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International tug-of-war over jurisdiction ends in support case

Divorce cases in which the parties are in different countries are inherently tricky to resolve.

One type of case involves a parent taking a child to another country and not coming back. As we explained in our November 18 post, such a taking – even if it is not technically an abduction — greatly complicates child custody cases.

In this post, let’s get some comparative perspective by looking at another type of international case. The case involves an ex-wife who now lives in Florida and an ex-husband who lives in Canada.

The ex-spouses are not only in dispute about child support issues; they have also been in dispute about which country’s law applies.

The ex-husband, a businessman, contends that Canadian courts should decide the issues. But an appeals court in the province of Nova Scotia has already upheld a Florida court decision granting child support to the ex-wife. And the Supreme Court of Canada has declined to get involved.

The unpaid child support totals more than $400,000. The ex-wife, who cares for three teenage daughters, says she has had difficulty collecting the money.

For his part, the ex-husband says he has already paid more than $1 million in various forms of support.

The Florida court orders, however, have been clear. Even after five years of litigation, those orders remain in place – just as they were when the tug-of-war in the courts began.

By refusing to hear the ex-husband’s appeal, the Canadian high court has effectively ended the effort to have Canadian rather than Florida law apply. If the ex-husband is to obtain a modification of the support order, he will have to do so in Florida.

Source: CBC News, “Supreme Court won’t  hear Halifax couple’s divorce case,” Feb. 6, 2014