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Service of court documents

Service is the legal term to describe the giving of court documents by one person to another. The Magistrates’ Court must be satisfied the other person has received documents in the correct way. 

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When a document is filed with the Magistrates’ Court, the other party or parties in a matter must be served with a copy of that document. The timeframes for service are dependent on the document filed. 

Any person can carry out service, but there are legal requirements depending on the individual or business being served. There are also special rules about the way in which you must documents on children and people with a disability. You can seek the services of a process server who will ensure documentation is served correctly.

The person who serves a court document(s) must complete an of service - Form 6A to outline how and when it was served. The affidavit must be witnessed and sworn or affirmed in the presence of an authorised person before it is filed with the Magistrates’ Court. See the witnessing documents page for more information.

There are two main ways service is carried out; personal service and ordinary service. If documents are not served correctly, it may cause delays.  

You should seek legal advice or contact your nearest Magistrates’ Court if you are unsure of the service requirements.  

Personal service

When court documents are served in person, it is called personal service. The Magistrates' Court General Civil Procedure Rules 2010 outlines that personal service can be carried out:

  • by leaving a copy of the document with the person to be served or, if the person does not accept the copy, by putting the copy down in the person's presence and telling the person the nature of the document; or
  • by delivering a copy of the document to the place of residence of the person to be served to a person apparently above the age of 16 years who resides at that place but when the place of residence is a hotel, boarding house or similar establishment, to some person apparently above that age who is apparently in charge of the establishment or engaged in the office of the establishment; or
  • if the person to be served conducts a business, by delivering a copy of the document to the place of business of the person to be served to a person apparently above the age of 16 years who is apparently in charge of that business or is employed in the office of that business.

If service is to be carried out on a corporation, you should seek advice or refer to the Corporations Act (Administrative Actions) 2001.

Ordinary service

When court documents don’t need to be served in person, it is called ordinary service. 

Ordinary service can be carried out by:

  • leaving the document(s) at the address for service of the person to be served; or
  • posting the document(s) to be served at that person's address for service.

It is recommended that documentation served by post be done by registered mail.

The address can include the person’s home address, their lawyer’s office address, or the registered office address if the party to be served is a company.

See the Magistrates' Court General Civil Procedure Rules 2010 for more information.

Last updated on 27 Nov 2018
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