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Can I Get a Divorce in BC If I Got Married Abroad?


In today’s highly mobile world, it is not uncommon for spouses to marry outside of Canada and later move to live in BC. It is also increasingly common for BC residents to travel abroad to have a destination wedding. If your marriage took place in another country and later breaks down, can you get divorced in BC? The answer is yes – you can get divorced in BC even if you got married in another country, but there are certain preconditions that must be met before the divorce order will be granted. In this article, our BC divorce lawyers will discuss the preconditions for obtaining a divorce, as well as the related issues of whether a foreign divorce order will be recognized in BC. BC divorce proceedings To obtain a divorce in BC, you must file an application called a Notice of Family Claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. While the application is to the BC courts, the law that governs divorce is the federal Divorce Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp), which applies in every Canadian province, including BC. The Divorce Act sets out the preconditions for obtaining a divorce as well as the rules that give a province jurisdiction to hear and determine a divorce proceeding. BC divorce lawyers discuss the preconditions for obtaining a BC divorce A BC divorce order will not be granted unless it satisfies three key preconditions: 1. You must prove your marriage was legally valid in the place you got married. If your marriage is legally valid in the country in which the marriage took place, then it will be recognized as legally valid in BC. Proof that you were legally married in a foreign country is typically done by providing a marriage certificate or certificate of registration of marriage issued in the country where the marriage took place. If it is not possible to obtain a marriage certificate, another option is to provide affidavit evidence of witnesses who saw you get married. 2. You or your spouse must have lived in BC for the preceding year. For the BC court to have jurisdiction to grant you a divorce, you or your spouse must have been “ordinarily resident” in BC for at least a year leading up to the commencement of the divorce proceedings. Generally speaking, you will be considered “ordinarily resident” in BC if BC is where you regularly live (as opposed to a more temporary place where you casually stay or occasionally visit). It is not necessary for both spouses to have lived in BC, and you or your spouse do not have to have permanent resident status with Immigration Canada to be “ordinarily resident” in BC for the purposes of obtaining a divorce order. 3. You must establish that there has been a breakdown of the marriage. In your application for a divorce order, there are three grounds upon which breakdown of a marriage can be established: (a) You and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least one year immediately preceding the determination of the divorce proceeding and were living separate and apart at the commencement of the proceeding; or (b) Your spouse has committed adultery; or (c) Your spouse treated you with physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to make continued cohabitation with your spouse intolerable. The first and second preconditions discussed above are of particular relevance where the spouses travelled to get married abroad or relocated to BC after marrying in a foreign country. If you have questions about the process or whether you meet the preconditions for obtaining a BC divorce order, contact one of Bronson Jones & Company LLP’s team of family lawyers for advice. Is my foreign divorce order valid in BC? If you obtained a divorce order in another country, will it be recognized in BC? The answer again is yes – provided that the “ordinarily resident” test is met with respect to the foreign country that issued the divorce order. Section 22(1) of the Divorce Act deals with the effect of divorces obtained in a foreign country. It states that if the divorce was properly granted under the laws of the foreign country, and either former spouse was "ordinarily resident" in the country in which the divorce was granted for at least one year before the divorce proceedings were started there, then the former spouses will be considered to be divorced in Canada, without the need to obtain a Canadian divorce order. Have more questions? Get advice from one of our team of experienced BC divorce lawyers If you are going through a divorce, our compassionate family lawyers will listen to your case, explain the legal complexities of your situation, and counsel you to make decisions to facilitate a better future. We can advise you with respect to any jurisdictional issues and guide you through the process of applying for and obtaining a BC divorce order, including counselling you with respect to important matters other than the divorce itself such as spousal support, child custody and access, and the division of property and debt. Contact the Bronson Jones & Company LLP team of BC divorce lawyers today toll-free at 1-855-852-5100 to schedule your free initial consultation.

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