One fundamental first step at the beginning of any application is to prove to the court that your application has been brought to the attention of the party or parties. This is commonly known as service.

In family law applications, the court insists that the application document and all supporting documents are physically handed to the other party. This is called ‘personal service’.

Often, a person who wishes to avoid responding to a claim avoids this service. They hide. It can be a frustrating time.

Helpfully however the court has mechanisms in place to ensure that ‘hiding’ does not derail the process entirely and, in essence, defeat the law.

An application can be made for what is described as ‘substituted service’ whereby the court authorises that the documents can be delivered perhaps to a residential address, a business address, an email address or even a face book account.

If the court is satisfied that all reasonable steps to serve these documents have been exhausted and the other party is still not aware of the proceedings, they can dispense with service i.e. allow the application to continue in the knowledge that the respondent is unaware of the proceedings.

This permission of the court is more difficult to secure because it asks the court to move beyond a fundamental jurisprudential premise that a party has a right to know what is being claimed from them and therefore a right to respond before a court makes a decision.

When considering whether to dispense with service, a court may require certain steps to have been undertaken prior to the application, for example an electoral roll search to have conducted to try and locate the other party. Knowing this is crucial to the success of any application.