How Do I Personally Serve Someone with Legal Documents?
An average person who is a party might think the term personally serve implies that they have to personally do the serving of documents to another person. In fact, Rule 6-3(2) of the Supreme Court Family Rules explicitly states that only someone who is not a party can personally serve a document. The person being handed the documents is personally served (as in, they're getting the documents served on them in person), but the person serving the documents cannot be a party. In short, never try and personally serve documents on someone when you're a party.
In general, the only documents that have to be personally served on someone in the course of a Supreme Court proceeding are:
- the claimant's Notice of Family Claim,
- the application materials when an application is made to change a final order, and
- the application materials when an application is being made for a finding that someone is in contempt of court.
Personal service is required when starting a court proceeding. Once the other side files their Response to Family Claim, almost all legal documents after that can simply be delivered to each side by ordinary service, at their respective addresses for service.
The easiest way to ensure personal service is properly done is to hire a process server, but you can arrange for someone else to do it for you. Whatever you do as a party do not try serving documents on someone personally (i.e. don't do it yourself), as that would be invalid service!
What's the difference between personal service and ordinary service?
Personal service, also called service of process is the formal delivery 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 someone (not a party!) is personally giving someone else 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 service set out by the claimant in the Notice of Family Claim and by the respondent in the Response to Family Claim.
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 proof 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 they can confirm that the person served looked like the person in the photograph,
- ask the respondent to confirm that they are the person named in the Notice of Family Claim, or
- ask the respondent to produce their 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.
Again, 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.
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 they be served in some other way than the usual, proper way. This is called substituted 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 they can't be found, and setting out all of the steps you have taken to find them.
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 their 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 registry.
The court will likely impose conditions on the substitutional order, like extending the time for the respondent to reply. 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.
You must personally serve a party when you are making an application that they be found in contempt of court. Rule 21-7 requires that the other side be personally served with the Notice of Application, asking that the party be found in contempt of court, plus copies of the affidavits that will be used in support of your application.
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.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Megan Ellis, QC, June 9, 2019.|
|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."
In 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."
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."
The person who starts a court proceeding seeking an order for a specific remedy or relief against another person, the respondent. See "action" and "respondent."
A 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."
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."
Doing 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.
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.
A legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which the respondent to a court proceeding sets out their reply to the claimant's claim and the grounds for their reply. See "action," claim," "Notice of Family Claim," and "pleadings."
Sending 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."
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."
In 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 their 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."
Sending 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."
The 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.
The person against whom a claim has been brought by Notice of Family Claim. See “application” and “Notice of Family Claim."
Evidence which establishes or tends to establish the truth of a fact; also, the conclusion of a logical argument. See "evidence" and "premises."
Personal 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 they are 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."
A 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.
In law, an answer or rebuttal to a claim made or a defence raised by the other party to a court proceeding or legal dispute. See "action," "claim," "defence," and "rebut."
A 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."
A request to the court that it make a specific order, usually on an interim or temporary basis, also called a "chambers application" or a "motion." See also "interim application" and "relief."