Provincial or Supreme Court

How to serve court documents outside BC

Important: If you want to apply (or respond to an application) for a new support order or to change an existing one and the other party is outside BC, you can't use any of the guides on this website. See the Interjurisdictional Support Orders website (Attorney General ministry) or our fact sheet Change a support order outside BC to find out what to do instead.

How to serve documents outside BC

Sometimes a legal process requires that documents be served. This means that you must get the documents to the other party or parties in your case. You may have started a court process in BC but need to serve documents on someone who's living outside of BC. The fact that you haven't seen the other party in many years doesn't affect the requirements for serving 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 or ordinary service.

Personal service means someone must physically hand the documents to the person who needs to receive them. You can't do this yourself (even if it would be possible) — you must have someone else (who's at least 19) serve them for you.

Ordinary service or delivery means getting the documents to the other person by mail, fax, or email (or even just dropping them off). In Supreme Court, it is called ordinary service and in Provincial Court, it's called delivery, but it means the same thing. You can only serve a party by fax or email if they have included their fax number or email address in their address for service on their court documents.

Serving documents outside BC by personal service

The rest of this guide is about how to serve personally outside BC. All the important documents that start a case in either the Supreme Court or Provincial Court must be personally served.

For example, the Supreme Court Notice of Family Claim (Form F3) must be served personally. See our guide How to serve Supreme Court documents to find out how other documents must be served.

The Provincial Court Application to Obtain an Order and the Application Respecting Existing Orders or Agreements also must be personally served. See our guide How to serve Provincial Court documents to find out which other documents must be served personally.

There are three ways to personally serve documents outside BC:

  • You can ask a friend or family member who lives near the other party to act as a process server and serve the documents for you.
  • You can hire a professional process server to serve the documents. To locate one where the other person lives, you can use either the yellow pages from their area or the Internet. You may want to get quotes from several process servers because prices vary.
  • If the other party lives in a country that has signed the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, you could choose to have the documents served on him or her by following the procedures set out in that convention.

How to have the documents served by a process server

Before you can have court documents served by a process server, you need to provide copies of the documents and personal information about the other party to the process server. Depending on the court, give your server:

  • "How to personally serve documents for a British Columbia (Canada) Supreme Court family law process" (available in multiple languages) or
  • "How to personally serve documents for a British Columbia (Canada) Provincial Court family law process" (available in English and French).

See Quick links to these PDFs on the right, above. Follow the instructions in these documents exactly.

After the process server has served the documents, they must complete an Affidavit of Personal Service (see PDF instructions) so you can prove to the court that the documents were served on the other party. If you have a friend or relative helping you, they'll have to complete this form. If you're hiring a professional process server, confirm that they'll provide you with a sworn Affidavit of Personal Service.

Important: If the server doesn't know the person being served and uses a photograph to identify them, you must fill out an Affidavit (Form F30). In the affidavit, you confirm that the photograph is a true likeness of the person being served. You must attach a copy of the same photograph to this Affidavit and then swear or affirm it (see below). The Affidavit (PDF) (Word) has instructions to help you fill it out. You can either fill the form out online or print it and fill it out by hand (print neatly using dark-coloured ink). See our fact sheet Problems using the Supreme Court PDF forms? or Tips for using the Supreme Court Word forms for help using the form.

Tip: For more information about what to do if you can't serve the documents (for example, if the other party is avoiding service), see our guide How to arrange for alternative service.

Step-by-step instructions for preparing the documents to be served

  1. Make the necessary number of copies of the documents you want to have served (to find out how many you need, see the relevant step of the appropriate self-help guide on this website or contact family duty counsel and ask). You'll need at least one copy for the other party and one copy that the process server will attach later to the Affidavit of Personal Service.
  2. If you have more than one document to serve, keep the originals together to be served as one set. Make other sets that contain a copy of each document.
  1. Give the process server (the professional you've hired, or your friend/relative):
    • the two copies of the document (or two sets of the documents) — the ones for both the other party and for attaching to the Affidavit of Personal Service,
    • the other party's address at home and at work, or directions about where to find them,
    • the other party's telephone number (so the process server can call to arrange a time for service), and
    • a photograph of the other party (if necessary). If you don't have a photograph, give the process server a written physical description of the other party. Include height, hair and eye colour, and any other characteristics that might help identify the other party. The process server will also have to ask the other party for photo identification at the time of service to prove that they knew it was really the other party who was being served.
  2. The process server must then serve the documents, carefully following the steps in "How to personally serve documents for a British Columbia (Canada) Supreme Court family law process" or "How to personally serve documents for a British Columbia (Canada) Provincial Court family law process" (see "Quick links" to PDFs in multiple languages on the right).
  3. If you hired a process server, they will now provide you with a sworn Affidavit of Personal Service. If a friend or relative is your process server, they will have to fill in the details needed on the Affidavit of Personal Service form.
  4. The server will have to send the affidavit to you. You can then use the Affidavit of Personal Service to prove to the court that the documents were served on the other party. If copies of the documents that were served aren't attached, properly marked, and properly signed, the affidavit won't be accepted by the court and you'll have to have the documents served again. Be sure to keep the completed and sworn Affidavit of Personal Service with your file.

Important: Affidavits must be sworn by a commissioner for taking affidavits. To find out who's a commissioner or who can act as one, see our fact sheet Swearing an Affidavit — Who can do it.

For more information about serving court documents, see Rule 6-5 of the Supreme Court Family Rules or Rule 9 of the Provincial Court (Family) Rules.

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