What can I do if I can't find the other party to serve them the paperwork?

You may be able to apply to Court for an order to serve the documents in another way. This is called “substitutional service.”


However, before applying for an order for substitutional service, you must put a lot of effort into finding the person and serving them. For example, the types of steps you will be expected to take include:

  • Contacting family and friends, either directly or through social media
  • Contacting the other party’s current or former employer
  • Using the phone directory or online searches

To help with this, you could hire a process server. Their business is to find and serve people.

Some examples of substitutional service include:

  • Leaving the documents with a family member or someone they are living with
  • Sending documents by mail, email, or through social media
  • Leaving the documents with another adult at their place of work
  • Giving the documents to a friend of theirs

Whichever method you propose, you will need to be able to explain to the Court how that method is likely to bring the documents to the attention of the other party.

If you cannot locate the other party and you are not aware of any method that is likely to get the documents to their attention, you can ask the Court for an order allowing you post an advertisement in a local newspaper in their last known place of residence.

Finally, if all else fails, you can ask the Court to “dispense” with service. This means you can proceed with your court action without serving the other party.


To do this, you will need to:

  • show the Court all of the efforts you have made to find and serve the other party; and

  • explain why substitutional service will not work.

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