Your case can't move forward until you give your partner the documents you had issued by the court. This is called serving your partner.
You have to give your partner a copy of your documents so they know that you've started a case against them. This gives them a chance to respond to what you've written and tell their side of the story.
You also have to give your partner the blank forms that the court clerk gave you to give them, and their Mandatory Information Program (MIP) notice.
Your partner fills out their forms in response to your documents. They will agree or disagree with the orders you're asking for, give their version of the history of your relationship, and can make claims (or ask for things) of their own.
You must serve your partner within six months of getting your Application issued. If you don't, the court may close your file.
The first time you serve your partner it has to be by special service, but you can't give your partner your documents directly. Serve your documents below explains how to do this.
You may also have to serve any other person or agency that is connected to what your case is about. For example, if you're asking for child support or spousal support and you're getting or you've got social benefits like Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program, the Ministry of Community and Social Services needs to know about your case. Serve your documents on the Ministry of Community and Social Services below explains how to do this.
See Count time below to understand how to calculate days or time correctly. This is important because court staff may not accept your documents if you haven't followed the rules.
Rule 3: Time tells you how to count time or days.
You must follow court rules that say the day by which you have to:
- serve your partner, or other people or agencies, with your documents
- file your documents with the court
- confirm your court dates
When you serve your documents, counting starts on the day after the “effective” service day. The effective service day depends on how you served the documents. If you served them:
- personally - service is effective the same day
- by mail - service is effective 5 days after the documents are mailed
- by courier - service is effective the day after the courier picks it up
- by fax - service is effective the day it is faxed as long as it is faxed before 4 p.m. on a day when the court is open
- at your partner’s home with anyone who seems to be an adult and then mailed to that address - service is effective 5 days after the documents are mailed
For example, suppose your partner has to get your documents at least 7 days before the date of your motion. If you serve them personally on Monday, the first day you count is Tuesday and the 7th day is the following Monday.
If the last day is a holiday, the time period ends on the next day that is not a holiday.
But if you have less than 7 days to serve or file your documents or to confirm your court date, then Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays when court offices are closed are not counted.
Counting time or days is important because court staff won’t accept your documents if you have not followed the rules.
Rule 6: Service of documents tells you how to serve your partner and any other people or agencies you have to serve.
Documents can be served in 2 ways – by special service or by regular service. The Family Law Rules tell you which way you have to serve your documents at each step in the court process.
You can usually serve your partner yourself, or get a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server to do it for you.
To serve your documents by special service means you, a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server must do one of the following:
- give a copy to your partner directly, but you can't be the one to do this
- leave a copy with your partner’s lawyer
- mail a copy to your partner, but your partner must send back a special form to confirm they received the document
- leave a copy in an envelope addressed to your partner at your partner’s home with any adult living with your partner, and then mail a copy of the documents to that address within one day
Special service is usually used for documents that start the case or documents that could lead to the person being served going to jail.
To serve your documents by regular service means you, a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server, must do one of the following:
- mail a copy to your partner or their lawyer
- courier a copy to your partner or their lawyer
- fax a copy to your partner or their lawyer
- serve a copy by special service
The following documents can only be served by special service:
- an Application
- a motion to change
- a summons to witness
- a notice of contempt motion
- a notice of motion or notice of default hearing where the person to be served faces a possibility of jail
6B: Affidavit of Service
After your documents are served, you, or whoever served the documents, must fill out Form 6B: Affidavit of Service. This can be done at the court counter, with the help of the court clerk.
Form 6B asks for:
- the name of the person who served the documents
- the name of the person or agency that was served
- when the documents were served (day, month, and year)
- where the documents were served (house number, apartment number, street name, city, and province)
- what documents were served (Application, Answer, Reply, notice of motion)
- how the documents were served (personally, at place of residence, by regular mail, courier, or fax)
This form must be sworn or affirmed. This means the person signing it is promising that the information in it is true. It is against the law to not tell the truth when swearing or affirming an affidavit.
Form 6B proves that your partner got a copy of your documents and knows that they have to respond to them.
More information on serving documents can be found in the Ministry of Attorney General’s A Guide to Family Procedures, Part 6: Serving Documents.
If you fear for your safety or the safety of any friend or family member when serving documents, you can ask the court staff to arrange for your documents to be served.
If your child support or spousal support payments go through a social services agency, such as Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), it means your support is paid or assigned to the agency. The social service agency is called the assignee. Your support payments go directly to OW or ODSP, and they pay you the full amount of social assistance even when support is not paid.
If this is your situation, you must include the agency in the court process and in any agreements you make to change your support order.
If you do not serve the agency or get its consent, the agency can ask the court to set aside the new order that you get. The court can also order costs against you. This means that you may have to pay some of the agency’s costs for asking the court to set aside the order.
To find out if your support is assigned, fill out a Confirmation of Assignment form and fax or mail it to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Your form is processed within 3 working days, then mailed or faxed back to you. If your support order is assigned, it will tell you which agency has to be served.
You serve your documents on an agency the same way you serve your partner. See Serve your documents to learn how to do this.