Serve documents outside BC

You may have started a court process in BC but need to serve documents on someone who's living outside BC. Even if you haven't seen the other person in many years, you're still required to serve the documents.

Generally, you serve documents on someone who lives outside BC the same way you would serve someone in BC. This is true whether the person lives in another Canadian province or territory, or in another country.

There are two types of service:

  • Personal service means someone must physically hand the document to the person who needs to receive it. You can't do it yourself — you must have another adult serve it for you. This can be a friend or relative, or you can hire a professional process server.
  • Ordinary service means getting the documents to the other person by mail, fax, email, or dropping them off. You can only serve by fax or email if the other person has included their fax number or email address as an address for service on their court documents.

Personal service is usually for a document that starts a court process (such as the Provincial Court form Application About a Family Law Matter). In the form, you'd list your address for service. You can send a document by ordinary service once the other person has listed their address for service on a form that's been filed.

Which documents need to be personally served?

The court rules use the word "serve" to describe both personal and ordinary service. You need to figure out whether a document needs to be served personally. You can ask the registry staff for help.

Provincial Court documents that you must serve personally include:

  • Application About a Family Law Matter (Form 3)
  • Application About a Protection Order (Form 12), unless you're asking for an "urgent order without notice" (see our guide Apply for a family law protection order without notice)
  • The protection order if the other person lives outside BC and they weren't in court when the order was made
  • Application About Priority Parenting Matter (Form 15) if the other person hasn't previously filed a document (meaning that they haven't provided an address for service)

Check the instructions of the form you need to serve. There are other forms you may have to serve by personal service if there is no address for service in the court file. Call the registry if you're not sure.

Supreme Court documents that you must serve personally include:

  • Notice of Family Claim (Form F3)
  • Notice of Withdrawal (Form F7)
  • Notice of Application (Form F31) to change, suspend, or terminate a final order
  • Notice of Application to set aside any part of an agreement
  • Petition (Form F73)

See the Supreme Court Family Rules (Rule 6-3) for the full list of documents that need to be personally served.

Once you've figured out what type of service you need for the document, choose a guide below.

Ordinary service

If your documents don't need to be personally served, you can serve the documents in the same way you would if the person was in BC. See the step-by-step guides

Personal service

Click the button Personal service for our guide on how to have Provincial or Supreme Court documents personally served outside BC.

Personal service