Rules of Process Serving

Process serving is an important step in ensuring Due Process of Law. A process server must deliver court summons to the parties involved in a legal dispute. However, this seemingly simple act is governed by numerous rules, regulations and laws. It is important that all relevant procedures be carefully followed, or the entire case may be jeopardized. Regulations vary between jurisdictions, but can generally be divided into several main categories. Presented here are some topics that should be considered. However, this does not constitute legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed with a competent attorney.

Method of Delivery

In virtually all jurisdictions, hand delivery is considered the optimal means of serving legal papers. Hand delivery involves physically placing the papers into the recipient's hands. Properly documented and legally executed hand delivery is extremely difficult to challenge in court. However, if the recipient is evasive or uncooperative, hand delivery may not be possible.

Some jurisdictions accept delivery by touch or a similar method. This can be defined in different ways, but may include dropping the papers at the recipient's feet, for example. If you are the process server, it is critical that you carefully document this type of delivery, including photos if possible. Also be sure that you know the exact wording and meaning of your jurisdiction's regulations regarding this form of delivery.

Delivery by substitution may be allowed if hand delivery is impossible. This form of delivery involves leaving the papers with a responsible adult who lives with the recipient, or a management level employee at his place of work. There is often a procedure that must be followed prior to instituting this type of process serving, and additional follow-up steps may be required. Be certain that you understand the laws prior to using this form of process serving.

In extreme cases, delivery by publication or electronic notification may be allowed. However, this is normally reserved for cases in which the recipient simply cannot be located. Tread very carefully, as this type of process service can easily be challenged legally.

Allowable Places, Times and Locations for Process Serving

In some jurisdictions, you may serve the paperwork at any time, in any location. However, special rules apply in some areas. You may not be permitted to serve someone who is traveling to or from court. You may not be able to serve papers on Sundays, although sometimes Sunday delivery is restricted only at the person's home. Election Day and holidays may also be off limits.

You may also be able to use the law to your advantage. For example, in some jurisdictions it is illegal for a worker to interfere with process serving against a co-worker. If you live in such a jurisdiction, you may find it easiest to serve papers at the recipient's workplace.