Arrange for alternative (substitutional) service

When an alternative method of service is required

Court rules often require a document to be personally served on the other party. If you can't have the documents personally served because you can't find the other party or because they're repeatedly and deliberately avoiding the process server, a judge or master may make an order allowing you to serve the documents in another way.

If you're in this situation, you need to apply for a court order to allow you to use an alternative method of service so you can proceed with your case. This is called an "order for substituted service." The order you get should allow you to move forward with the main issue in your case, such as getting a parenting order or changing the amount of support.

To get the order for substituted service, you must provide good reasons why you can't personally serve the documents as required by the court rules. You must give your reasons in a sworn affidavit or in person before a judge/master. To be successful, you must convince the judge/master that:

  • you thoroughly searched for but can't find the other party,
  • the other party is avoiding service (deliberately hiding from the process server or avoiding acceptance of the documents in some way), or
  • the other party is temporarily out of BC.

Have you made every effort to serve the documents?

The best way to prove that you've thoroughly searched for the other party is to hire a professional process server to deliver the documents. Process servers are experienced in finding people and delivering documents. If the process server can't deliver the document, they will provide you with a detailed affidavit explaining the efforts made. The affidavit will also state whether the process server believes the person is deliberately hiding so as not to receive the documents, or is temporarily out of BC. Process servers will prepare an affidavit for you to take to court as part of the service they provide.

If you can afford a process server, it's a good idea to hire one before applying for an order for substituted service. Also ask the court registry where you can find an enforcement officer to help you. Under section 238 of the Family Law Act, an enforcement officer may demand information about the address and employment of a proposed party in a family law case from any person, including from government agencies.

You must take these steps first, because the judge/master won't make an order for alternative service if they don't believe you've tried hard enough to find the other person.

You need to file your own Affidavit (Form F30) in addition to your process server's affidavit (if you hired a process server). Your affidavit must clearly state:

  • you have no further information about how to find the other person;
  • what steps you've taken to find the other person;
  • whether you hired a process server and, if not, why not;
  • what efforts have been made to serve the documents;
  • the last information you have about where the other person is (their last-known address or location and when they were last there) and the source of that information;
  • if you don't know the other person's address or location, any available information about where they might be, or the name and address of anyone who might be able to get in touch with them; and
  • how you now want to serve the documents.

Provincial or Supreme Court?

The process is slightly different depending on which court you're dealing with. Choose your guide by selecting Provincial Court or Supreme Court below.