Any application or document for the court must be served as soon as practicable upon all parties to a proceeding. Service is usually effected by personally serving the other party or, if the other party has a lawyer, that lawyer may accept service on behalf of the client. Where personal service is not required, court documents may be left or posted at the party’s residential address, addressed to the person to whom it is directed.
With the prevalence of internet technology, correspondence between two parties has become instantaneous, many choosing it as their preferred means of communication. As a result, new modes of service have emerged as effecting service for the purpose of civil procedure. Particularly in circumstances where the party to be served is proving resistant or difficult to locate, online mediums have been used as a tool for substituted service.
Email in particular has been used frequently as a means of substituted service. The case of Austar, a case concerning the failure of a party to open an email containing court documents, however, highlights the difficulties in service by way of email owing to its electronic nature and need for positive actions on the part of the receiver to read the email. Social media mediums have also been considered to be an effective means of substituted service. In Maguire & Klein, the court determined that service had taken place where documents had been served to a mothers Facebook messenger page and had been marked as “seen”. In a 2013 case concerning pop-star Flo Rida, however, the Court held that substituted service was not effected on the basis that there was no way of proving that the Facebook page was in fact that of Flo Rida and that the post was likely to come to his attention during his time in Australia.
Internet mediums can be an effective way of serving court documents upon resistant parties. However, there needs be certainty as to email or social media accounts being linked to the party and it has to be likely that the message will come to the attention of the party within a reasonable time.