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Legal Information

Starting the Court Case

What is service of process and how do I accomplish it?

Service of process is giving the other parties in the court case the documents that were filed in the case so that they have notice that a lawsuit was filed against them and they have the opportunity to respond. There are very specific rules on who, when, and how to serve a person. Every state has different rules about service of process but generally, there are a few different ways to accomplish service upon the other party or parties.

  • Personal Service: Personal service is when you have someone physically hand the documents to the other party. For service to be proper (valid), states may have certain rules that need to be followed. For example, some states do not allow service on Sunday (or another Sabbath day that you know the person recognizes). In addition, you (the plaintiff or petitioner) cannot be the person to hand the documents to the other party. This is because if there is a question about whether or not the other person was actually served, the judge will want to confirm with a third party, someone other than you, that service actually happened.
  • Substituted Service: Some states allow for what is called substituted service or constructive service, which may only be available in certain types of court cases or if certain conditions are met. Some examples of what might qualify as substituted service are:
    • Serving a person of “suitable age and discretion” at the defendant’s home or workplace. A person of suitable age and discretion is generally considered an adult who does not have any developmentally disabilities.
    • After diligent efforts to personally serve the defendant, posting the documents on the door of the defendant’s residence and mailing a copy to his/her last known address.
    • Publication of the notice and/or documents in a newspaper chosen by the court or other forms of alternative service (such as service by email or social media). These methods of service usually have to be approved by a judge beforehand.

You will want to consult with a lawyer if substituted service is necessary in your court case.