How Do I Personally Serve Someone with Legal Documents?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks


In general, the only documents that have to be personally served on someone in the course of a Supreme Court proceedingIn law, the whole of the conduct of a court proceeding, from beginning to end, and the steps in between; may also be used to refer to a specific hearing or trial. See "action." are:

  1. the claimantThe person who starts a court proceeding seeking an order for specific remedy or relief against another person, the respondent. See "action" and "respondent."'s Notice of Family ClaimA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules to begin a court proceeding, setting out the relief claimed by the claimant and the grounds on which that relief is claimed. See "action," "claim," "claimant," "pleadings" and "relief.",
  2. the application materials when an application is made to change a final orderA mandatory direction of the court, binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. See "appeal," "consent order," "decision" and "declaration.", and
  3. the application materials when an application is being made for a finding that someone is in contempt of courtDoing something or failing to do something that impairs the administration of justice or respect for the court’s authority, such as bribing a witness, disobeying a court order, or misleading the court. Contempt of court can be a civil offence as well as a criminal offence..

Personal service is required when starting a court proceedingA legal proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called an "action," a "lawsuit" or a "case." A court proceeding for divorce, for example, is a proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order.. Once the other side files his or her Response to Family ClaimA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which the respondent to a court proceeding sets out his or her reply to the claimant's claim and the grounds for his or her reply. See "action," claim," "Notice of Family Claim" and "pleadings.", almost all legal documents after that can simply be delivered to each side by ordinary serviceSending legal documents to a party at that party's "address for service," usually by mail, fax or email. Certain documents, like a Notice of Family Claim, must be served on the other party by personal service. Most other documents may be served by ordinary service. See also "address for service" and "personal service.", at their respective addresses for service.

The easiest way to ensure personal serviceIn law, the delivery of a legal document to a party in a court proceeding in a manner which complies with the rules of court, usually by physically handing the document to the party and verifying his or her identity. Personal service is usually required for the proper delivery of the pleadings that are used to start a proceeding to ensure that the party is given proper notice of the proceeding and the opportunity to mount a defence. See also "ordinary service," "pleadings" and "service, substituted." is properly done is to hire a process server, but you can arrange for someone else to do it for you.

What's the difference between personal service and ordinary service?

Personal service, also called service of process is the formal deliverySending legal documents to a party at that party's "address for service," usually by mail, fax or email, called "ordinary service" in proceedings before the Supreme Court. Certain documents, like a Notice of Family Claim, must be served on the other party by personal service. Most other documents may be served by ordinary service. See also "address for service" and "personal service." of a document to someone in a manner that can be proven in court and which complies with the Supreme Court Family Rules about service. In a nutshell, personal service means personally giving someone a document, usually by handing it to them.

Ordinary service means simply sending a document to someone by mail, fax or sometimes email. A document is served by ordinary service by sending the document to the address for serviceThe address at which a party to a court proceeding agrees to accept delivery of legal documents. An address for service must be a proper street address within British Columbia; additional addresses for service may include postal addresses, fax numbers, and email addresses. set out by the claimant in the Notice of Family Claim and by the respondentThe person against whom a claim has been brought by Notice of Family Claim. See “application” and “Notice of Family Claim." in the Response to Family Claim.

Personal service

The requirements for valid personal service are set out in Rule 6-3 of the Supreme Court Family Rules. The Notice of Family Claim must be physically handed to the respondent; dropping it through the mail slot won't do.

Since the court will require proofEvidence which establishes or tends to establish the truth of a fact; also, the conclusion of a logical argument. See "evidence" and "premises." that the respondent was properly served, the person who did the service should prepare an Affidavit of Personal Service in Form F15. For this reason, the person doing the service usually must:

  • be provided with a photograph of the respondent, so that he or she can confirm that the person served looked like the person in the photograph,
  • ask the respondent to confirm that he or she is the person named in the Notice of Family Claim, or
  • ask the respondent to produce his or her driver's licence (or other official government photo identification) and confirm that the name on the licence matches the name in the Notice of Family Claim and that the person served looks like the photograph on the licence.

The claimant in a family law proceeding cannot serve the respondent personally. You must get someone else to do it for you! That person can be anyone who is age 19 or older and sane.

Substituted service

Of course, not everyone is willing to be nice about things and cooperate with service. When the respondent is avoiding service, you can get an order that he or she be served in some other way than the usual, proper way. This is called substituted servicePersonal service performed in a way other than required by the rules of court, as may be authorized by the court. If a respondent cannot be served for any reason, such as if he or she is hiding or refusing service, the court may permit a claimant to serve the other party "substitutionally" by means including an ad in the legal notices section of a newspaper's classified ads or posting the document in the court registry. See "personal service.".

You will have to prove that you can't serve the respondent in the normal manner before you will be allowed to serve them substitutionally, so you'll have to provide the court with an affidavit from your process server describing how the respondent is avoiding service, or your own affidavit stating that you don't know where the respondent is and that he or she can't be found.

The court has a fairly wide latitude when it comes to making orders for substituted service. The court can order that the respondent be served by:

  • posting a copy of the documents to the door of his or her home or office,
  • running ads in the legal notices section of a newspaper distributed where the respondent lives,
  • leaving a copy of the Notice of Family Claim with an adult living where the respondent is thought to live,
  • mailing it to the respondent by registered mail, or
  • posting a copy of the documents in the court registryA central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched, and reviewed..

The court will likely impose conditions on the substitutional order, like extending the time for the respondent to replyIn law, an answer or rebuttal to a claim made or a defence raised by the other party to court proceeding or legal dispute. See "action," "claim," "defence" and "rebut.". Once those conditions are met, service will be considered to have been effected. You will have to prepare an affidavit proving that you have met the conditions the court has set.

See How Do I Substitutionally Serve Someone with Legal Documents?

Contempt applications

You must personally serve a partyIn law, a person named as an applicant, claimant, respondent or third party in a court proceeding; someone asserting a claim in a court proceeding or against whom a claim has been brought. See "action" and "litigant." when you are making an application that he or she be found in contempt of court. Rule 21-7 requires that the other side be personally served with the Notice of ApplicationA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules to bring an interim application, setting out the relief claimed by the applicant, the grounds on which that relief is claimed, and the date on which the application will be heard. See "applicant," "grounds," "interim application" and "relief." asking that the party be found in contempt of court plus copies of the affidavits that will be used in support of your applicationA request to the court that it make an order for a specific remedy or relief usually on an interim or temporary basis, also called a "chambers application" or a "motion." See also "interim application" and "relief.".

More information

You can find more information about the Supreme Court procedure for serving documents in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems in Court within the section Starting a Court Proceeding in a Family Matter.


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