How Do I Find My Ex?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

In general, people need to find their ex for two reasons:

  • because they want to start a court proceeding and need to find their ex to serve them with the papers that begin the proceeding, or
  • to begin enforcing an order relating to child support or spousal support.

Private services[edit]

The fastest but most expensive way is to hire a skip tracer or a private investigator under a locate or skip trace service contract. Skip tracers are people or agencies that are usually hired by financial institutions, insurance agencies, or law firms to find someone who's avoiding a debt or a legal process, or to locate their assets. Recently, some skip tracing services have (for their own insurance purposes) stopped taking locate contracts from members of the public. Some agencies still take public locate contracts, however, so long as they are satisfied that the purpose is legitimate. Expect to be charged a few hundred dollars and be required to pay up front.

If you can find a lawyer who will retain the services of a skip tracer for you, you may find that you have a wider selection of options. Private investigators can also provide locate services, and will be more open to public locate contracts, but generally PIs are more adept at discovering information as opposed to locating people cost-effectively. Skip tracing can use a variety of techniques, from going through databases and listings, to surveillance and witness interviews.

Public services[edit]

If you need to find someone who owes you support due to an agreement or court order, the BC Ministry of Attorney General has a free service that may be able to help enforce and collect the payments for you. It's called the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). FMEP will not help you find someone in order to start an action or get an order for support, but FMEP will take action to enforce court orders and agreements and collect the money you are owed. The agreement or court order has to state the specific amount that the payor must pay you in order for FMEP to enforce it.

FMEP has some fairly long arms and unique legal authority, so it can be effective in cases where a payor is avoiding existing support obligations under an agreement or court order. FMEP can:

  • intercept federal sources of income such as income tax or EI,
  • attach wages, bank accounts or other sources of income,
  • cancel a current driver’s licence or prevent a new licence being issued,
  • prevent a motor vehicle registration being issued or renewed,
  • suspend a passport or federal licences such as pilot’s licence,
  • report unpaid maintenance to a credit bureau,
  • summons the payor to a default hearing in court,
  • issue a lien against the payor’s personal property or land.

To use the FMEP service, visit their website and enroll online. You can also call FMEP and ask questions about the service: 250-220-4040.

Internet and social media[edit]

The explosive growth of the internet and social media has resulted in a heck of a lot of information being readily available, sometimes in ways people don't think of. If you're looking for someone online, try a Google search using the person's first and last names, in quotes, like this:

"John Doe"

or

"J Doe"

The quote marks force the search engine to look for that exact phrase, which increases the likelihood that you'll find the person you're looking for. If you have an idea of where the person might be, add that to your search phrase, but put it outside the quotes, like this:

"John Doe" Kamloops

or

"John Doe" "British Columbia"

If you know another keyword, such as a profession or interest, try adding that word outside their name in quotes.

Social media accounts are another frequent source of information for skip tracers. Facebook may connect you to family members, old friends, or other third parties with information that you need to locate your ex in order to continue with legal proceedings.

You could also try one of these services:

  • Canada411.ca, a Canada-wide phone book, or
  • 411.com, which allows you to find a person by looking up their phone number or address.

Avoid pay services operated out of the United States, especially those that want you to enter your credit card number on their website. They may not be able to search within Canada.

For more information[edit]

You can find more information about starting an action in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems in Court within the section Starting a Court Proceeding in a Family Matter, and about enforcing orders within the section Enforcing Orders in Family Matters.


This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Nate Russell, July 28, 2019.


Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.

Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court," and "Supreme Court of Canada."

A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court, and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a family court proceeding. The Family Court of the Provincial Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the Divorce Act. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."

A 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.

In 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."

A 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."

Money paid by one parent or guardian to another parent or guardian as a contribution toward the cost of a child's living and other expenses.

A payment made by one spouse, the payor, to the other spouse, the recipient, to help with their day-to-day living expenses or to compensate the recipient for the financial choices the spouses made during the relationship.

An agreement between two or more people, giving them obligations towards each other that can be enforced in court. A valid contract must be offered by one person and accepted by the other, and some form of payment or other thing of value must generally be exchanged between the parties to the contract.

A sum of money or an obligation owed by one person to another. A "debtor" is a person responsible for paying a debt; a "creditor" is the person to whom the debt is owed.

A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."

A person with direct, personal knowledge of facts and events; a person giving oral evidence in court on oath or affirmation as to the truth of the evidence given. See "affirm," "evidence," "oath," and "opinion evidence."

A court proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called a "lawsuit" or a "case." An action for divorce, for example, is a court proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order.

In family law, an antiquated term referring to child support and spousal support. See "child support" and "spousal support."

In law, any proceeding before a judicial official to determine questions of law and questions of fact, including the hearing of an application and the hearing of a trial. See "decision" and "evidence."

Chattels, goods, money; property other than real property. See "chattel" and "real property."

Real property; a parcel of real property and the buildings upon it. See also "chattel," "ownership," and "possession."

In law, to formally deliver documents to a person in a manner that complies with the applicable rules of court. Service may be ordinary (mailed or delivered to a litigant's address for service), personal (hand-delivered to a person), or substituted (performed in a way other than the rules normally require). See "address for delivery," "ordinary service," "personal service," and "substituted service."

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