Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Ordinary Service Definition:

Delivery of a court document by whatever simplified process set out in court rules such as, but not at all necessary limited to, use of mail or email.

Related Terms: Personal Service, Substituted Service, Due Process

A term of law heavily dependent on specifications set in the rules of court of individual jurisdictions.

Traditionally distinguished from personal service,  the latter defined as the direct delivery of a court document to an individual or corporation.

The point of service is, of course, linked to due process, reasonably calculated to apprise the other side of the pendency of a court action and afford it an opportunity to respond.

The traditional definition of ordinary service is to simply leave a court document, or to have a court document delivered to a person's last known or declared address (as opposed to the act of specifically giving the court document to the individual - personal service), or to the address of a person's lawyer.

In contemporary law, ordinary service, as it may be defined in the rules of court,  often includes:

  • The posting of a court document to an individual's last known address (service by mail);
  • The delivery of a court document to the head office in the case of service on a corporation, and
  • The e-mailing of a court document usually where a person has agreed be served by email (service by e-mail).
  • Another form of technology that has greatly enhanced and facilitated the opportunities for ordinary service is the fax machine (service by fax).

Generally speaking, as in all forms of service, ordinary service is proved by filing an affidavit of service which sets out the details of the service. For example, ordinary service was made by fax, the fax transmission form would typically be exhibited to the affidavit of service.

Ordinary service is gradually replacing personal service. As Justice Kevin Duffy of the United States District Court wrote in New England Merchants v Iran Power:

"Courts ... cannot be blind to changes and advances in technology. No longer do we live in a world where communications are conducted solely by mail carried by fast sailing clipper ... ships. Electronic communication via satellite can and does provide instantaneous transmission of notice and information. No longer must process be mailed to a defendant's door when he can receive complete notice at an electronic terminal inside his very office, even when the door is steel and bolted shut."

Many Rules of Court allow individuals to apply to the court for alternate methods of service.  These orders are exceptional but there are instances where there is no choice such as an individual who is extremely evasive and who has no known address. This is known as an  order for substituted service.


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