If you are serving a divorce application see How do I serve a divorce?

Service is the legal term used to describe the giving or delivering of court documents to another person in a way that satisfies the Court that the person has received them.

Part 6 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 covers service.

Do I have to serve the documents?

Any application or document filed with the court must be served on all the parties to the proceedings, including the Independent Children's Lawyer if appointed, unless a court order says otherwise. Proof of this service must then be filed with the court.

When do I serve the documents?

You are required to serve the documents after the documents have been filed. If you have eFiled you must print the sealed documents for service. If you have filed the documents with a registry you will receive sealed copies back.

Documents must be served as soon as practicable after filing, and at least seven days prior to the hearing of the application or at least three days prior to the hearing of an application in a case.

Note: Unless the Court orders otherwise, a document may not be served more than 12 months after it is filed. A subpoena may not be served more than 3 months after it is issued.

Are there any fees?

There are no fees associated with the filing of service documents.

How can I serve the documents?

Different types of court documents need to be served in different ways. Select the document type for specific details.

Applications that start a proceeding include; initiating application, contravention, contempt and enforcement hearing.

An application starting a proceeding must be served by hand, and in family law matters, by a person who is not a party to the proceedings and who is over the age of 18 years.

Service by hand means, the server must give a copy of the documents to the person to be served. You may arrange for a process server (for a fee). Process servers are listed in the Yellow Pages.

Which documents should be served?

  • Application
  • Affidavit/s or any other supporting documents (if filed)
  • Notice of Risk (if applicable)
  • Financial statement (if applicable)
  • Copy of the Marriage, Families and Separation brochure

What does the person serving the documents have to do?

The person serving the document by hand must identify the person being served and provide a copy of the document to the person served. If the person to be served refuses to take a copy of the document, the person serving it may put it down in the presence of the person to be served and tell the person what it is.

The court requires proof of service by the first court event.  If you are unable to serve the documents see Cannot serve the court documents below. If service is effected late (ie. within seven days prior to the court event or three days if it is an application in a case), service documents must still be filed with the court. Any issues in relation to the late service of documents, if raised, will be dealt with by the judge at the court event. See What happens after the documents have been served? below.

You can also serve an application on the respondent's or other parties' lawyer if they are willing to accept service. See Part 6 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001.

Helpful hint - a copy of the prescribed brochure Marriage, Families and Separation must be served with applications filed in family law matters.

Excluding applications starting proceedings and subpoenas requiring the attendance of a person, all other court documents including responses and supplementary documents can be served by ordinary service.

If the person to be served has an address for service noted on the application, you can serve them by:

  • Delivering it to the address in a sealed envelope addressed to the person or posting the documents in a sealed envelope to the address for service.
  • By email if they agree and provided an email at the address for service on the application.
  • By fax which must include a cover page stating the sender's name and address; the name of the person to be served; the date and time of transmission; the total number of pages transmitted; the fax number from which the document was transmitted; the name and telephone number of a person to contact if there is a problem with the transmission; advise that the transmission is for service.
  • Or by service by hand (by a person who is not a party to the proceedings and who is over the age of 18 years) as outlined in Application starting a proceeding.

If the person to be served does not have an address for service you can deliver or post the documents in a sealed envelope to their last known address or place of business.

Note: If there are no current proceedings then an Application in a Case must be served by hand. See Applications starting proceedings above.

The court requires proof of service. See What happens after the documents have been served? below.

There are three different types of subpoena:

  1. a subpoena for production
  2. a subpoena to give evidence (requires attendance at court), and
  3. a subpoena for production and to give evidence.

The rules for service are different for each type of subpoena. If the subpoena is not served correctly (or conduct money is not provided when required) the named person does not have to comply with the subpoena.

See Subpoena: Information for a person requesting the issue of a subpoena for information about subpoena service and requirements for conduct money.

There are special requirements when a document is required to be served by hand on a person with a disability or a prisoner. See r7.09 and r7.10 of the Family Law Rules 2004 for information in relation to service of a person with a disability or in prison.

The document must be served:

  1. on the person’s case guardian
  2. on the person’s guardian appointed under a State or Territory law, or
  3. if there is no one under paragraph (a) or (b) – on an adult who has the care of the person.

Note: the person in charge of a hospital, nursing home or other care facility is taken to have the care of a person who is a patient in the hospital, nursing home or facility.

The document must be served on the person in charge of the prison.

Note: when serving an application, subpoena or notice of appeal on a prisoner, the prisoner must be informed in writing about the requirements to attend court by electronic communication. See the Telephone/Video link attendance request form.

The court requires proof of service. See What happens after the documents have been served? below.

If the respondent is not in Australia the method of service will depend on whether the country is a party to the Hague Convention. See the Attorney-General's Department website for information about serving legal documents across international borders. If the country is a party to the Hague Convention, service may be possible by arrangement with the Attorney-General's Department. If the country is not a party to the Hague Convention, you should obtain legal advice in relation to filing an application to dispense with service or substituted service. See Cannot serve the court documents below for more information.

If you are unable to effect service in a way required by the court rules, even after you have taken all reasonable steps to, you can apply to the Court for an order for:

  • substituted service (which allows you to serve court documents on a third person who the court is satisfied will bring the court documents to the attention of the person to be served; or allows you to serve by post rather than service by hand);
    or
  • dispensation of service (which allows the court to dispense with the requirement of service) - please note dispensation of service will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

You will need to take all reasonable steps to serve the documents and refer to these steps in an affidavit supporting your application. If you need help to complete this type of application or are unsure whether you are eligible to file this application you should obtain legal advice. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and responsibilities before you apply.

See Rules 6.14 and 6.15 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 for further information on substituted service and dispensing with service.

To apply for an order seeking to dispense with service or for substituted service, you can seek the orders within the application or file an application in a case.

You should eFile the application by completing the online interactive form.

If you have not registered on the portal see How do I register for the Commonwealth Courts Portal. You will also need your file number and client number to link and access your file. If you do not have these numbers contact us by Live Chat and provide your full name, date of birth and the name of the other party. Once you are registered and linked go to step 1.

If you are already registered for the Portal and linked to your file go to step 1.

  1. Select the file number from the Available Files tab or search the file number e.g. ABC1234/2014 at Search for file > then click on the file number to open your file.

  2. Go to Image of the File a new application link 
  3. Select  Image of the Application in a case radio option  then Image of radio button to select the Federal Circuit Court of Australia then Image of the continue button
  4. Complete Title and Description then Create.
  5. Complete Step 1, Part A, B and C - on completion each Part should show a green tick Image of the green tick 
  6. Complete the Affidavit form (link provided above), scan and save the documents* on your computer drive where you will be able to find it easily.
  7. Upload the supporting affidavit at Step 2. You can file any further affidavits as an additional document.
  8. Complete Step 3. Statement of Truth and Save.
  9. Submit the application. You can open a preview of the document before you print.

*Use the PDF convertor in the right hand column if you need to convert the document to PDF.

Image showing the Add document, file a response and notify me

Note: An Application in a Case requires the manual allocation of a court date which will be processed within 3 working days. You can log into the portal to check the allocated date at any time. You can also select the envelope button to be notified by email of any activity on your file.

If for any reason you cannot eFile the application, follow the instructions on the Application in a Case and file it and the supporting Affidavit  at a family law registry. See Preparing an Affidavit for more information. You should have all your documents signed, witnessed (if required) and photocopied before you file.

If you have applied for substituted service or dispensation of service, you should attend the court hearing.

There is no court fee associated with filing an application in a case seeking an order for substituted service or to dispense with service.

What happens after the documents have been served?

The person who served the document/s must complete an Affidavit of Service and have it sworn or affirmed before a person authorised to witness the swearing of affidavits e.g. a lawyer or a JP.

See the instructions for completion on the first page of the Affidavit of Service.

If served by hand the server must include any information or attach any documents to the Affidavit of Service which helped him or her identify the respondent. If the server identified the respondent with a photograph, you should also prepare a further brief affidavit stating that the person in the photograph is the respondent. The service documents must then be filed with the court.

See Rule 6.12 of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001 information on when a document is taken to have been served.

Filing the affidavit of service

You should eFile the affidavit of service on the Commonwealth Courts Portal (see below). Or you can post the completed forms to the family law registry where the application was filed.

How do I eFile the service documents?

  1. Scan the completed Affidavit of Service and save the document on your computer where you will be able to find it easily.
  2. If you have not registered on the portal see How do I register for the Commonwealth Courts Portal. You will also need your file number and client number to link and access your file. If you do not have these numbers contact us by Live Chat and provide your full name, date of birth and the name of the other party. Once you are registered and linked go to step 3. If you are already registered and linked to your file go to step 3.
  3. Select the file number from the Available Files tab or search the file number e.g. ABC1234/2014 at Search for file > then click on the file number to open your file.
  4. Under select Image showing the plus sign at the appropriate application.
  5. Select add document
    Image showing the Add document, file a response and notify me
    You can also select the envelope button to be notified by email of any activity on your file.
  6. Select the appropriate document type at Document Type.
    Select your name to choose who the document is filed on behalf of. 
    Click on Choose File, select the document from where you had saved it at step 1 above - this document must be in PDF format* and under 10 Mb.
    Click on Upload.
    *Use the PDF convertor in the right hand column if you need to convert the document to PDF.

Helpful hints

  • If you are attending the court hearing, take your copy of the service forms with you.
  • You are not required to serve the Affidavit of Service.