue for the last 3 years.
  • If you have not filed tax returns, other proof of your income (such as T4 forms or Statements of Business Revenue and Expenses).
  • Pay stubs or other documents showing all of your income earned this year.

If you are self-employed or have income from sources other than employment, there is other information you must provide. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Form K is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form K: Financial Statement
Government of Alberta
English

Completing the Forms: Additional forms for child support

If you are responding to an application to change child support, you will need to fill out the following forms in addition to the forms listed just above.

Form I

You will need to complete this form if you:

  • do not agree with the application; and
  • are asking the Court to order an amount different than the table amount.

With Form I you will tell the Court the reasons why the order should be for an amount different than the table amount. You will also tell the Court what you think the child support amount should be.

Form I covers the 5 reasons the Court uses to decide whether something other than the “table amount” should be used. Not all of these reasons will apply to you. But more than one reason can apply, especially with more than one child.

Form I is available here:

Form L

This form is about support for a child who is the “age of majority” or older. You will check off the box indicating that you are the Respondent and sign in the blank line at the bottom of the form when you swear your documents.

As the Respondent, you only need to complete this form if you disagree with the evidence the Claimant provided on this issue.

Form L is available here:

Swearing your forms

You can swear your application package at Resolution and Court Administration Services. You will need to bring photo ID.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Filing” the paperwork

Make 2 copies of all your forms. File the forms with the court. The clerk will keep the originals, and stamp your copies and return them to you.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Go to court on the hearing date

The “Notice of Hearing” tells you when and where the court hearing will be. If you do not agree with everything that the Claimant has asked for, you must go to court. Even if you do agree, it is recommended that you go to court.

Bring both copies of your forms with you. If there is a lawyer in court as a “Friend of the Court,” give one copy to him or her.

For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

When the hearing is over

You will be given a certified copy of the Order granted by the Court. A copy will also be given to the Claimant and the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP).

ISO Act: You live in Alberta, you are the payor, and you want to apply to change a support order (child support and/or partner support)

When you apply to change support under the ISO Act, you will have many forms to complete. You will need to hand in these documents at your local Court of Queen’s Bench. Read all of the forms carefully. Each form comes with instructions. Be sure to carefully read these instructions too. For more information, see the following guide.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English

In this application, you are the “Claimant” and the other party is the “Respondent.”

Before you begin: Understanding how to put together and “swear” your ISO Act application

When people go to court, they must “swear” evidence. When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

In an ISO Act application, your application package will speak for you. For that to happen, it must be sworn or affirmed. To do this, all the forms you complete will be attached to Form A at the time it sworn. Together, they make up a complete ISO Act application. You will swear the whole application. The formal requirements that prove the swearing are then included on the final page of Form A. For this reason, you may want to consider having “working copies” of all forms, and have separate “good copies” to use when the application package is sworn.

For more information about this process, see the following resource.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4-5.

Completing the Forms: Forms you need to change any kind of support (child support and/or partner support)

Use the following forms if you are applying to change:

  • child support;
  • partner support; or
  • both child support and partner support.

Form A

This form is for both:

  • a first-time application; and
  • an application to change an existing order.

Because this is an application to change child support or partner support, you will need to fill out the “For Support Variation” sections (not the “For Support” sections—that is what you fill out if you are asking for a first-time order).

You will not fill out Form A all at once. The choices you make on Form A will send you to other forms and guides. As you finish each form you can come back and complete a section of Form A. Use the Worksheet section at the end of the ISO Guide to make a note of any documents you need to get, or work to be done.

Form A is available here:

Form B

This is the form that sets out information that identifies the parties (you and your former partner or spouse).

Form B is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form B: Identification Information
Government of Alberta
English

Form K

This is a financial statement. You must fill out this form.

When you fill out a Form K, you must attach specific financial information, including:

  • Your complete tax returns for the last 3 years.
  • The Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue for the last 3 years.
  • If you have not filed tax returns, other proof of your income (such as T4 forms or Statements of Business Revenue and Expenses).
  • Pay stubs or other documents showing all of your income earned this year.

If you are self-employed or have income from sources other than employment, there is other information you must provide. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Form K is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form K: Financial Statement
Government of Alberta
English

Form M

In this form, you tell the Court why you want to change your support order. For example, maybe there have been changes in your life or in the life of the Respondent. Or, if you are applying to change child support, maybe there have been changes in the needs of the children.

Form M is available here:

Completing the Forms: Additional forms for child support

If you are applying to change child support, you will need to fill out the following forms in addition to the forms listed just above.

Form H

Form H is for special expense claims. You can use this form if you are asking the Court to order that the Respondent pay a share of a child’s special or out-of-the-ordinary necessary expenses.

Form H is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form H: Special Expense Claim
Government of Alberta
English

Form I

You will need to complete this form if you are asking the Court to order an amount different than the table amount.

With Form I you will tell the Court the reasons why the order should be for an amount different than the table amount. You will also tell the Court what you think the child support amount should be.

Form I covers the 5 reasons the Court uses to decide whether something other than the “table amount” should be used. Not all of these reasons will apply to you. But more than one reason can apply, especially with more than one child.

Form I is available is here:

Completing the Forms: Jurisdictions with additional required forms

Some foreign jurisdictions have additional paperwork to fill out or steps to take.

Ontario

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is Ontario, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Ontario: Support Deduction Order Information Form
Government of Alberta
English

Quebec

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is Quebec, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following forms.


PDF Provisional Variation Order (under I.S.O. Act)
Government of Alberta
English

If you are applying to change a child support order, you must also complete the following form.

United States

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is in the United States, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following forms.

PDF United States: General Testimony
Government of Alberta
English

PDF United States: Uniform Support Petition
Government of Alberta
English

United Kingdom

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is in the United Kingdom, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Provisional Variation Order (under I.S.O. Act)
Government of Alberta
English

Australia

If you are applying to change a child support order, and the reciprocating jurisdiction is in Australia, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Australia: Child Support or maintenance change
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

For an application to change spousal support, Australia does not require any additional forms.

New Zealand

If the reciprocating jurisdiction is in New Zealand, you must complete both the regular ISO Act forms (as described above) and the following form.

PDF Provisional Variation Order (under I.S.O. Act)
Government of Alberta
English

Stay of Enforcement

While you are waiting for your new support order, you may not be able to make your current payments. For example: if you have been out of work for a while. If you cannot make your payments, you can apply for a stay of enforcement during the time it takes to process your application. If a court grants a stay of enforcement, then the Maintenance Enforcement Program will not take any action to enforce the support order for a period of time.

Requesting a stay of enforcement is a separate application process. For more information, see the following Information Pages:

Swearing your forms

You can swear your forms at Resolution and Court Administration Services. You will need to bring photo ID.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Filing” the paperwork

Make 2 copies of all your forms. File the forms with the court. The clerk will keep the originals, and stamp your copies and return them to you.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

What happens next

Once the Alberta Court gets your paperwork, it will send the application to the reciprocating jurisdiction. You will get a letter from the Alberta Court saying that the paperwork has been sent. Your paperwork will then be reviewed by the reciprocating jurisdiction.

Be Aware

If more information is needed, the reciprocating jurisdiction will let you know (either by contacting you directly or through the Alberta Court).

The complete package then goes to a court hearing in the reciprocating jurisdiction.

The hearing

The other party (the Respondent) will be given a copy of your application. A court date will be set in the reciprocating jurisdiction. The Respondent will be told to file his or her own package of sworn documents at that reciprocating court.

At the hearing, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will look at all of the documents that were filed. If the Respondent attends the hearing, the Court may hear evidence from him or her. The Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction may then make an order.

More information may be needed

Sometimes the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will want more information from you before making an order. If this happens, the Court will make a “Request for Further Information” telling you what it needs. The Court will send this document to the Alberta Court, which will then pass the request on to you. What you send back must be sworn (see above). The court case in the reciprocating jurisdiction will continue when it receives your additional information.

The end of the process

When the process is complete, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction can make an order. That Court will then send the Order to the Alberta Court, which will send you a copy. A copy will also be sent to the Maintenance Enforcement Program.

The United Kingdom and New Zealand have additional requirements

The process is somewhat different if the Respondent lives in the United Kingdom or New Zealand. In those jurisdictions, the reciprocating Courts require a “provisional” order. A provisional order is an order that has no force or effect: it is a “suggested” order. The order does not take effect until a court in the other jurisdiction “confirms” the order. As a result, the Claimant must complete both the regular ISO Act forms, plus an additional form called a “form of order.” The forms must be filed with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. A judge in Alberta will review the forms and make a provisional order, which is then sent to the reciprocating jurisdiction for a “Confirmation Hearing.”

At the Confirmation Hearing, the Court in the reciprocating jurisdiction will review the Claimant’s evidence and hear the Respondent’s evidence. The judge in that Court can then:

  • confirm the provisional order (in which case it will now be in force);
  • confirm but change parts of the provisional order; or
  • refuse to confirm the provisional order.
ISO Act: You live in Alberta, you are the recipient, and you are responding to an application to change support (child support and/or partner support)

You have received a package of documents that says that your former spouse or partner, who pays support (child support and/or partner support) and is in a “reciprocating jurisdiction,” is asking the Alberta Court to change your support Order.

In this application, you are the “Respondent” and the other party is the “Claimant.”

You will have many forms to complete. You will need to hand in these documents at your local Court of Queen’s Bench. Read all of the forms carefully. Each form comes with instructions. Be sure to carefully read these instructions too. For more information, see the following guide.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English

For more information and help with your documents, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Before you begin: Understanding how to put together and “swear” your ISO Act paperwork

When people go to court, they must “swear” evidence. When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

In an ISO Act application, your application package will speak for you. For that to happen, it must be sworn or affirmed. To do this, all the forms you complete will be attached to Form N at the time it sworn. Together, they make up a complete ISO Act application. You will swear the whole application. The formal requirements that prove the swearing are then included on the final page of Form N. For this reason, you may want to consider having “working copies” of all forms, and have separate “good copies” to use when the application package is sworn.

For more information about this process, see the following resource.

PDF ISO Guide: Introduction and General Information
Government of Alberta
English
See p. 4-5.

Completing the Forms: Forms you need for any kind of support (child support and/or partner support)

Use the following forms if you are responding to an application to change:

  • child support;
  • partner support; or
  • both child support and partner support.

Form N

This form is your “answer” to the application. In Form N, you must choose whether you agree with what the Claimant is asking.

  • If you agree, you check off the box that says “Agree and consent.”
  • If you do not agree, you check off the box that says “Do not agree.”

Form N is available here:

If you do not agree, there will be more detailed information that you need to provide. Your options are listed below. Which ones you need to fill out will depend on your situation.

Form K

This is a financial statement. You only need to fill out Form K if:

  • you are asking for special expenses; or
  • either party is claiming undue hardship.

When you fill out a Form K, you must attach specific financial information, including:

  • Your complete tax returns for the last 3 years.
  • The Notice of Assessment from Canada Revenue for the last 3 years.
  • If you have not filed tax returns, other proof of your income (such as T4 forms or Statements of Business Revenue and Expenses).
  • Pay stubs or other documents showing all of your income earned this year.

If you are self-employed or have income from sources other than employment, there is other information you must provide. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Form K is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form K: Financial Statement
Government of Alberta
English

Completing the Forms: Additional forms for child support

If you are responding to an application to change child support, you will need to fill out the following forms in addition to the forms listed just above.

Form G

This is the form that you must use if you are making a claim for a child support amount that is not in the Child Support Guidelines Table.

With Form G you will tell the Court the reasons why the order should be for an amount that is different from what would normally apply under the Alberta Child Support Guidelines. You also state what that amount should be. Form G describes the 5 reasons the Court uses to decide whether something other than the “table amount” should be used. Not all of these reasons will apply to you. But more than one reason can apply, especially with more than one child.

Form G is available here:

Form H

Form H is for special expense claims. You use this form if you are asking the Court to order the Respondent to pay a share of a child’s special or extraordinary expenses.

Form H is available here:

PDF ISO Guide: Form H: Special Expense Claim
Government of Alberta
English

Form L

You only need to fill out this form if you are claiming support for a child who is the “age of majority” or older.

Form L is available here:

Swearing your forms

Your documents can be sworn at Resolution and Court Administration Services. You will need to bring photo ID.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Filing” the paperwork

Make 2 copies of all your forms. File the forms with the court. The clerk will keep the originals, and stamp your copies and return them to you.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Go to court on the hearing date

The “Notice of Hearing” tells you when and where the court hearing will be. If you do not agree with everything that the Claimant has asked for, you must go to court. Even if you do agree, it is recommended that you go to court.

Bring both copies of your forms with you. If there is a lawyer in court as a “Friend of the Court,” give one copy to him or her.

For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

When the hearing is over

You will be given a certified copy of the Order granted by the Court. A copy will also be given to the Claimant. A copy will also be sent to the Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP).

EPECO Act: You live in Alberta and you want to apply to enforce or change a custody order granted in another jurisdiction

The Alberta Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO Act) is a law that allows a person to ask the Alberta Courts to enforce or change a “custody” order from outside of Alberta. It does not matter whether the order is from another Canadian province/territory or another country.

Remember

The terms “custody” and “access” may or may not be on that Order. It may have terms such as “parenting time” instead. That is fine. For the EPECO Act to apply, it needs to be an order about the care and control of children.

Make sure you have a certified copy of your original Order

To make an EPECO Act application, you must have a “certified copy” of that Order.

A certified copy is a copy of an original document, which has a certificate from an “authorized party” that confirms that the copy is a true copy of the original document.

An authorized party is generally someone named by the organization that is asking for the certified copy. For example: if you need to prove your divorce in order to remarry in Alberta, the Alberta government will let you know who must certify the copy. Often, it can be a lawyer or a Notary Public.

If you do not have a certified copy of your Order, you can ask for one from the Court where the Order was granted. You may have to pay a fee.

Choose a court to file in

You will have to choose whether to apply in the Provincial Court of Alberta or the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

Be Aware

In some judicial centres, before filing your application you must first have an intake appointment at Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). Contact RCAS for more information.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

In general, there is more help available to you if you file in Provincial Court. For more information, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

The rest of this section will have instructions for both courts. When the processes are different between the courts, it will be clearly marked. Be sure you read the instructions for the court you choose to file in.

Enforcement of an order

Under the EPECO Act, when you apply to enforce an out-of-province custody and access (or parenting) order, you can file your application in either court. There will be a filing fee in either court.

Changing an order

Under the EPECO Act, you can usually apply to change an order in either court. However, there is one exception. If your Order was granted by a “superior court” in another province or territory of Canada, your application must be filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Completing the Application

To apply to change a custody order under the EPECO Act, use the following kit.

This kit includes the following.

  • An Originating Application: this is the document that lets the Court know what you are asking for.
  • An Affidavit: this is the document where you tell the Court why you think you need an enforcement order or need to change the order. The form has clear instructions to let you know what information the Court will want to see. All of the documents that you want the judge to see must be written about in the Affidavit. For more in-depth information about how to complete an Affidavit (including what you should not put in it), see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.
  • An Affidavit of Service: this is the form you will file with the Court to prove that the Respondent got the paperwork notifying him or her of the hearing.
  • Instructions.

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

Provincial Court

 

If you file in Provincial Court

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for each Respondent. The Respondents include each parent and/or guardian, as well as Child Protective Services if they are a guardian. You file the documents at the Provincial Courthouse in the correct judicial centre.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

At the courthouse, and with the help of a court clerk, you will be able to pick a court date. In Edmonton and Calgary, your first court date will include the Caseflow Coordinator. When choosing a date, you will need to factor in the amount of notice that you need to give the Respondent (see the “Serving the paperwork” section below). You also need to give the other party enough time to respond to your application.

Your matter will be scheduled in “docket court.” This is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list.

After you have picked a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of the copies of your application. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

Queen's Bench

 

If you file in the Court of Queen’s Bench

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for each Respondent. The Respondents include each parent and/or guardian, as well as Child Protective Services if they are a guardian. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

At the courthouse, and with the help of a court clerk, you will be able to pick a court date. When choosing a date, you will need to factor in the time that you will need to “serve” the Respondent with the paperwork (next step). You will also need to give the other party enough time to respond to your application.

Your matter will be scheduled in “chambers.” This is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is just one case on the list.

Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may have to appear in regular chambers (sometimes called “morning” chambers) or in special chambers (sometimes called “afternoon” chambers).

  • Regular chambers is for matters where each party can present their side in 10 minutes or less (for a total of 20 minutes).
  • Special chambers is for matters that require more than 20 minutes in total.

The court clerk will help you figure out what time you are to appear.

Be Aware

The rules for regular chambers are very different than the rules for special chambers. For example: in special chambers, the parties must send in a specific document called a “confirming letter.” Also, there are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling, paperwork, and deadlines. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

After you have been given a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of the copies of your application. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

The Court of Queen’s Bench has created a general information kit to help self-represented litigants with the process of bringing an Application to court.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed and filed, you will need to “serve” it on the other party. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify the other party that a hearing is taking place. This means you have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter.

You or another person over the age of 18 must serve the Respondent with a copy of the filed Originating Application and Affidavit (including all documents attached). To serve the Respondent, you must either:

  • hand-deliver the documents directly to the Respondent (this is called “personal service”); or
  • send the documents by registered mail. If you serve the documents by registered mail, you must show that the Respondent has signed the acknowledgment of receipt.

The Respondent must receive the documents at least 10 days before the court date. If you do not give the Respondent the required amount of notice, the judge may refuse to hear your application.

For more information on how to serve documents, including in situations where service is quite complicated (such as when you can’t find the other party), see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. The Affidavit of Service is included in the application kit above. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Get ready for a possible response

Before the court date, the other party may be serving you with his or her response. Be aware that there are time limits in which the other party must respond (see the “EPECO Act: You are responding to an Application in Alberta to enforce or change a custody order that was granted in another jurisdiction” section below). You will need to read his or her paperwork to ensure that you are ready for your court date.

Do you need to respond to the other party’s Response?

Sometimes, between the time you first file your paperwork and the date of the court hearing, there will be an important change to deal with. You may need to:

  • update some facts about you, such as a change of income or contact details; or
  • respond to some updated facts given by the other party.

To do this, you can file a Supplemental Affidavit. You can only use a Supplemental Affidavit to change some factual information. This could be either something that has changed since you filed your first Affidavit, or to respond to some facts provided by the other party.

In your Supplemental Affidavit, you should explain how the information is new and why it was not available when you first completed your forms. You cannot use Supplemental Affidavits to repeat the same facts or to make arguments. For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

If you really need to file a Supplemental Affidavit, you may need to ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date). For information about how to do that, see “Asking for an adjournment” below.

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

You will need to file and serve this Supplemental Affidavit as well, so give yourself enough time. Be aware of the general rule that all documents must be filed with the Court within a “reasonable time” before the date of the court hearing. Exact timelines can vary by judicial centre. Although a judge may allow an exception to this rule, he or she is not required to do so. Also, you risk that your matter will be adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give the other party enough time to review your documents. If you have questions about this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Queen's Bench

If you are are in Queen’s Bench, there are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

If the other party responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

In rare cases, it might be possible to make a cross-application. For example, if you had asked only to enforce and the other party wants to vary. This can get very complicated. If this has happened, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for information about what to do next.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Plan to go to the court hearing

When you filed your paperwork with the Court, you were given a court date and time. You need to be there on that day. If you do not go to court on that day, the court may make an order without you there.

Tip

It is a good to idea to bring copies of your paperwork with you in case you need them.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Being at the court hearing

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are in the correct courtroom. When you enter the Courthouse, you can ask a staff member for directions.

Your hearing will be held in either:

  • “docket court” (if you are in Provincial Court); or
  • “chambers” (if you are in Queen’s Bench).

This is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list. For more information about docket court and chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

For most people, going to court will be a brand new experience. It may also come as a bit of surprise. Being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows, and you will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information.

Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

For more information, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

Family Court Counsellors

In some locations, Family Court Counsellors (FCCs) may be available to help you learn about the court process. FCCs can also help present the facts to the judge. To get this help you will need to talk to them long before your court date!

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

Duty counsel

In some courthouses, you may have the option of speaking with “duty counsel.” Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free. This can include what the judge may think of your requests and the “merits of your claim.” There are no income restrictions to speak with duty counsel, but the service is limited. They are only at certain courthouses on certain days. Also, there may be many people waiting to speak with them. If you need to speak to duty counsel, make sure you get to the courthouse early. Check with your judicial centre to verify the times and days duty counsel will be available.

For information about what matters duty counsel can help with, and which judicial centres have duty counsel available, see the following resource.

Web Duty Counsel - Legal Assistance at Court
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Other resources to help

Other organizations may also provide family court workers/counsellors (it depends on the area of the province). These include: Native Counselling Services, the John Howard Society, and the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic / Women’s Outreach Court Preparation Program. For more information about these programs, as well as other organizations that might provide similar services, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Asking for an adjournment

Sometimes, due to circumstances beyond their control, one or both of the parties will not be able to attend court, or will not be prepared for court. It is possible to ask for a court hearing date to be moved. This is called an “adjournment.”

Provincial Court

 

If the application is in Provincial Court

If both of you agree, you can arrange for an adjournment well in advance of the court hearing date. For help with that, you can contact your Provincial Court Clerks’ office.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

You must have a good reason to ask for an adjournment. The Court is not pleased if adjournments are just asked for as a delay tactic. The Court keeps track of all adjournment requests. If there are too many requests for adjournments, the Court may deny the request or even impose penalties.

It is also possible to ask for an adjournment on the date of the court hearing. Judges often grant such adjournments, but not always. For example, judges may refuse an adjournment if they are concerned that one or both of you will be harmed by the adjournment, or if they feel that the adjournment option has been abused.

To ask for the adjournment, arrive well before the scheduled start time. Tell the Clerk of the Court your name, what your matter is, and that you want to ask for an adjournment. The Clerk will then confirm when your request for an adjournment will he heard.

Generally, when you ask for an adjournment, you must immediately decide on a new hearing date. Sometimes, however, you may not know when you will need the hearing. For example, you may need time to complete something, but are unsure how long that will take. If that is the case, you may be able to adjourn “sine die”: this means without a set date.

Be Aware

If you have a lawyer, adjournment requests may go a bit differently. The other party may ask for an adjournment that you do not want. But, your lawyer might have to agree to it, as long as no harm will come to you as the client. This may be required by the lawyer’s professional Code of Conduct.

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 28.
Queen's Bench

 

If the application is in the Court of Queen’s Bench

If both of you agree, you can arrange for an adjournment well in advance of the court hearing date. To find out how to do that, call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

You must have a good reason to ask for an adjournment. The Court is not pleased if adjournments are just asked for as a delay tactic. The Court keeps track of all adjournment requests. If there are too many requests for adjournments, the Court may deny the request or even impose penalties.

Be Aware

For matters in special chambers, there are additional rules about asking for adjournments. These rules are very specific and strict, and they are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

In regular chambers, it is also possible to ask for an adjournment on the date of the court hearing. If both parties agree, you can ask for an adjournment before the chambers list begins. The judge will ask if there are any preliminary matters. This is the time to make the request. Judges often grant such adjournments, but not always. For example, judges may refuse an adjournment if they are concerned that one or both of you will be harmed by the adjournment, or if they feel that the adjournment option has been abused. If the other party does not agree, you must wait for your turn on the list and request an adjournment when your turn comes. The judge may or may not grant the adjournment.

Generally, when you ask for an adjournment, you must immediately decide on a new hearing date. Sometimes, however, you may not know when you will need the hearing. For example, you may need time to complete something, but are unsure how long that will take. If that is the case, you may be able to adjourn “sine die”: this means without a set date.

Be Aware

If you have a lawyer, adjournment requests may go a bit differently. The other party may ask for an adjournment that you do not want. But, your lawyer might have to agree to it, as long as no harm will come to you as the client. This may be required by the lawyer’s professional Code of Conduct.

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 28.

After the court hearing is over

When your court hearing is over, in most cases, the Order granted by the judge will be typed up by the court clerk. It may be ready shortly after the hearing. If it is not, it will be mailed to you. It will also be mailed to any other parties. If one of the parties is represented by a lawyer, the judge may ask that lawyer to type it up.

Once you have the Order, you may need to serve it on the other party—check with the court clerks. Remember, if you do have to serve the other party, you will also need to complete and file an Affidavit of Service.

Asking for “costs”

The party who was most “successful” at the court hearing may ask that the other party pay the costs involved with going to court. Although the Court can grant costs, this is not a very common thing.

A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

  • Costs are not always awarded. Generally, they are kept for situations in which one side has been completely unreasonable or very difficult (this is called “vexatious”);
  • Costs awarded are never as much as the actual cost of going to court. Instead, the court generally gives a pre-set amount; and
  • Even if you are awarded costs, you still have the problem of actually getting that money paid to you. This may not be easy to get from someone who was unreasonable and vexatious in the first place.

If you want to ask for costs, you simply ask for it in your Statement or Reply Statement and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork. Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


Web How much can be payable for court costs in Alberta?
Bayda Disability Law Firm
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Costs in Family Law Cases
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
EPECO Act: You are responding to an Application in Alberta to enforce or change a custody order that was granted in another jurisdiction

You have been served with forms telling you that there will be an Application, made under the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act (EPECO Act) to enforce or change a custody and access (or parenting) Order from outside of Alberta.

In these forms, you have been notified of the date of the court hearing. If you agree with everything that is in those documents, you do not have to do anything. If you disagree with anything that is in those documents, you will need to complete a response.

Be sure you know what court you are in

The Originating Application completed by your former spouse/partner has been filed in either the Provincial Court or the Court of Queen's Bench. The check boxes at the top of the Application form will tell you which court it was filed in. If you respond, you must file your response in the same court.

Time limits

Once you have been served with documents, you have to respond within a certain amount of time. You must file your documents “within a reasonable time” before the hearing date. What is considered “reasonable” is different depending on your judicial centre. If you have questions about this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If for any reason you cannot serve within a reasonable time, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing. 

Be Aware

For matters in Queen’s Bench special chambers, there are additional rules about response times and deadlines. These rules are very specific and strict, and they are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

Completing a Response

Provincial Court

 

If the application is in Provincial Court

When the other party filed an initial application, they filed a special document called an “Originating Application.” Read this document carefully, as you must how you want to respond to it. 

If you want to respond, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for the form you will need. 

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Queen's Bench

 

If the application is in Queen’s Bench

When responding to the Originating Application, you have 3 choices:

  1. Do not file any forms. If you agree with what the Applicant is asking for, you do not have to fill out any documents. 
  2. File only an Affidavit. You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, but you are not asking for anything specific of your own. For example, if you and the Applicant agree that variation is required, but you want different terms than the Applicant does.
  3. File an Affidavit and Application of your own. This is also called a “Cross-application.” You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, and you are asking for something of your own. For example: if the Applicant only wanted to enforce the order, but you would like to vary it.

Filing only an Affidavit

If you want to respond, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for the form you will need.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Filing an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you are responding by filing a cross-application of your own. This would be done under the Family Law Act. This can get very complicated. For information about how to proceed, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. This includes Child Protective Services if they are a guardian of the child. You will file them at the Courthouse in the correct judicial centre.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed, you will need to “serve” it on the other party. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is the same as you were served with their paperwork to begin with. You have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter. 

For more information on how to serve documents, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Provincial Court

 

If the application is in Provincial Court

The person who served the paperwork must swear the following form.

PDF Affidavit of Service - Respondent (Form CTS3514)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

The form must be filed at the Provincial Courthouse in the correct judicial centre.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Queen's Bench

 

If the application is in the Court of Queen’s Bench

The person who served the paperwork must swear the following form. 

The form must be filed at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Watch for a response

Provincial Court

 

If the application is in Provincial Court

Sometimes, between the time the initial application is filed and the date of the court hearing, there may be an important change in some facts about your former partner (such as a change of income or contact details). If this occurs, they will let the court know by filing a “Supplemental Affidavit,” and you would be served with a copy.

In the same way, some facts about you may change. Or you may need to make an additional request related to the care and control of the children. Then you will need to let the court know by filling out a Supplemental Affidavit of your own. The form you will need is below. For instructions on how to complete this form, click on the blue box called “Instruction” at the top of the form.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English

Be Aware

Supplemental Affidavits are not intended to add information to your argument, or change your original requests in any way. They should only be used to update basic facts related to your case.

If you fill out a Supplemental Affidavit, you should explain:

  • how the information is new; and
  • why it was not available when you first completed your forms.

You will need to file and serve this document as well, so give yourself enough time. You must file and serve your documents “within a reasonable time” before the date of the hearing. If this is not done within a reasonable time, it may be considered “prejudicial” (meaning “harmful”) to the other party. If you have questions about this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If for any reason you cannot serve within a reasonable time, you can still file the documents and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that the other party will ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date) as he or she did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing.

Queen's Bench

 

If the Application is in the Court of Queen’s Bench

If you responded with only an Affidavit

If you filed only an Affidavit, your former spouse/partner may file a “Supplemental Affidavit.” Be sure to read that when you get it.

You cannot file a Supplemental Affidavit in response to the other party’s Supplemental Affidavit: that is not permitted.

If you responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

In rare cases, it might be possible to make a cross-application. This can get very complicated. If this has happened, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services for information about what to do next.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Questioning on Affidavit

Before a chambers hearing, it is possible for either party to formally “question” the other party about some of the facts set out in that party’s paperwork. This is called “Questioning on Affidavit.” It is not that common in general, but it is more common for special chambers than for regular chambers.

For more information about Questioning on Affidavit, including why either you or your former partner would do it and what exactly is involved, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Written interrogatories

The term “written interrogatories” refers to written questions that one party sends to the other. The purpose is to get facts and answers that will be required in the hearing, and that can help to settle issues in general. One party sends the questions, and the other party must respond in an Affidavit so that the answers are properly sworn and can be included as evidence at the hearing.

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. In addition, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information.

For more information on written interrogatories and the processes to follow if you want to try to use them, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Plan to go to the court hearing

When you filed your paperwork with the Court, you were given a court date and time. You need to be there on that day. If you do not go to court on that day, the court may make an order without you there.

Tip

It is a good to idea to bring copies of your paperwork with you in case you need them.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Being at the court hearing

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are in the correct courtroom. When you enter the Courthouse, you can ask a staff member for directions.

Your hearing will be held in either:

  • “docket court” (if you are in Provincial Court); or
  • “chambers” (if you are in Queen’s Bench).

This is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is one case on the list. For more information about docket court and chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

For most people, going to court will be a brand new experience. It may also come as a bit of surprise. Being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows, and you will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information.

Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

For more information, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

Family Court Counsellors

In some locations, Family Court Counsellors (FCCs) may be available to help you learn about the court process. FCCs can also help present the facts to the judge. To get this help you will need to talk to them long before your court date!

See the following resources for more information.

Web Family court assistance
Government of Alberta
English

Web Family court counsellor locations
Government of Alberta
English

Duty counsel

In some courthouses, you may have the option of speaking with “duty counsel.” Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free. This can include what the judge may think of your requests and the “merits of your claim.” There are no income restrictions to speak with duty counsel, but the service is limited. They are only at certain courthouses on certain days. Also, there may be many people waiting to speak with them. If you need to speak to duty counsel, make sure you get to the courthouse early. Check with your judicial centre to verify the times and days duty counsel will be available.

For information about what matters duty counsel can help with, and which judicial centres have duty counsel available, see the following resource.

Web Duty Counsel - Legal Assistance at Court
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Other resources to help

Other organizations may also provide family court workers/counsellors (it depends on the area of the province). These include: Native Counselling Services, the John Howard Society, and the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic / Women’s Outreach Court Preparation Program. For more information about these programs, as well as other organizations that might provide similar services, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Asking for an adjournment

Sometimes, due to circumstances beyond their control, one or both of the parties will not be able to attend, or will not be prepared for, court. It is possible to ask for a court hearing date to be moved. This is called an “adjournment.”

Provincial Court

 

If the Application is in Provincial Court

If both of you agree, you can arrange for an adjournment well in advance of the court hearing date. For help with that, you can contact your Provincial Court Clerks’ office.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

You must have a good reason to ask for an adjournment. The Court is not pleased if adjournments are just asked for as a delay tactic. The Court keeps track of all adjournment requests. If there are too many requests for adjournments, the Court may deny the request or even impose penalties.

It is also possible to ask for an adjournment on the date of the court hearing. Judges often grant such adjournments, but not always. For example, judges may refuse an adjournment if they are concerned that one or both of you will be harmed by the adjournment, or if they feel that the adjournment option has been abused.

To ask for the adjournment, arrive well before the scheduled start time. Tell the Clerk of the Court your name, what your matter is, and that you want to ask for an adjournment. The Clerk will then confirm when your request for an adjournment will he heard.

Generally, when you ask for an adjournment, you must immediately decide on a new hearing date. Sometimes, however, you may not know when you will need the hearing. For example, you may need time to complete something, but are unsure how long that will take. If that is the case, you may be able to adjourn “sine die”: this means without a set date.

Be Aware

If you have a lawyer, adjournment requests may go a bit differently. The other party may ask for an adjournment that you do not want. But, your lawyer might have to agree to it, as long as no harm will come to you as the client. This may be required by the lawyer’s professional Code of Conduct.

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 28.

Queen's Bench

 

If the Application is in the Court of Queen’s Bench

If both of you agree, you can arrange for an adjournment well in advance of the court hearing date. To find out how to do that, call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

You must have a good reason to ask for an adjournment. The Court is not pleased if adjournments are just asked for as a delay tactic. The Court keeps track of all adjournment requests. If there are too many requests for adjournments, the Court may deny the request or even impose penalties.

Be Aware

For matters in special chambers, there are additional rules about asking for adjournments. These rules are very specific and strict, and they are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

In regular chambers, it is also possible to ask for an adjournment on the date of the court hearing. If both parties agree, you can ask for an adjournment before the chambers list begins. The judge will ask if there are any preliminary matters. This is the time to make the request. Judges often grant such adjournments, but not always. For example, judges may refuse an adjournment if they are concerned that one or both of you will be harmed by the adjournment, or if they feel that the adjournment option has been abused. If the other party does not agree, you must wait for your turn on the list and request an adjournment when your turn comes. The judge may or may not grant the adjournment.

Generally, when you ask for an adjournment, you must immediately decide on a new hearing date. Sometimes, however, you may not know when you will need the hearing. For example, you may need time to complete something, but are unsure how long that will take. If that is the case, you may be able to adjourn “sine die”: this means without a set date.

Be Aware

If you have a lawyer, adjournment requests may go a bit differently. The other party may ask for an adjournment that you do not want. But, your lawyer might have to agree to it, as long as no harm will come to you as the client. This may be required by the lawyer’s professional Code of Conduct.

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 28

After the court hearing is over

In most cases, when your court hearing is over, the Order granted by the judge will be typed up by the court clerk. It may be ready shortly after the hearing. If it is not, it will be mailed to you. It will also be mailed to any other parties. If one of the parties is represented by a lawyer, the judge may ask that lawyer to type it up.

Once you have the Order, you may need to serve it on the other party—check with the court clerks. Remember, if you do have to serve the other party, you will also need to complete and file an Affidavit of Service.

Asking for “costs”

The party who was most “successful” at the court hearing may ask that the other party pay the costs involved with going to court. Although the Court can grant costs, this is not a very common thing.

A few things to keep in mind are as follows.

  • Costs are not always awarded. Generally, they are kept for situations in which one side has been completely unreasonable or very difficult (this is called “vexatious”);
  • Costs awarded are never as much as the actual cost of going to court. Instead, the court generally gives a pre-set amount; and
  • Even if you are awarded costs, you still have the problem of actually getting that money paid to you. This may not be easy to get from someone who was unreasonable and vexatious in the first place.

If you want to ask for costs, you simply ask for it in your Statement or Reply Statement and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork. Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


Web How much can be payable for court costs in Alberta?
Bayda Disability Law Firm
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Costs in Family Law Cases
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Child abduction by a parent or guardian: Within Canada

In cases of child abduction within Canada, the civil law can be used to try to enforce your court orders about the care and control of the child. This includes steps you can take under the Divorce Act, the Extra-provincial Enforcement of Custody Orders Act, and an action for “contempt of court.” In certain circumstances, it may also be possible to involve the criminal justice system.

This is an extremely complex area of law. You will want to consider getting the advice of lawyer (perhaps even one in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

If your children have been abducted by the other parent/guardian, call 911.

See the following resources for more information.

Web What is child abduction and is it a crime?
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Web Child Abduction
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web Parental Child Abduction
MissingKids.ca
English

 

Child abduction by a parent or guardian: Outside of Canada

In cases of international abduction, the matter may be governed by an international treaty known as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Convention”). See the Law tab of this Information Page for detailed information about the Convention.

If your children have been abducted by the other parent/guardian, call 911.

This is an extremely complex area of law. You will want to consider getting the advice of lawyer (perhaps even one in each jurisdiction). For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page and the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

A list of the countries that have signed the Convention is in the following resource.

Web Status table: Members of the organisation
Hague Conference on Private International Law
English

A list of Central Authorities throughout Canada is in the following resource.

Web International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
Government of Canada
English
See “Directory of resources.”

Web Enlèvement international d’enfants : Un guide à l’intention des parents délaissés
Government of Canada
French
Voir : “Répertoire de ressources.”

For information about how Alberta courts deal with international child abduction, see the following resources.



Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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