What Can You Do If You Can't Serve Divorce Documents?

31 August 2021
 Categories: Law, Blog


If you've decided to divorce your spouse, then you might need to serve them with divorce documents. If you aren't making a joint application, then the courts require you to give notice of your intent to your partner. Typically, you post or give them the documents.

However, some people can't serve these documents easily. If you've lost touch with your spouse or if they refuse to communicate with you, then you might not know where they are. If you don't know where they are, then you can't get the documents to them.

In these cases, you might have to use other means to serve the papers. What can you do?

Apply For Substituted Service

If you've tried to serve documents on your spouse but have failed to do so, then you can apply to use a substituted service. Here, you ask the court to allow you to give your divorce documents to someone who will pass them on to your spouse.

For example, imagine that your spouse has disappeared since you split up. They didn't keep in touch with you, and you can't find out where they work or live at the moment. However, you do know where their parents live.

Here, the expectation is that your spouse's parents would be willing and able to pass the documents on to your spouse. If the court agrees that this would work, then it might allow you to try this option.

In some cases, a court might agree to let you use substituted service in a different way. For example, it might give you permission to notify your spouse on social media, by email or via a newspaper notice.

Apply For Dispensation Of Service

Sometimes, you run out of options and can't see any way to find your spouse. You might not be able to locate them and you might not have any contact information for any of their family or friends. You'll have tried to find them online and via the electoral roll without any luck.

If you feel that you have exhausted all avenues, then you can apply for the court to give you a dispensation of service. Here, you would need to produce an affidavit outlining all the steps you have taken to locate your spouse. If the court is happy that you have done all you can, then it can waive the need for you to serve your divorce documents.

If you're having trouble serving divorce documents, then consult a divorce lawyer. It isn't easy to apply for either of these options. If you don't meet legal criteria or make a mistake, then you could delay your application. A lawyer can support you through the process to keep your divorce on track, and they might direct you to a legal document server or another option.