Serving Documents in Family Law Matters

Court documents in family law matters are required to be served on all other parties in a matter. Different types of court documents require different methods of service. The different types of service are outlined below: 

Personal service

Personal service, which may also be referred to as ‘service by hand’ means that the documents must be personally handed to the person to whom they are addressed. 

You cannot serve court documents on the other party yourself, but they can be served by a mutual friend or family member. Alternatively you can engage a ‘process server’ to serve the documents. A process server is an impartial third party who are familiar with the requirements of personal service. 

Service other than personal service

Not all family law documents are required to be personally served. In the event that the document does not require personal service, you can serve the document on the other parties address for service, or their lawyers address for service as nominated on their court documents. 

What if I am not able to locate the other party or do not know where they live to serve the documents on them? 

You are able to apply to the court to either dispense with service or make an order for substituted service if you have made a reasonable attempt to locate and serve the person. 

Substituted service

If you do not know where the other party lives, but you are aware of another means of communication that you know they regularly check (Facebook, email or Whatsapp for example), then you can ask the court to make an order that the other party be served by sending the documents to their Facebook, email or Whatsapp account for example. 

Dispensation of service

Dispensation of service means that the requirement for service is dispensed with and means that the matter proceeds in their absence. Dispensation of service may be used in circumstances where the matter is urgent or when the other party is avoiding service.

Your service obligations in family law matters can be confusing. Our specialist family lawyers can assist you in navigating the process.

Contact our Family Law team at or phone us on 02 9964 0499 to arrange a no obligation consultation. 

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