The Ultimate Guide to Service of Process [+Things to avoid]
Many legal professionals, including paralegals and beginning lawyers, do not understand what service of process is and its purpose, even though it is an important part of the litigation process. If service of process is not done correctly, or not done at all, it could cause a whole host of problems for a law firm.
Service of process becomes even more complicated when you factor in that various states can have different specific service of process rules. As a legal professional, you will need to have a solid grasp of these rules and a basic understanding of what is required to properly serve legal papers necessary for litigation and legal proceedings.
This is one of the reasons why having a serious and professional process service perform the task for you. Most of the time and in most instances, service of process is completed easily and quickly and correctly with no issues that the defendant can use to disrupt the lawsuit from moving forward. Sometimes, however, there can be issues when people do not follow the specific rules of service of process for the specific jurisdiction or court or governmental administrative agency that is involved.
The rules are sometimes complex given the situation. Even though in many jurisdictions anyone over 18 years of age can act as a process server, you do not want just anyone to be responsible for following the very specific rules, rules that if violated, could jeopardize the lawsuit. This is why it is important to engage a professional process server with the knowledge and experience to get the job done and get it done correctly and on time.
Here are some scenarios where using a professional process server is most important:
If there is a specific deadline wherein service of process must be completed, you will want a professional process server to get it done. The timeline for service of process can differ depending upon the state jurisdiction, a specific court, a specific governmental agency, or even the federal judicial system. For example, with lawsuits filed in federal court, service of the summons and complaint on the defendant must usually be done within 90 days of the when the complaint is first filed with the court. This may seem like an adequate time to serve a complaint on a defendant, but sometimes service becomes difficult and a plaintiff has to ask the judge for certain accommodations, extensions of time, and other options for serv ice.
If the case is complex then the use of a professional process service agency is very important. Sometimes, before a lawsuit is even filed, the plaintiff will know that proper service of process will be difficult and complex. Maybe the defendant lives in another country, for example. Or maybe the defendant is a foreign government. In some lawsuits, there could be hundreds of separate defendants, some individual people, some corporations, subsidiary corporations, or even governmental agencies in local, state and the federal government– all within the same lawsuit! In order to make sure that all of the defendants are properly served, you should engage a professional process server to get the job done correctly and on time.
The use of a professional process service company is perfect for when you know the defendant is going to be difficult to serve directly. A professional process server will know all the legal tricks of the trade to either serve the documents directly by locating the defendant at different locations, or to use other legal methods of service that are allowed by the rules, such as substitute mailing, service through the mail, or posting notice at a residence or workplace.
A professional process server will know the right actions to use in certain situations and litigation that require professionalism, discretion, and the right about the delicacy. There are some cases where documents need to be served but the plaintiff does not want to embarrass or harass the defendant. By using a professional process server, you can be assured that service will be done professionally, correctly, and with the least amount of stress as required.
As a paralegal, attorney, or other legal professional, choosing the right professional process server makes a huge difference in making sure the litigation you are responsible for runs smoothly and with no issues or snags. You have enough to worry about with all of your responsibilities. Choosing the right professional process server will check one more thing off your to-do list and you can rest easy that service of process will be done correctly and on time.
What is Service of Process
The term “service of process” comes from the Due Process clauses of the United States Constitution. The Fifth Amendment commands the federal government that no person will be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law."
Due Process rules contained in the Constitution prevent courts from asserting jurisdiction over a person without first giving the person proper notice. In basic form, this means that when someone files a lawsuit against a person or company, the plaintiff in the lawsuit has to “serve” the defendant with notice or summons of the lawsuit and a copy of the complaint, in what is commonly called “process.” However, service of process is not restricted to the filing of a lawsuit, with a summons and a complaint. There are other types of documents and proceedings where you might run into service of process rules and require the use of a “process server”:
A complaint is a written document, usually outlined in numbered paragraphs, that begins a lawsuit against someone in civil court. Civil court is where individuals and businesses can sue each other, as distinguished from criminal courts. A complaint will describe the facts of the case and the reason why the plaintiff is filing the lawsuit, as well as explain what damages or action is requested by the plaintiff.
Along with the complaint, there will be a notice or summons form that is also provided to the defendant. This document is usually a standard form provided by the court or contained in the service of process rules. A summons or notice is filled out by the plaintiff and informs the defendant that they are being sued, by whom they are being sued, if there are any other parties in the lawsuit, the specific courthouse where the lawsuit is filed, contact information for all parties and attorneys if known, and the fact that the defendant has rights to be represented by an attorney, as well as what time frame the defendant has to respond to the complaint. All of this information is usually contained on just one sheet of paper and is attached to the front of the complaint.
A subpoena is a document that is issued by a judge that is essentially an order to appear in court and provide information relating to a legal matter. The information can consist of testimony or providing documents or things to be examined by the other side in the legal proceeding or even the judge.
A writ is an authorized written document that orders someone to do some specific thing. A writ can be issued by a court, a specific judge, government entities, or some other administrative entity that has authority over legal proceedings. There are many different types of writs. For example, a subpoena is a type of writ.
There are also a wide range of documents that might require officially “serving” a person or business. These documents would include eviction notices, certain divorce related documents, and important correspondence, among many other documents. The service of process rules might not require that these various documents be served in a specific way, but some people may want proof of service or proof that the document was hand delivered to the individual or business. And the process server can act as an official witness if there is any dispute over proper service.
What is an agent for service of process
When you create a business like a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), limited liability partnership (LLP), or any other state sanctioned business structure, every state’s laws will first require that you designate an agent for service of process. An agent is a person that the company officially designates as the person to receive service of process for any lawsuits filed against the company.
This agent is listed at the secretary of state’s website and is public knowledge, which allows anyone to look up this information and send the agent a lawsuit. This would constitute proper service of process. In most states, anyone who is an adult can be listed as a designated agent as long as they have a physical street address within the state in which the business is located. There are many companies that offer the service of being a business’ registered agent. You would hire this registered agent company and put their address and contact information on your corporate forms.
The registered agent company or individual would accept service of process for a lawsuit and other legal papers that would require official service on the business. Once that happens, the business’ agent would deliver the papers to the actual business.
Hague Convention Service of Process
There is often the question of how you secure proper service of process when the target individual or company is based out of another country. One way this can be accomplished is through the Hague Convention Service of Process procedure. The Hague Convention was a treaty that many countries throughout the world signed and agreed to abide by its rules. One of the many things the Hague Convention established was a defined process for the service of process of lawsuits and legal papers to individuals and companies in other countries. So far, more than 65 countries are contracting parties with the Hague Service Convention.
Having legal papers served to another country through the Hague Service Convention can be a complicated process. One of the problems is that each country can agree to certain “articles” or provisions within the convention and not agree to others. A careful reading of the rules are in order. Sometimes the documents being served have to be translated into a different language. The whole process of serving an individual or company through the Hague Service Convention can take approximately six months. However, this is still quicker, easier, and cheaper than other more traditional routes like using diplomatic services.
Motion to Dismiss for Insufficient Service of Process
Most of the time, service of process is completed easily and correctly and the lawsuit begins and moves on to the next step of the litigation process. However, sometimes mistakes can be made in the service of process procedure and the person or business being sued can take advantage of any mistakes. If a mistake is made in the drafting of the service of process papers or in how the papers were actually served on the defendant, then the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit for insufficient service of process.
Of note, as mentioned above, there can be many different types of service of process rules that cover either the state that the lawsuit is being filed in, or even a particular court might have specific service of process rules that differ from other jurisdictions. Even the federal courts have different service of process rules than most of the states, so if your lawsuit is going to be filed in federal court, you need to review those rules as well.
Some of the mistakes or deficiencies that could support a motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process could be technical mistakes with the papers themselves. A plaintiff may fail to have the correct summons or notice for that jurisdiction or incorrectly fill out the summons or notice, placing incorrect dates, time frames, contact information, and the correct court, for example.
A plaintiff may forget to attach the complaint to the summons or notice. There could also be mistakes in how the service was actually performed. Was the defendant actually handed the service of process as some jurisdictions require? Some states require that lawsuits and other certain legal papers be served by sworn service of process deputies. If this does not happen, a motion to dismiss could be filed. If the defendant is a business, were the papers served on a person in charge or someone in authority, or were the papers served on a front desk person, for instance? Although they seem like minor infractions, the rules are rules. Without following the rules properly, a small mistake could get the lawsuit dismissed and the plaintiff would have to start the whole process over.
Consent to Service of Process
There are many ways for an individual or business to consent to service of process. This means that they have agreed to be served legal papers a certain way. As mentioned above, when a business is created in a state, the business has to designate an individual or a company to act as the agent for service of process. By doing this, the business has consented to service of process through the agent.
If the defendant is an individual, they may not want to be personally served, especially if it is done at the person’s work, home, or some other inopportune time. It can be embarrassing to some people for an armed service deputy, in uniform, to walk into their work office and hand them papers. There are other ways for an individual to accept service.
If you know you are going to be sued, you can merely talk to the plaintiff’s lawyer and agree that service can be done through the mail or even the defendant stopping by the lawyer’s office to pick up the papers in person. The defendant would merely have to sign a document that says that they consent to be served that way. The best and easiest way to consent to service of process is to work with the other attorney, sign a document that says you would accept service by mail, then have the attorney mail you the summons or notice and complaint through registered, return receipt mail. It is less expensive for the plaintiffs, but it also avoids a potentially embarrassing or annoying physical encounter with a process server.
Penalty for Avoiding Service of Process
Even though service of process is usually very straightforward and can be easily done, some people try to avoid being served a lawsuit. There are many reasons that someone would want to avoid being served. The first and foremost reason is that usually being sued is not a fun experience and can cause someone a lot of trouble, stress, and money to defend against the lawsuit. By avoiding a process server, a potential defendant to a lawsuit can keep the litigation from even beginning since nothing can be done until the summons or notice and the complaint gets put in the defendant’s hands. Avoiding service of process will delay the lawsuit, but will most likely not make it go away forever. There are other ways to effectuate service of process if the defendant individual is successfully avoiding being served.
There are many ways that a potential defendant can avoid service of process. This is one of the reasons why having experienced and smart process servers is very important. An experienced process server will know all the tricks that some people try to pull in order to avoid service. Avoiding service of process could be as simple as rarely leaving your home and not answering the door when someone knocks on it. If a process server does not have access to you, they can’t put the summons or notice and complaint in your hands. Another trick is avoiding being out in public where a process server can walk up to you and hand you an envelope.
Again, these tactics could be successful in avoiding personal service where that is required by a particular state’s or a particular court’s service of process rules. However, avoiding personal service can only go so far due to other tools that a plaintiff can implement if personal service cannot be completed for some reason. Also, even though the soon-to-be defendant may have good reason to attempt to avoid personal service and prolong the beginning of the lawsuit, doing so may put the defendant in jeopardy. So, people attempting to avoid personal service of a lawsuit or other legal papers have to understand that there are potential downsides to doing so.
Although it is not illegal to attempt to avoid personal service of process, there could be economic and litigation negatives for the defendant if they attempt this. In certain jurisdictions, while the defendant believes that he or she is being clever by avoiding service of process, there could already be hearings being conducted and decisions being made by the judge in the case. A defendant does not want to take the risk of not being part of the and not being able to participate in these hearings to make their arguments.
Another downside to knowingly attempting to avoid service of process is that, in certain jurisdictions and under certain service of process rules, the defendant can be charged with the plaintiff’s costs of attempting personal service. It costs the plaintiffs money every time they send out a professional process server to attempt personal service of process. And if it takes ten or twelve times to achieve personal service because the defendant was knowingly avoiding service, the plaintiff can then request the process server costs to be reimbursed by the defendant. This award could potentially be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the circumstances of the case and the jurisdiction.
However, there is a distinction between knowingly and unknowingly avoiding service of process on the behalf of the defendant. Potentially, the process server merely cannot locate the defendant. This is especially the case if the defendant travels often for work, for example, and is rarely home. In some instances, potential defendants are at home during non-traditional times, such as a potential defendant working third shift. An argument against a defendant unknowingly avoiding service of process is if the defendant knew about the pending lawsuit and had communication from the opposing attorney.
How to find a registered agent for service of process
As mentioned above, all states require every business that is registered and allowed to do business in that state to designate a registered agent for the purpose of service of process of lawsuits and other legal papers. This registered agent’s contact information will be listed in the business’ public records located at the particular state’s Secretary of State website. However, some states have what is called a Corporation Bureau or something similar. Your business records will be public information, including the registered agent’s contact information and address so that when someone wants to sue your business, or serve other legal papers, they can send it directly to the registered agent. When this happens, service of process is properly completed and the lawsuit can move forward. This is usually done by forwarding the legal papers to the registered agent through the mail. This way, the plaintiff does not have to actually go to the defendant business and personally serve someone at that business. This method is less costly and much more efficient. Once the registered agent receives a document, then will then forward the document to the defendant.
In most states, a registered agent can generally be any adult who is 18 years or older and has an actual physical street address. The address cannot be merely a Post Office box. Also, the registered agent has to reasonably be present at the address most of the time during regular business hours. It is for this reason that although a business could have an individual person be their registered agent, it is usually not very practical. This is why there are many companies that perform the service of being a registered agent for a fee.
Many people ask whether the business owner themselves could designate themselves as a registered agent, or designate one of the business’ employees to perform the job. But there are several issues that might dissuade a business owner from picking themselves or an employee for the job. Here are a few of those reasons:
The registered agent must be available during normal business hours. If the agent is an individual, then technically that individual must remain at the listed address all day, five days a week. Usually, that is not practical for a person.
If you act as your own registered agent and use your business address as the official registered agent location, you may have professional process servers or uniformed deputies show up at your business to serve you papers. This may not be a great look and could be embarrassing, especially if customers are present or you and your employees are in a meeting.
Since the registered agent’s information is of public record, you may have some privacy concerns having your name and address listed on a government website for all to see. Having a registered agent service would prevent this from happening and protect your privacy.
Some businesses are small and only transact business in one state. Therefore, all you would need is one agent located within that state. But in today’s world, even small companies can be transacting business in multiple states. If this is the case, the company would need a registered agent in each state. Registered agent service companies can solve this problem by acting as the agent in every state in the country.
Often, each state will have a list of registered agents listed on the state government-run business website where you will find all of the rules and regulations regarding starting a business in that state. These websites are usually called the Secretary of State website, but sometimes it could be different such as the Department of Corporations, or other similar name. A quick online search will help you find the official business website for a particular state. A business owner could also do a general online search for process server companies that work in every state. There are dozens of them. Obviously, in using their services, there will normally be a monthly fee involved or some other fee structure.
When researching which registered process service to use, there are many factors to consider. Not all process server agencies are the same. Here are some ideas to think about when deciding which registered agent process service to choose from:
Price is probably the first and foremost factor to consider. Obviously, a starting business does not want to spend more money than necessary. But when factoring price, make sure you understand what services you are paying for.
Which registered agent companies have the best customer service? You have a registered agent that knows how to take care of its customers and makes sure that any issues or problems are taken care of quickly.
Which registered agent company has a variety of services that they offer that the customer would potentially want. Registered service agencies can do many things and offer many different services.
Some registered agents specialize in working in specific industries and for specific types of businesses. For example, there may be a registered agent service that has a specialty with businesses that work or deal with the federal government often.
Some customers may be looking for a registered agent service that prides itself on its speed in processing newly served legal papers. A customer may want a process service agent that may want or even need a one-day turnaround on newly served documents.
As you can see, there are many issues that a paralegal or legal professional has to consider when using registered service agents and choosing the right person or entity for that role.
Can someone else accept served papers
The question of who can or who cannot accept formal service of process is a tricky one because it usually depends upon the specific jurisdiction, whether it be a specific state, federal jurisdiction, or a specific type of court or administrative agency with judicial powers. And usually, the rules of who else can accept service is very specific and very detailed, therefore the process server has to know the rules exactly and not deviate or else the defendant can file a motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process. If this happens, it could cause a lot of extra trouble, time, and expense for the plaintiff to restart the process. Or, more significantly, sometimes there is a specific time limitation that the plaintiff faces in order to file the complaint and effectuate service and if service of process is done incorrectly by the process server, the whole cause of action may be barred by the statute of limitations.
This is why the service of process rules have to be strictly followed. As a paralegal or other legal professional, before you formally serve any document, you should consult with a professional process server so that you make sure all the rules are followed. Just one slip-up could be disastrous for the case and your client and, ultimately, you. A professional process server will be able to assess the situation, determine the proper jurisdiction which determines what rules to follow, and develop a plan to get the lawsuit or legal papers served correctly. If it is expected that proper service of process will be difficult for some reason, a professional process server will have the skills and experience to develop a plan to get the documents properly served.
In almost all states and jurisdictions, if the defendant is an individual, the service of process has to be done on the individual. This means that a process server has to directly put the legal papers, either a summons or notice and complaint or some other legal document, into the hands of the defendant. If the defendant is a corporation or some other type of business or entity, there are other options to have proper service of process.
However, there are some exceptions in different jurisdictions and courts regarding having to directly serve the defendant. One exception is when the process server performs a substitute service. For example, in some states, if the process server cannot directly serve the legal papers to the defendant, the process server can give the papers to someone at the residence where the defendant lives. However, if this method is used, the process server will have to be able to demonstrate that the person who took the legal papers or lawsuit was 18 years or older and also resided in the home with the defendant. If there is a dispute as to whether or not proper service was completed, such as a defendant filing a motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process, the process server would have to be able to prove who he or she served the papers upon and that they were adults who also lived with the defendant. If the process server could not prove this, then the motion to dismiss would likely be granted.
Another exception for substitute service in some jurisdictions is serving the legal paperwork at the defendant’s place of business. However, the documents can’t just be given to anyone. If service at work is being attempted, the documents have to be given to someone with authority, such as a manager type or the defendant’s supervisor. In some jurisdictions, before this method can be used, the plaintiff and process server has to prove to the court that the other methods were tried and failed. This means that the process server has to submit evidence that they attempted to personally serve the defendant several times and in different manners.
Who serves court papers
As in many things with the legal field, the question of who can serve court papers such as summons or notices, complaints, or other legal documents, will depend upon the rules of the specific jurisdiction the matter is in, either state, a specific court, federal jurisdiction, or some government agency that has judicial powers. What those specific rules dictate will determine who can properly complete service of process.
For example, in most states, the plaintiff themselves is not allowed to act as the process server unless a judge specifically allows it. This also applies to people who are somehow involved in the lawsuit in some way, but may not necessarily be a party in the lawsuit. In most state jurisdictions and federal cases, anyone other than the plaintiff can serve legal process or other legal documents as long as they are adults, 18 years or older. But again, in some states, only specific people can serve specific documents. Here are some examples from different jurisdictions around the country:
In some state jurisdictions, only sheriffs, marshals, or licensed and registered constables are allowed to serve initial summons and complaints. They may not be allowed or may refuse to serve other legal documents such as subpoenas, but this depends upon the jurisdiction. In many counties in many states across the country, this is a major source of funding for county-based sheriff’s offices, as opposed to the police forces and units in that county. When serving documents, each of these officers, whether it be a sheriff deputy, or marshal, or even a constable, usually show up in a marked government vehicle, in uniform, and carrying a sidearm. Using this method is often valuable for its visual effect.
Another option is to use private, professional process servers. Many jurisdictions and courts allow service by professional process servers. As discussed above, there are many valuable reasons to use a professional process server because that option is available to you in the specific jurisdiction where the lawsuit is filed or where the defendant is located.
The last and least reliable way to effectuate service of process is service by a disinterested adult. Some states allow service by any person who is at least 18 years old, except the person bringing the suit. In some jurisdictions, it could be any person, as long as they are an adult and not a party to the lawsuit or have any formal interest in the lawsuit. But there are some jurisdictions, some specific courts, and some governmental agencies that require court approval if service of process is being performed by some person, such as a friend or relative of the plaintiff.
Again, as these rules demonstrate, sometimes it can become very complicated. And if the rules are not explicitly followed, there may not be proper service of process. This is another reason why contacting and using a professional service agent is the smart way to proceed before you serve legal papers.
How to serve someone who is avoiding service
If a defendant is intentionally and actively avoiding service of process, it could be very difficult for someone to physically place legal papers in a defendant’s hands. It doesn’t take much for a defendant to isolate themselves to the point that no one would be able to serve them legal documents. However, with a professional legal process server working with your team, you might have a leg up on a difficult defendant. Professional process servers will know the tricks of the trade in order to get the job done correctly and on time.
Here are some of the methods that professional process servers use in order to place legal documents in the hands of defendants:
One of the most important things to do is to gather as much information about the lawsuit and the defendant as possible. A professional process server will gather information such as places of employment, all addresses where the defendant could be residing, relatives’ addresses, aliases, and other relevant information that might be useful.
Even though it sounds a bit silly, sometimes professional process servers have to “stake out” a defendant’s residence or place of employment in order to spot them. Although this tactic is rarely used, sometimes it is necessary when a defendant is blatantly and intentionally avoiding service of process because they know that a lawsuit has been filed against them. This is another reason to hire a professional process server, because if this method is necessary, only a professional will be able to use this method without violating any laws. But these extreme tactics are only used in extreme circumstances when it is deemed necessary.
Sometimes it is necessary to pose and other people in order to gain access to the targeted defendant. If there are opportunities to pose as a delivery driver, pizza delivery driver, or some other delivery person, then a professional process server can use this tactic to get the job done. Of course, this would again be an extreme tactic that would only be used when all other options are exhausted.
The bottom line is that when personal service of process is necessary, when the process server has to physically hand the legal documents to the defendant, there are many options that are available to an experienced and skilled professional process server.
What happens if you can’t serve someone court papers
As discussed above, in some situations, the defendant can avoid the personal and direct service of process that the rules require. In most states and jurisdictions, the first way to serve someone with a summons or notice of a lawsuit along with the complaint that details the allegations in the lawsuit, is to physically hand the defendant with the paperwork. That is called personal service. But in some situations, the defendant can’t be physically served with the legal process like a summons and complaint or some other legal documents. This could be caused by the defendant actively avoiding the process server or placing themselves in situations where a process server does not have access to the defendant. This situation could also be caused by the defendant being out of the country, for example. But regardless of the reasons for the lack of ability to personally serve the defendant, there are other options available to the plaintiff to get the job done and get the lawsuit moving forward.
As discussed above, some jurisdictions allow service to be properly completed by handing off the documents to someone at the residence where the defendant lives or at the defendant’s place of employment. However, there are specific rules to apply substituted service in many jurisdictions. First, if it’s at the defendant’s residence, the process server must be able to prove that the substitute person accepting the papers is an adult, 18 years or older, and that they live at the residence with the defendant. If the process server can’t definitively prove those things, then the service of process will be properly completed and the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit for insufficient service of process. If substituted service of process is going to be attempted at the defendant’s place of business or place of employment, then the documents can’t be handed off to just anyone, such as the front desk person. To have proper service of process at work, the documents have to be given to someone with authority at the defendant’s employer, such as a manager or supervisor.
If service of process cannot be completed by either direct, physical service or by substituted service, then service can be accomplished through the mail. However, this has to be allowed in your particular jurisdiction. Under this procedure, the process server sends the legal documents to the defendant’s last known address through the United States Postal Service via certified mail. In some jurisdictions, the process is to send the documents through the postal service first through certified, return receipt mail. This would require the signature of the defendant proving that he or she received the documents. But people can decline to sign these documents. If that is the case, then the process can be done through certified mail, without the signed return receipt.
This form of service is called service by publication or publication service. It is used when all other forms of service of process were tried and failed. This is the last resort allowed by plaintiffs to get proper service on a defendant. Service by publication is accomplished by placing an ad in local newspapers or other local or county or even state publications. If you look in any local newspaper in the nation, there is a part of the classified section that contains legal notices. In many instances, the legal notices contained in the newspaper are service by publication. The plaintiff will place an ad in the newspaper that contains the summons information for that particular lawsuit. When all other methods fail, once the final step of service by publication is completed, then the court will deem that service was done properly and the lawsuit can move forward. But again, a paralegal, lawyer, or other legal professional has to be careful of the rules regarding service of process in your specific jurisdiction. Some local rules will dictate specifically what publications are appropriate for this service of process tool, as well as how long the ad is supposed to run in the paper, and the number of different publications that have to be implemented. Various local jurisdictions have many different rules regarding this process.
So, even if the defendant is successful at intentionally avoiding service of process, there are other tools available to the plaintiff that can ultimately get the job done. The problem though is that these alternative forms of service could take several months to accomplish. But the the right professional process service working on your team, you can be assured that the job will get done correctly and on time.
How to serve someone court papers without an address
There are circumstances where a potential defendant in a lawsuit does not actually have a physical address. Many people use Post Office boxes as their address and they do not have an actual physical address. As mentioned above, there are many ways to get proper service of process if you can’t use the methods of directly handing the defendant the documents, or substituted service, or service by mail, by posting, or service by publication. But there are some people that just don’t have an address. It’s rare, but this situation does happen. There are ways, however, to either locate the potential defendant and learn where they will be for purposes of physical service of process, or discover where they are actually living where physical service is possible, substituted service is possible, or even posting service if the rules in that particular jurisdiction allows it.
Here are some potential tactics that professional process servers might use to gain the information necessary to get the job done correctly and on time:
Perform online searches for name, address, phone number, etc. In many instances a professional process server can locate the correct person by learning about past addresses, family relations, and past phone numbers. It’s amazing what a simple Google search can accomplish.
Don’t forget about social media. Many people place information in their social media profiles and posts that could be useful. For example, a potential defendant’s location may not be known by anyone, but they post information that demonstrates what city, town, or region where they are living. Social media can lead to a significant amount of information about an individual that could be useful in making a proper service of process.
Another tactic is to contact people associated with the defendant like family and friends. Not only can family friends be contacted, but coworkers and people that are involved in the defendant’s life might know where they are located. Also, it is possible to locate those people through social media as well. A professional process server can ask questions about the location of the defendant.
In some instances, it might be necessary to engage in the use of a private investigator. This would significantly add to the costs of service, but there are some legal matters that could justify that cost. There are certain private investigative firms that specialize in finding people.
A professional process server may have access to search property records in the local county courthouse where the defendant owns property. Those property records may lead to an address or location where the defendant is actually residing so that personal, direct service of process can be accomplished.
The bottom line is that even though in most cases the delivery of legal documents to a defendant is done easily and quickly with no issues, that doesn’t happen all of the time. A paralegal or other legal professional that is responsible for these tasks in their offices needs to understand the intricacies of the rules and regulations surrounding service of legal process. Without a clear understanding of the rules that control the specific jurisdiction or court or governmental agency that you are dealing with, mistakes can be made. And when even minor mistakes are made in the service process, disaster could strike. Although it is rare, lawsuits could be dismissed outright if service of process is not done correctly and not done on time, as dictated by the rules.
This is why it is extremely important to make sure you have a professional process server on your team to understand what needs to be done given the particular facts of the legal matter. A professional process server will be able to provide you strategies in difficult cases and physical service of process may be difficult. We can handle the simple cases and we can definitely handle the difficult cases.
You need a professional service or process agency on your side to help you with getting a lawsuit started or making sure important legal papers are properly served. Even though service of process is just a small part of the life of a lawsuit, it is one of the most important parts, and we will make sure it’s done correctly and on time.