How to Get a Divorce in BC When You Can’t Find Your Spouse

People in group looking in different directions through binoculars and spyglasses.

If you can’t find your spouse, you can still get a divorce in BC by applying to the court for an order for substituted service. In other words, the court may order that you be permitted to serve your spouse in a manner other than personal service, such as by email, mail, legal notice or posting a note at the court. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to do to get a divorce in BC when you can’t find your spouse.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Serving the notice of family claim

Unless you have an order for substituted service or are applying for a joint divorce, you must arrange for the notice of family claim to be personally served on your spouse.

If you do not know your spouse’s whereabouts, personal service will not be possible, but you can still obtain your divorce by applying for an order of substituted service. Some other reasons to use substituted service are:

  • It may be challenging to arrange personal service due to the address of your spouse. For instance, you may know the address, but it might not be possible to arrange personal service or be financially unfeasible.
  • You may have hired a process service and attempted personal service, but your spouse refused to accept the documents.

Making an application for substituted service

Substituted service is a court order that allows you to serve your spouse by a method other than personal service. There are many possible methods, but the most common ones are email, mail, legal notice, or posting at the court. The way you choose depends upon the information that you have about your spouse or the close relatives of your spouse. For example, you can serve your spouse’s mother by mail if that is the best information you have.

The application process

Substituted service is a separate court application made after filing the notice of family claim. The process can take four to eight weeks, so you should consider this if you are in a rush. These are the steps:

  1. File the substituted service application and court fee of $80.
  2. Then, wait for the court to review, grant and return the order to you.
  3. Finally, arrange for your spouse’s substitute service as described in the order.

How to make the application

A substituted service application consists of a requisition, affidavit and draft order. You may also have supporting documents, such as evidence of your attempts to serve or locate your spouse. In your deposition, you must explain the attempts to locate your spouse. Your affidavit must include the following key elements:

  • The efforts made to find your spouse.
  • Your spouse’s last known address and when they lived there.
  • The method that you propose to serve the notice of family claim.
  • If your spouse’s whereabouts are unknown, the name and address of the person to be served.
  • The reason that you have chosen the particular way of alternate service.

The efforts made to find your spouse

In your application to get a divorce when you can’t find your spouse, you must include the details of your efforts. As a result of your efforts, you will have the information you need to request the method of substituted service. For example, if you fail to locate your spouse, you may come to know your spouse’s email address. In this instance, requesting your spouse’s service by email would be reasonable.

You should consider the following methods to locate your spouse:

  • Write to your spouse’s relatives.
  • Write to the last known address.
  • Write or call the previously known workplace.
  • Search social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Use search engines such as Google and Bing.
  • Search online phone listings such as white pages online.
  • Hire a skip trace service.

Some methods of alternate service

There are many alternate methods of service. The best one for you depends on the information that you have. It would be best if you chose the one most likely to bring the divorce claim to your spouse’s attention. Email to your spouse is a popular method that is usually successful. On the other hand, posting at the court is a method of last resort and is not easily obtained because it will not reach your spouse. However, if you do not have any other options, it is possible to get an order on that basis. Another method of last resort is a legal notice in a newspaper. Finally, it is best to try and serve your spouse or a close relative of your spouse by email or mail if you can.

Making a successful substituted service application

There are some specific things to include in your application to get a divorce when you can’t find your spouse:

  • You must persuade the court that you made all reasonable efforts to locate or personally serve your spouse.
  • You must request the method that will most likely bring the divorce claim to your spouse’s attention.
  • You must provide the court with why the chosen method is the best in your situation.

Getting help with your substituted service application

We designed the BC Divorce Options Substituted Service Application to walk you through the process step-by-step. We have included all the questions and prompts to obtain your best answers. In addition, it automatically generates the completed affidavit and draft order ready for your signature. We take the guesswork out of the process and give you the best chance of success.