A Guide to Procedures in Family Court
Ministry of the Attorney General
Created: April 2012
Last Revised: September 1, 2020
This guide does not provide legal advice. It is recommended that all parties seek legal advice where possible.
Ce guide est également disponible en français.
Over the course of your family court case, you will need to:
This helps make sure that everyone involved knows the status of your court case.
Rule 6 of the Family Law Rules tells you about how to serve documents.
There are two types of service:
Whichever method you use, you have to serve documents within specific time limits so that the other party has enough time to respond.
You have to be at least 18 years old to serve documents. If you’re under 18, you should ask somebody else to serve documents for you.
If it isn’t safe for you or a friend or family member to serve the documents and you cannot afford to hire a professional process server, you can ask the court staff to arrange to have your documents served for you.
Most documents can be served by regular service. This means you can serve the documents by sending them to the other party or their lawyer by:
If the other party agrees, or if a judge orders it, you can also serve the document by electronic document exchange.
If you serve by fax, email, or an electronic document exchange, the first page of the fax, body of the email, or record of service should include:
Even if it’s not required, you can also always serve your documents using the special service methods described below.
Special service includes serving a document by one of the following methods:
There are certain documents that generally require special service, and you cannot personally serve these documents yourself:
You cannot personally serve these documents yourself. These documents must be served by:
In some cases, you may also have to serve your documents on an agency or another third party. This will depend on your specific situation, such as the issues in your case and any prior court orders.
Regardless of the documents being served, there are certain agencies and people that you personally can always serve (you do not need to ask a family member, friend, or process server), including:
If you’re serving documents outside of Canada, there are special rules that may apply to you under the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (the “Convention”). These special rules may impact how you are allowed to serve your documents.
For example, if you’re serving documents to someone who lives in China, you cannot use any of the regular or special service methods described above. The Convention requires a designated person or institution to request that China’s Central Authority serve your documents for you. You must also get your documents translated into Chinese and pay a foreign service fee.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has created service options and informational material to help you follow the rules in the Convention.
You have to serve and file documents within a specific timeframe so that everybody involved in your case has the information they need.
If you don’t count time or days correctly, court staff may not accept your documents because you haven’t followed the rules. Rule 3 of the Family Law Rules tells you how to count time correctly.
You have to start counting from the day after the effective service day. The effective service day depends on how the documents were served.
|If the documents were served by:||The effective service day is:|
|Leaving a copy with the person being served or their lawyer||The same day if the documents are left before 4:00 p.m.
The next day if the documents are left after 4:00 p.m.
|Five days after documents are mailed|
|Same-day courier||The day after the courier picks up the documents|
|Next-day courier||Two days after the courier picks up the documents|
|Fax, email, or electronic document exchange||The same day if the documents are sent before 4:00 p.m.
The next day if the documents are sent after 4:00 p.m.
|Leaving a copy at the other party’s home with another adult who lives there, and then also mailing a copy to that address||Five days after the documents are mailed|
However, if the effective service day would be a day on which the court is closed (for example, Saturday, Sunday, or a holiday), then the effective service day becomes the next day that the court is open.
If you have seven days or more to serve or file your documents, or to confirm your court date, you must include Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays when you’re counting days.
If you have less than seven days to serve or file your documents, or to confirm your court date, you do not include Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays when you’re counting days.
If the last day to serve or file your documents or confirm your court date falls on a weekend, holiday, or another day when the court is closed, then the time period is extended to the next day that the court is open.
Every time that you serve documents on another party in your case, you have to give the court proof that they received the document by completing Form 6B: Affidavit of Service and filing this form with your original documents at the court office before the applicable deadline.
To complete and file Form 6B: