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Introduction to Process Service

Introduction to Process Service

A service of process, or simply known as process service, is a legal procedure in the United States, which declares all parties must be notified when facing legal action against them in a court of law or an administrative court. Process service is accomplished through the delivery of a set or series of documents describing the legal action. Examples of documents that comprise service of process include summonses, complaints, subpoenas , writs, and other court documents. These documents are delivered to the individual whom the legal action is directed by a process server. Service of process must be served by an individual who is not a party to the case.

United States legal procedure requires that each party in a case should be notified if actions are taken against them in a court of law. Process serving is an important aspect of the Due Process of Law.

Process serving laws and rules of civil procedure are different from state to state. You should visit the State Rules of Civil Procedure section of Serve-Now.com to learn more about service of process in your state.

One type of service is called “substituted service”. This legal process of service is when the documents are left with an adult resident of the named party at the target’s home, or with a management level employee at their place of business. There are also circumstances when posting in a prominent place (followed up by a certified mail copy) is an accepted method of service.

When service of process was first instituted, sheriffs or deputies, and agents of the court performed this important aspect of due process. This became a burden on law enforcement, so the legislation changed. Now, in many states, any US citizen that is not a party to the case, over the age of 18, and residing in the state where the matter is to be tried in court can serve papers.

Keep in mind that process serving laws differ from state to state and may change. Some states require that process server be licensed, some require registration with the county and in some states, they are required to post a surety bond. Visit the State Rules of Civil Procedure section of ServeNow.com to learn more about service of process in your state. At ServeNow.com we believe you will get the best results by using a local, professional process serving company over the sheriff.

A legal process server delivers (serves) court documents to the defendant or individual listed on the legal document being served. The process server must serve the documents in accordance with the legislation in the area of service. This may mean handing the documents to the defendant personally or performing substituted service to someone in the same household or business. Once a process server delivers the documents, an Affidavit of Service, also called a Proof of Service, is notarized and given to the party who requested the service.

Process servers will also file your papers with the courts, can do document retrieval and may offer various types of investigations: skip trace, people locates, surveillance, etc.

Yes, is the short answer. Most process servers offer a suite of legal support service including document filing and eFiling (electronic filing). It is likely that you will have to pay an additional fee for this service.

Not all states require a process server to be licensed. However, some states require that process servers be registered in their county or state, or appointed to serve in a specific county. The below states require a process serving license.

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Oklahoma

To see Rules of Civil Procedure according to your state, view our Civil Procedure Resource.

An Affidavit of Service, also called a Proof of Service, is a signed document provided to you by your process server upon completion of serving your documents. Proof of Service states when, where, and who was served. There are a number of other affidavits that can be provided to you as a client. For instance, an Affidavit of Due Diligence may be provided if the person to be served cannot be located.

You cannot serve papers for a case that you are involved in. Depending on your location, you may be able to serve papers yourself if you are 18 years or older and not a party to the case. However, other states require licensing or registration to be a professional process server. Read more about becoming a process server on our help page.

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Introduction to Process Service

Hiring Process Servers

The national average is $45 - $75.

Process serving rates can vary from case to case and state to state. Same day or rush serves are typically billed at a higher rate. The cost of a routine serve (a serve that is first attempted within 5-7 days of receiving the papers) can be as low as $20 and can go up to $100, but the national average is somewhere between $45 and $75. At ServeNow.com, we recommend you contact multiple process servers that cover a particular area. You will want to ask them about cost, TAT (turn-around-time) and the number of attempts.

You may incur additional mileage fees or skip tracing fees if you need the person located or is evasive. Additionally, if you have a rush serve, a same day serve or you need papers served the next day or on a holiday you can expect to pay more.

When getting a price quote from a process server you will want to ask a couple of questions… “What is your turn-around time? (How quickly can you get this done?)” and “How many attempts do I get at the quoted price?”.

First of all, it is important to know that many states require a process server to be licensed. So in these states, the answer is yes.

As a general rule of thumb, if you are initiating or responding to a court case, it is ideal to use a process server to serve documents for best results.

Hiring a process server is an important step in proceeding with a court case. Process servers have the skills and experience to serve your legal documents in a timely and affordable manner and, more importantly, serve them in accordance with the local and state process serving laws.

Typically you will want to hire a process server where the papers are to be served. Process servers are trained and certified by their state, so hiring an individual where the papers are to be served ensures that they are following that state's rules and regulations. Furthermore, process servers may charge mileage fees, so hiring a process server nearby will help reduce costs.

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Introduction to Process Service

Getting Papers Served

1 Hire

Agree on price and service details.

2 Send

Send your paperwork to the server.

3 Serve

Process server effectuates process.

4 Mail

Signed affidavit is mailed to you.

For standard serves, the typical time to serve papers is 5-7 days.

Turn-around-time (or TAT) can vary from process server to process server. However, this is something that can be determined in most cases by you, which usually leads to a higher cost. Most process servers offer rates for the following speeds of service:

  • Same Day Service
  • Rush Service (first attempt usually within 3 days)
  • Routine Service (first attempt with 5-7 days)

Laws vary state to state. Look at your state's rules of civil procedure for a complete answer on the requirements of process serving.

In general, there are several requirements and constraints associated with the rules of service of process. In some states, you cannot serve on Sundays or holidays. Some places do not allow process service on a person traveling to court. It is also very important to note that papers cannot be served by someone involved in the case or legal proceeding.

If a serve is not done in accordance with these rules, and other rules determined by your state, it can hinder your case from going forward or result in the dismissal of your case. Improper service also delays obtainment of evidence, which can cause injunctions, court fees, and attorney’s fees.

Even if a process server does not need licensure in the state where you need service, you should keep in mind that a process server is someone experienced in serving legal documents efficiently. More importantly, professional process servers are knowledgeable of the legislation surrounding service of process in their state or county. There are several requirements and constraints associated with serving legal documents that vary from state to state, or county to county. If the service is not performed in accordance with the law, this can hinder your case from going forward or result in the dismissal of your case.

If you are serious about your case, you want the papers properly served. Paying a professional process server a nominal fee can save your case.

Laws vary state to state whether papers may be mailed to a defendant. Oftentimes, if an individual is unreachable but a valid address exists, a judge can order that mailing paperwork to serve an individual is legal.

If a judge allows mailing paperwork, certified mail is best as it confirms delivery.

Where you are serving papers depends on which state the papers are being served in or are coming from. This is also an important reason why you need a process server.

In most states, you can serve anyone anywhere at any time. In some states like Virginia, Florida, and others, you cannot serve someone at their residence on Sundays, nor can you serve them when they are traveling to and from a court of law. Some states don’t allow serves to occur on holidays. Please check the laws in your state or consult with a professional process server.

If the named party in the documents cannot be found, the court may allow service by publication in a newspaper. Before this can happen, you are often asked to prove to the court that a server made reasonable attempt to actually serve the defendant or the person named. This is where the hiring of a professional process server comes into play.

In some states a “Substitute Service” is acceptable. This is when a server seves someone other than the defendant. Substitute service should only be done as the last resort and shown as part of the Due Diligence process. Please refer to the rules of civil procedure in your state.

Another option is e-service which allows service of papers electronically, but a judge must also approve this.

In most cases, a defendant or target does not have to formally accept service in order for it to be considered effective. If the defendant comes to the door but refuses the papers, the process server may just have to leave them at their feet and walk away. In some states, proper service is effectuated if the person admits to being the defendant and/or they actually touch or are touched with the papers. Please refer to the service of process laws in your state or contact a professional process server to ensure that process service is carried out accurately and legally.

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Introduction to Process Service

Questions about ServeNow

ServeNow is a network of process servers. We help lawyers, businesses, private individuals, and more locate reliable process servers where they need papers served.

Anyone needing to hire a process server should utilize ServeNow.com to find pre-screened local process servers. This includes but is not limited to legal professionals, collection companies, corporations, government agencies, and the general public.

You can use the search bar found on any page on ServeNow.com to search where you need papers served! A list of reputable process servers will appear for you to review and contact.

ServeNow.com is a directory of local, pre-screened process servers. Using local companies will decrease cost and increase efficiency. All process servers listed on ServeNow.com must meet listing requirements and have at least one year of experience before being listed in our directory. ServeNow.com users also have access to ServeManager - a secure application that provides updated status of all your serves, no matter who is serving them or where service is taking place. Additionally, if you ever feel like you aren't receiving adequate service from a company listed on our directory, please contact us and we will do our best to help you resolve your issues.

ServeNow.com aims to be the only resource you need for locating and using process servers anywhere. If you can't find the help you need on ServeNow.com, call us toll-free at (877) 737-8366, and we will help you find a process server at no charge.

ServeNow.com is a directory of local pre-screened process servers. By using a process server listed on ServeNow.com, you are going straight to the person or company serving your papers. You will save time and money, and you will have a shorter chain of communication regarding your serves should you have questions regarding the status of your service.

Additionally, all process servers listed on ServeNow.com go through an application process in which they must provide two letters of recommendation and have at least one year of process serving experience.

Most importantly, by using a process server on ServeNow.com you have a place to go if you ever have problems with your service. Contact us to find a process server or discuss your case.

ServeManager is a web-based application that allows process servers to communicate with their clients—paralegals, lawyers, debt collectors, other process servers and more. Whether you have 5 serves or 5,000 serves, ServeManager provides an interface where you can see the status of all your serves at any given time. ServeManager allows the client to upload one or more jobs at a time, find a process server, and assign the job to a specific process server. On the other end, the process server can download all relevant documents and obtain information necessary to perfect the serve. During the life of the job, the client will be kept abreast of the status of their serve and can communicate with the process server.

ServeManager is a one-of-a-kind application that allows process servers and their clients to collaborate from any internet connection. You will find no application in the process serving industry that is as secure and reliable as ServeManager.

Register for a free 14-day trial today and get full access to all the powerful, time-saving features of ServeManager.

Software for Process Servers

More information can be found on process serving at ServeNow.com's Process Server Glossary.