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Serving Legal Papers 101: Your Guide to Notifying Someone of a Lawsuit

Some people will go to great lengths to avoid getting served. One gentleman in a high-profile Hollywood divorce tried to literally outrun the process server. 

When you file a lawsuit, you need to let the other party know that they’re getting sued. You can do this by serving legal papers to them. 

There is a specific procedure you must follow for this. Keep reading to get a crash course in how you serve papers once you file your lawsuit. 

What Is Service of Process? 

This process is how you formally notify all of the parties involved in your lawsuit. You need to let them know that you’re bringing a claim against them. When you have someone served, all of the legal documents that you filed in court are given to the named parties. 

Who Can Perform the Service? 

You cannot serve the other party yourself. This means hiring a third party to deliver the documents for you.

You should check your state’s law for who can qualify, but generally, it could be any of these people. 

  • A friend or relative 
  • A coworker 
  • A police officer or sheriff 
  • A professional process server 
  • Anyone who is not a party to the lawsuit and also over the age of 18 

What Qualifies as Service? 

There are specific steps that the process server must take to have their delivery qualify as a proper notification in court. 

These steps include:

  • Timely delivery 
  • Have proof of service that lists who, where, when, and how 
  • Give proof to you so that you can provide it to the court 

Different Types of Service 

There are several different methods that you can take to serve the other side. You need to check with your jurisdiction to find out which method is allowed. 

You may be able to serve the other party by mail. A third party will mail the documents and fill out the proof of where they sent it. 

There is the method everyone is familiar with, known as personal service. This is when a third party physically takes the paperwork to the other party and hands it to them. 

Once there are several failed attempts, you can use a substituted service. This is when the server leaves the documents with someone else over the age of 18. For example, this could be someone who lives at the same address. 

You may be able to get the other side to agree to waive service. This is when they approve service by mail and let the court know when they receive the documents. This method is usually used in family law cases when everyone knows and is an agreement of the legal action.  

Follow the Law When Serving Legal Papers

You can’t move forward with a lawsuit if you don’t let the party you’re suing know that you’ve filed in court. This is when serving legal papers becomes essential in the legal process. 

To make sure you can move forward, you need to ensure that you follow proper procedures when having the other party served. Be sure to check your local jurisdiction to know the laws that specifically apply to you. 

Check out the business section of our blog for more helpful advice.