Can a Private Family Law Case be Subject to Multiple Jurisdictions Simultaneously?
In the recent case of R.S. v. P.R. a separating Belgian couple living in Quebec commenced divorce proceedings in both jurisdictions. This type of parallel proceedings was considered by the Supreme Court in accordance with international law and deemed the proceedings to be able to proceed in both Quebec and Belgium.
The facts of the case revolved around the disparity between article 3137 of the Civil Code of Quebec and article 1096 of the Code Civil Belge. In Belgium, the latter article enables revocation of gifts between spouses which in this case exceeded items valued at over $33 million. The husband wished to revoke these gift he had given to the wife during the course of their marriage under article 1096, yet the wife claimed under article 3137 that authorizes a Quebec court to stay its ruling that is pending over a foreign authority.
The Supreme Court highlighted that under article 3137 three conditions must be met. First, the parties and facts must be the same in both actions. Second, the action must have originated in the foreign court. Third, the foreign courts decision on the matter must be recognisable under a Quebec court. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the action was to proceed in Quebec except with respect to the liquidation of assets that were attained while the parties were residing in the foreign jurisdiction.
The courts ruling in this case reflects the common law concept of forum non conveniens, in which the matter will be sent to the more appropriate jurisdiction when the facts and issues indicate it should be. Commentary on this decision has stated that this decision will exceed family law cases and extend as far as private commercial matters that also encounter international lis pendens.
For the full text of the decision see: