3. Find your partner

What does serving your documents mean in a family law court case?
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3. Find your partner

Usually you serve your partner at the last address they were living at. Or, you can serve their lawyer, if they have one.

Sometimes you can't serve your partner personally by giving them your documents directly. This might be because you don’t know where they currently live or because they purposely avoid getting served by not answering their door.

The court still expects you to take reasonable steps to serve your partner. For example, you can:

  • Wait for your partner outside their work address
  • Ask the post office for a forwarding address
  • Search online for a phone number or address
  • Use social media to find your partner
  • Contact people that may know where your partner can be found
  • Pay a private detective or skip-tracer to find your partner
  • Serve your partner at a place they go to regularly, for example, a restaurant or gym
  • use a substitute service, or
  • dispense with service.

If you still can't find your partner to serve them or if they are avoiding service, you can go to court and ask for permission to:

Substitute service

Substitute service is when you ask the court for permission to serve your documents in a different way. For example, by:

  • serving a family member
  • mailing a copy to your partner’s work address

The court may allow you to do this if you can show:

  • the steps you took to find your partner to serve them like:
    • what you did to try and find your partner
    • if you hired a process server and, if not, why not
    • how you tried to serve your partner
    • the last information you have about where your partner is
    • if you don't know where your partner is, any information you have about where they might be or the name and address of anyone who might be able to get in touch with them
  • that your partner will get to know of your documents if you serve them this way

Dispense with service

Dispensing with service is when you ask the court for permission not to serve your partner. The court doesn't make this kind of order often.

The court may allow you to do this if you can show:

  • you made reasonable attempts to find your partner to serve them
  • no kind of substitute service is likely to let your partner know about these documents

You May Also Need

Ontario Court Forms
Reviewed: July 31, 2017

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