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Process Serving Glossary

Welcome to the ServeNow process server glossary. Below you will find a number of key terms related to legal service of process.

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Abscond is to leave a jurisdiction and avoid being served with legal papers or getting arrested.

Abuse of Process

Abuse of Process is the misuse of the legal process by illegal or malicious means. Examples include serving a complaint that has not been filed for the purpose of intimidation, or filing a false declaration of service.


Accept is to receive something with approval and intention to keep it. This use often arises on the question of accepting a payment which is late or not complete or accepting the “service” (delivery) of legal papers.

Acceptance of Service

A defendant or an individual’s attorney can accept a complaint or other petition without having the sheriff or process server show up at the door. Acceptance of Service must be in writing or there is no proof that the service took place. Most jurisdictions require a form entitled Receipt and Acknowledgment of Acceptance of Service.

Actual Eviction

When a tenant is wrongfully removed from their premises, which usually occurs by a landlord and is not written in the terms of the lease, it is a violation and wrongfully deprives a tenant of the possession of premises.

Affidavit of Service

Any written document in which the signer swears under oath before a notary public or someone authorized to take oaths that the statements in the document are true.

Agent for Acceptance of Service

A defendant or their attorney can accept a complaint or other petition without having the sheriff or process server show up at the door. The acceptance of service must be in writing or there is no proof that it happened. Most jurisdictions require a “Receipt and Acknowledgment of Acceptance of Service”.

Asset Searches

An asset is an item or property with monetary value, including things with sentimental value. Assets are shown in balance sheets, inventories, and probate estates and in divorces. There are several types of assets including accounts receivable, fixed assets, basic equipment, structures and intangibles.

Background Investigation

Conducting a background investigation and background check is critical to a successful investigation. A thorough background investigation can make or break a case. Background Checks are done to find out something about an individual, a business, or the history of something, or someone.

Bench Warrant

An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.

Civil Process Server

A Civil Process Server is used to file a Civil Lawsuit, or Divorce in a court of law on behalf of a law firm, attorney, and corporation, business or individual. A Civil Process Server Serves the other side notification that a case has been filed against them. This Notification will provide instructions on how to proceed. Civil Process Servers also serve Subpoenas, Summons, Complaints and much more.


The first document filed with the County Clerk by a person or entity claiming legal rights against an individual, or company. The party filing the complaint is usually called the plaintiff and the party they are filing the claim against is called the defendant(s).


Treating a situation as if it were true, also called legal fiction. For example, if I give someone my bank account number and ask them to make a deposit for me and they withdraw my funds, that individual has Constructive Possession.

Constructive Eviction

When a landlord foregoes legal eviction and takes steps to keep tenant from living in their unit. Examples of Constructive Eviction, changing the locks, turning off the water, blocking the driveway, yelling at the tenant or nailing the door shut. Please see Actual Eviction and Eviction for more info.

Constructive Notice

A fiction notice is when someone receives a false notice, even though that notice was personally delivered to them.

Contempt of Court

Defying a court authority or dignity can place you in Contempt of Court. If you curse at a judge, or exercise violence against an officer of the court, or do not adhere to a Court Order, you can be in Contempt of Court and be charged with a fine, or a short stay (overnight) in jail.

Court Order

A Court order is a decision made by a judge, court referee, commissioner or magistrate that demands or directs something, or someone to do.

Court Services

There are several Courts in the United States, Family Court, Criminal Court, Appellate Court, Court of Appeals, Supreme Court, etc. Each Court is governed by state and local laws and hears cases respectively.


Defendant(s) is/are the parties being sued in a civil lawsuit or the individual being charged with a crime in a criminal prosecution. In a divorce, a defendant is referred to as a respondent.


Diligence is a satisfactory amount of attention in a matter. It is a fair attempt. An example of diligence is a process server’s due diligence in locating and serving someone legal papers.

Dissolution of Marriage

See: Divorce


The termination of a marriage by legal action, requiring a petition or complaint for divorce (or dissolution in some states, including California) by one party. Some states still require at least a minimal showing of fault, but no-fault divorce is now the rule in which “incompatibility” is sufficient to grant a divorce. The substantive issues in divorces are division of property, child custody and support, alimony (spousal support), child visitation and attorney’s fees. Only state courts have jurisdiction over divorces, so the petitioning or complaining party can only file in the state in which he/she is and has been a resident for a period of time (as little as six weeks in Nevada). In most states the period from original filing for divorce, serving the petition on the other party and final judgment (or decree) takes several months to allow for a chance to reconcile.

Document Filing and Retrieval

Document Filing and Retrieving is the Preparation and filing of legal documents. Commonly filed and retrieved documents are, corporate documentation, certificates of Good Standing, Foreign and Domestic Certificates, Certificates Evidencing Filing, Certificates Evidencing Dissolution, certified copies, corporate verification, assumed business names, and franchise tax searches.

Due Process of law

Due Process is the principle of fairness in all legal matters. Legal procedures set statutes and court practice, including notice of rights, which must be adhered to so that no prejudice occurs. Due Process safeguards private and public rights against unfairness.

Due process

Due Process is fundamental procedural legal safeguards that every citizen has an absolute right to when a court alleges to make a decision that could affect the right of that individual. Under Due Process is the right to be given notice and to be heard.


When someone is evicted, they are lawfully removed as a tenant from occupancy of property. Eviction is also called Actual Eviction and Constructive Eviction.

Expert witness

A witness with specific knowledge, a specialist called to testify and corroborate or debunk facts surrounding a legal case in question.

Insurances Fraud Investigation

Insurance fraud is deceiving an insurance company, or agent to collect money, which the party is not entitled to. Insurers and Agents can also defraud consumers. Often Insurance fraud is when an individual stages an accident, injury, theft, arson or other loss to collect money illegally from insurance companies.

Order to Show Cause

A court order that requires a person to appear in court on a specific date and time. If failure to appear occurs, the court will take action. Action can include, being punished for being in Contempt of Court, or ordering a Bench Warrant for that individual’s immediate arrest.

Personal Service

Personal service is being handed a copy of legal papers by a Process Server.


A petition is a formal request for something in writing directed at an individual.

Petition for Divorce

A request for legal termination of a marriage requires a petition or complaint for divorce, also referred to as dissolution in some states by an individual. Jurisdiction is defined by each state. Some states require a minimal showing of fault. There are also no-fault states, in which incompatibility is enough evidence to grant a divorce. The primary issues in divorces are division of property, child custody and support and spousal support.


A plaintiff is when someone initiates a lawsuit by filing a complaint with the clerk of the court against the defendant(s) demanding reparations.

Priority service

Priority Service is when the initial attempt to Process Serve the party is made upon requesting Legal Process Service. Traditionally, there are a minimum amount of attempts included within Regular Service. This varies from 2-4 times. Charges can increase if the party being served requires more attempts.

Private Investigation Service

A Private Investigator is hired by a Law Firm, Lawyer, corporation, or individual to obtain court records, government agency filings, vital statistics, property ownerships, vehicle and vessel records, photographs, witness statements and much more. Many Legal Investigators specialize in various court cases and are typically employed by law firms or lawyers. Private Investigators prepare criminal defenses, locate witnesses, serve legal documents, interview police and prospective witnesses, and gather and review evidence.

Private Process Server

A Private Process Server is referred to as an Officer or a Sheriff. A Private Process Server enters a public area of business to serve process in compliance with local and state laws and into a private place of business where there is an expectation of privacy to serve process. Any individual or individuals who try to resist the Process of Service, or obstruct Justice can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Process Server and Process Server Agent

A Legal Process Server delivers Judicial Paperwork and, or files Legal Paperwork with a Court on behalf of Law Firms, Individuals, Corporations and Organization in accordance with the Law. Typical Process Serving, Process Service and Service of Process requests also include unlimited attempts to serve the party and Notarized Proof of Service upon completing the Legal Process of Service. The types of documents served are Subpoenas, Summons and Evictions,

Proof of Service

A form filed with the court proving a date that legal documents were formally served to a party regarding a court action.

Public Records Search

Public Records Research allows an Individual or Private Investigator to access public record databases on the Internet or offline. Common public records research includes, finding business information, corporate filings, property records, unclaimed property, professional licenses, offenders, inmates, criminal and civil court filings.

Regular Service

Regular Process Service is when the initial attempt to Process Serve the party is made within 48 to 72 hours. Traditionally, there are a minimum amount of attempts included within Regular Service. This varies from 2-4 times. Charges can increase if the party being served requires more attempts.

Return of Service

written confirmation under oath by a process server declaring that there was service of legal documents (such as a summons and complaint). See also: service, service of process

Rush Service

Rush Process Service is when the initial attempt to Process Serve the party is made within 24 hours. Traditionally, there are a minimum amount of attempts included within Regular Service. This varies from 2-4 times. Charges can increase if the party being served requires more attempts.

Same Day Service

Same-Day Service is when the documents to be Process Served are picked up and delivered that same day. Traditionally, there are a minimum amount of attempts included within Regular Service. This varies from 2-4 times. Charges can increase if the party being served requires more attempts.

Service by Fax

Delivery of legal documents served via Fax followed by a mailing of an original copy to the individual, or their attorney. Service by Fax is recognized by the courts.

Service by Mail

Service by Mail is mailing legal papers to the opposing party, or their attorney and filing the original with the clerk of the court with a declaration stating the legal papers were mailed and to the individual they were mailed to.

Service by Publication

Service by publication is to serve legal documents on a defendant by publishing the document in an advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation.

Service of Process

The Service of process is a legal term used by a Court of Law to exercise its jurisdiction involved in legal proceedings, or actions brought against them. Each jurisdiction is governed by its own local and state rules regarding the Service of Process.

Skip Trace and Skip Tracing

Skip Tracing is digging up information about someone. Common Skip Traces are Debts, Legal Matters, Repossessions, Locating Witnesses, Missing Persons and Heirs, Life Insurance Beneficiaries, Locating People and Property. Skip Tracing is also commonly used to locate Friends, Relatives, or Loved ones. Skip Tracing is very useful in Divorce, Past Due Child Support, Bail Jumpers, or finding Convicted Criminals.


A subpoena is an order of the court for a witness to appear and testify, or produce documents. Failure to appear is punished by Contempt of Court.

Substituted Service

Substituted Service is serving legal documents with an adult resident of the home of the individual being served, or a management level employee of a business.


A document issued by the court when a lawsuit is filed stating the name of the plaintiff and defendant, the title of the case, the file number and the contact information of each party, or their attorneys.


Surveillance is the continual observation of a person or group and verification of that person or groups activity. Surveillance is used to investigate criminal activities, domestic disputes, adultery and much more. In most instances, it is important to hire an investigator so that the evidence collected resulting from the surveillance can be used in a court of law.

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