Serving California Divorce Papers in Canada: International Service of Process

What do you do if you are filing for divorce in California, but your spouse lives in Canada? In short, you will need to serve the California divorce papers on your spouse in Canada through international service of process.

Why? For the California divorce court to have full power and authority to issue Orders with respect to your divorce — including awarding alimony, child custody, ordering child support payments, distribution of marital property, and more — the California court must have jurisdiction over your spouse. To obtain jurisdiction, the California divorce papers must be hand-delivered to your spouse. In California, that is usually done by having a California Sheriff’s Deputy track down your spouse and deliver the papers. However, a California Sheriff’s Deputy cannot do that if your spouse is living in Canada. In simple terms, you need the equivalent of a Canadian Sheriff’s Deputy to serve the California divorce papers (and return proof of service to the California court).

So, how is that done? In this article, the international service of process specialists at Ancillary Legal will provide a brief discussion of how to serve California divorce papers on a spouse living in Canada. We are located in Georgia, but provide international service of process skills across the United States. For a no-obligation consultation and to order over the phone, call us at (404) 459-8006. We also accept orders via email.

International service of process in Canada is accomplished through the Hague Service Convention (the “HSC”). The HSC is a treaty signed by both the United States and Canada (and many other nations) that establishes procedures for serving any type of court papers across the international border. Each country that agrees to and signs the HSC is allowed to have special in-country rules for service of foreign court papers. So, it is important to know the nation-by-nation variations.

Canada has opted to allow two types of international service of process: Article 5 and Article 10 service. For California divorce papers, the best option is Article 5 service because the California divorce court will look closely at the service of process. You want an Article 5 service because you want the California divorce court to make awards about money, including alimony and child support payments (if there are children involved).


Article 5 process is complicated and nuanced but can be summarized as follows:

  • Collect all the necessary copies of the California divorce papers (like the petition, civil cover sheet, exhibits, etc.)
  • Obtain CERTIFIED translations of the documents into French (if your spouse is living in Quebec) — this MUST be done even if your spouse speaks fluent English; NOTE: if your spouse does NOT speak English, then translation will be necessary
  • Complete the necessary HSC form — the required information includes contact information for the applicant and for the person who is to be served, court information, a summary of proceedings and claims, etc.
  • Send all documents to the appropriate “Central Authority” — Canada has 13 Central Authorities covering the various provinces; you have to send the HSC forms and California divorce papers to the Canadian Central Authority covering the territory where your spouse lives
  • Wait for the Central Authority to arrange for service of the California divorce papers and return the proof of service/certification of service
  • File the proof of service/certification of service with the California divorce court

Let Us Handle Your International Service of Process

 For more information, contact Ancillary Legal at (404) 459-8006. We have the experience, staffing, and resources to help you satisfy the requirements for proper and valid international service of process. We focus on litigation support domestically and internationally and can ensure that your time can stay focused on the substance of your matter and not procedural technicalities. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.