How to Serve the Divorce Papers in Ontario

Once you’ve filled out the proper divorce papers, you need to serve them to the opposite party- your spouse. In Ontario, there are many rules that govern this process.

Why Service is required:

In the context of a divorce. serving someone papers is the way of legally notifying them that the divorce process is commencing. It is a necessary part of commencing the proceedings because your spouse is entitled to have notice of your intentions to divorce them, and to have a chance to respond and tell their own side of the story.1

How to serve Documents:

Rule 6 of the Family Law Rules describes how to serve your documents to another party. Documents can be served through regular or through special service. Documents can be served by either yourself or another person who is at least 18 years of age, or a professional process server.2

When to serve Documents:

Rule 3 of the Family Law Rules explains how to count time. Read it carefully so that you know how to interpret deadlines. Also, be aware that the effective service date for your document will depend on how you serve it.3

What Type of Service should you use?

Certain documents, like divorce applications, require special service, but generally cannot be personally served by you unless you fall into one of the exempted groups.

How to serve documents via REGULAR SERVICE:

1) You can mail the documents to your spouse’s lawyer, or in the absence of a lawyer, directly to that spouse

2) You can use a courier service to deliver the documents. A courier service is one that delivers documents and packages quickly.

3) Document exchange: a digital platform that allows a party to upload a document, which the opposing party’s lawyer can download and then issue and acknowledge a receipt. If the opposing party does not have a lawyer, they can also be faxed the documents directly via this platform.

4) Faxing the documents to the spouse or their lawyer (with certain exceptions)

5) Via e-mail to either the spouse directly or their lawyer.4

If serving the documents by fax, e-mail or electronic documents, the first page should include:

1) Date and time of service

2) Sender’s name, telephone number, and fax number/e-mail address

3) The name of the person/lawyer to be served

4) The total number of pages served

5) Title or description of the document

6) The name and telephone number of a person to contact in case of technical difficulty in receiving the documents being served

How to serve documents via SPECIAL SERVICE:

1) Leaving a copy with the person who is being served

2) Leaving a copy with the person’s lawyer of record in the case or a lawyer who accepts service in writing on a copy of the document

3) Mailing copy of the document along with Form 6 (Acknowledgement of Service), which the person being served must complete and return via mail.

4) Giving a copy of the document, in an envelope addressed to the person being served, to someone 18 or older who lives at the same address as the party to be served, and then mailing a second copy to the address on the same day or the next day.5

If a spouse is avoiding being served a document, they can be served via “substituted service”. This is a method that is different from those mentioned and is at the discretion of the judge to decide on.6

If you are looking into divorcing your spouse, reach out to one of our Family lawyers for a free consultation. You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.

Nothing in this article should be considered or relied on as legal advice or opinion. This article only provides general information and should you require assistance, please contact ourselves to book a free initial consultation.


1 Family Court CLEO, “Serving your Application” (July 2018), online(blog): Steps in a Family Law Case . [CLEO]. 2 Steps to Justice, “What does serving your documents mean in a Family court case?” (31 July 2017) online(blog): Steps to Justice. 3 CLEO, supra note 1.

4 Ministry of the Attorney General, “Part 6: Serving Documents” (1 September 2019) online: A Guide To Procedures in Family Court. 5 Ibid. 6 Brian Galbraith, “How do I serve the divorce papers to my spouse?” (17 June 2020) online (blog): Galbraith Family Law Blog.

Call Us
Free Consultation