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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.
This topic discusses the application process for support, and the enforcing of the child or spousal support when the parties live in different provinces or different countries. If you do not have an existing Court Order for support, you may wish to contact your spouse or former partner to see if you reach an agreement on support. Keep in mind that an agreement is not enforceable by Maintenance Enforcement. You may want to speak to a lawyer about obtaining a Court Order with the same terms as your agreement. A Court Order is enforceable by Maintenance Enforcement.
If you cannot agree on support, you can make an application to the Court. You can apply in either Provincial Court, Family Division or through the Court of Queen’s Bench. The government has set up special procedures to deal with support applications when the payor lives outside the province. The Alberta Government has agreements with the other Canadian provinces, most of the American states, and various other countries where similar procedures are followed, and each recognize the other’s Court Orders. If your spouse or former partner lives outside Canada, you should first make sure that the country in which they live has such an agreement with Alberta. To find out, contact the Maintenance Enforcement Program or the Family Law Information Centre. Their phone number in Calgary is 403-297-6600 and in Edmonton 780-415-0404. For toll-free access to these offices from elsewhere in Alberta, the Government Rite line is 310-0000.
After hearing an application for child support, the Judge will make a provisional or suggested Order for child support to be paid. Similarly, if the Judge finds you are entitled to spousal support, they will make a provisional or suggested Order for spousal support. As your spouse or former partner does not live in Alberta, this Order cannot be enforced until it is confirmed where your spouse or former partner lives. The Order, the transcript of the hearing, and all documents will be sent to the nearest Courthouse to your spouse or former partner’s home and a hearing date will be set. You must provide an address where your spouse or former partner cannot be found. At this hearing, your spouse or former partner will be given an opportunity to listen to the evidence given by you, and an opportunity to present their own evidence. Sometimes additional information is required from you and the application is sent back to you. Once the Court in the other location has all the information it requires to make a Support Order, the Judge will make a decision. If a Confirmation Order is granted that Order will be enforceable where your spouse or former partner lives. The Support Order may be less or more than originally stated. You will be sent a copy of this Order.
If you are applying for a divorce, and asking for a Support Order at the same time, you do not have to go through the provisional-confirmation process. If your spouse has been served with a Statement of Claim for Divorce, the Court in Alberta can make a final Order for support in the amount requested in the Statement of Claim. If you need to vary, or change, your existing Support Order, you must apply through the Court of Queen’s Bench, and follow the provisional-confirmation process.
If you and your spouse or former partner were in Alberta when your Order was made and your spouse or former partner later moves outside of Alberta, Maintenance Enforcement may be able to arrange for the province, state or country where your spouse or former partner lives to enforce the Order for them. Again, you should contact Maintenance Enforcement or the Family Law Information Centre to find out if the Order is enforceable in the other location. You should provide Maintenance Enforcement with as much information as you can about your spouse or former partner’s whereabouts and employment to make sure that your Order can be enforced.
The enforcement laws and procedures may be different in other locations. For example, Alberta will try to collect any support payments, so long as they became due after 1984. Some other countries have ‘limitation periods”, and will not collect support payments after a certain period of time.