What is considered for a person to be officially served?
“You’ve been served” is a common line in movies and TV shows, but many people don’t understand the criteria that must be met in order for a person to be officially served. We’ll go over the process of legally serving someone in this article.
First of all, there are requirements for the person serving the legal papers. They must legally be an adult (18 or older). Contrary to popular perception, papers do not need to be served by a legal professional. However, they must be served by someone with a legitimate interest in the case. This could be a friend, a sibling, or anyone else you know. In some instances, the court may have to approve of having someone other than you serve papers related to your case.
If you have the resources, you may want to consider hiring a professional to serve papers. There are private services that you can research. Another option is requesting that the police serve your papers. This is a great option because they will be fully familiar with the legal process and are unlikely to botch it. However, police will usually charge a nominal fee for this service, since it takes time out of their day.
In order for a person to be officially served, they must have sufficient notice. This can vary by jurisdiction. Essentially, it means that you need to give the person adequate time to prepare for court. Most often, the required time period is 30 days, but it may be longer. This is one of the most common reasons service is considered invalid. It must be served on a day other than Sunday. Generally, a person cannot be officially served on Sunday.
In most cases, you’ll have to make a record that you have physically given the papers to the person. This is done through a “Proof of Service” document that a courthouse can provide you. This may vary by state. Some states allow you to simply send it through Certified Mail. It’s important to know, however, that about half of all papers served in this manner are deemed invalid. The person receiving it can often make a convincing argument that there is no proof that they actually viewed it. That’s why serving papers physically is always the best option as long as it doesn’t endanger your safety.
If you cannot locate the person you’re trying to serve, retain a record of all the attempts you have made to find them. Many judges will give you a broader range of service options if you can demonstrate you’ve made a good-faith effort to locate the person you’re serving with no luck. As a last ditch effort, you can do what is called “Service By Publication”. This is very rarely granted, and it’s only for cases where finding the defendant is impossible. In short, a judge chooses a newspaper, and you have an ad printed in the newspaper that contains the information that would have been included in the service paper.
Officially serving someone can be very stressful, but you should always remember the legal criteria for doing so. In short: it must be served by a competent adult and there must be solid proof, according to your state’s standards, that the person has received the papers.