Understanding the Protocol of Serving Papers on Holidays
- December 21, 2020
- by Stephanie Irvine
For process servers new and old, there will come a point in time at which papers need to be served over the course of a holiday. With the holidays around the corner, process servers are looking to their schedules to see when they can get a serve completed. So the question remains: can process servers legally serve papers on holidays?
Varies By State
The short answer to the question is that yes, service of process can be conducted on holidays in every state except Minnesota, and serving on religious holidays is prohibited in New York. At the time of publication, Minnesota is the only state in which serving on holidays is expressly prohibited in their rules of civil procedure.
Unfortunately, the short answer is not a one-size-fits-all answer that applies to every state — or even every county within a state — as nearly all have their own legislation and requirements regarding service of process. So as a reminder, always check both your state’s legislation as well as your county regulations to be sure you are current on the rules.
Furthermore, while service on holidays is largely permitted, there are a number of states that prohibit service of process on Sundays (and in New York, on Saturdays that are observed as holy days). There are some states in which holidays are included or specifically excluded when computing time, which is especially pertinent with regard to filings.
The information contained in this post is not meant to be exhaustive, and while we do our best to ensure accuracy, there is the possibility of error. Serve Now and its writers are not liable for any errors in content. Confirm your state and county’s rules of service prior to attempting service.
Knowing You Can, Should You Serve Papers on Holidays?
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Now that you know nearly all states allow process servers to serve on holidays, more importantly, perhaps, is the question of whether you should serve papers on a holiday. At what point do empathy and decency come into play? But in the same token, do bleeding hearts pay the bills? After all, no one ever enjoys being served. Unfortunately, part of our job means being the bearer of bad news. At the end of the day, deciding whether to turn down any work is a tough choice to make.
Michigan Process Server Jake Tjapkes, owner of U.S. Private Process Serving Agency, said of choosing not to serve on Sundays or holidays, “It’s a respect thing.”
Jess Johnson, owner of Bulldog Legal Services, said “My best day to catch people at home is Sunday! Holidays are days off for me too. I don't want to embarrass them in front of family.
For many process servers, it’s not about feelings, respect, or even getting the work. Instead, it’s about getting a break. Working non-traditional hours can be a grind, and taking the time off for the holidays is a great way to stay refreshed and avoid burnout.
Process Server Joe Defscafano said, “No way, holidays are for family. We have more than enough time to serve them without cutting into family time.” Dave Forsythe of Forsythe Professional Services LLC also prioritized family: “I'm a family man and take the holidays to enjoy with them. I spent too many years working virtually every single holiday and I'm taking that time for me now. Many of my client[s] don't want their stuff served on Sunday so I usually just take Sundays off.”
These sentiments were echoed by process server Joe Acosta who said, "I don't think so. It's one day out of the year that families are actually able to spend time together and are generally happy. I say no."
Things to Consider
Before you make the decision whether to go ahead and serve on a holiday (or not serve on a holiday), there are some factors that should be considered.
The reality is that people have to get served, and people who are in business are in business to make money. With that said, one important factor to consider is quite simply: profit. If you’re just starting out, you may need every serve you can get — and many people spend holidays at home (and especially holidays like New Years Day). This means there is a good chance you will be able to make contact with a defendant and get them served.
Process Server Anthony Webster stated that he would serve any day of the week if the price was right. He wasn’t alone — a representative from Harris Investigations, LLC stated that if it’s allowed, their servers will do it.
Owner of Accel Process Service, Inc., Dee Tedesco, said, “If they are avoiders, by all means, holidays, knock knock.”
Charles Rafferty of Rafferty Investigations put it frankly: “Bummer, but someone’s got to do it.”
Process Server Gregory Carithers who owns West Georgia Legal expressed some reservations regarding serving on holidays, but ultimately would do it: “If that's what it takes, I do it, but I try not to [serve on holidays].”
Ultimately, if you need the business and it’s legally allowed, there should be nothing stopping you from conducting your business. And furthermore, you can and should charge a premium if you’re willing (and able) to attempt service on a holiday.
For children, it could leave a lasting memory. Do you want to be the person that does that on a holiday? While many servers recoil at the thought of being that person, others know that sometimes it needs to be done. For example, when a case involves the welfare and safety of a child or individual, the papers need to be served.
Another factor to consider is safety. Holidays can be stressful — add to that getting served — and people could lash out. Process server assault is a real threat, and serving in this environment could lead to a nasty encounter. However, to balance this fear is the reality that you simply do not know what will happen on a serve until you attempt it.
A representative from Agls Process Michigan explained, "I am strongly against serving around [Christmas]. I won't serve up to 2 or 3 days before and 2 or 3 days after, unless it's an urgent subpoena or something going to a company. Serving people at such an emotional time does exacerbate problems or reactions that otherwise may not have happened.”
Finally, regardless of whether you are attempting service on a holiday, it is important to act professionally at all times. The work of process servers is important as it is part of our legally afforded rights. Taking the job seriously, having empathy, and acting professionally should all be part of the job no matter what day it is.
The Choice is Yours When Legally Allowed
If legally allowed in your state, whether or not you serve on holidays is your choice. Many process servers like to take the holidays off to spend time with family and friends. Others who are just starting out and need the money may opt to conduct the serves. No matter what you choose, make it a choice that is both one you can live with and good for business. That answer is different for everyone, as evidenced by a hearty discussion regarding serving on Sundays or on Holidays in the Process Servers Network, a group on Facebook.