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Frequently Asked Questions about Process Serving

Navigating the complex world of process serving can be a daunting task, especially when you're bombarded with legal jargon and misinformation. As an essential part of the United States legal system, understanding what process serving is and how it works is crucial for those involved in any court case.

In this blog post, we'll provide clear answers to some frequently asked questions about process serving, debunk common myths, and equip you with valuable insights for your next encounter with this indispensable practice.

Understanding Process Serving

Process serving involves delivering legal documents to parties involved in a court case, and it is important to understand the legal requirements, who can serve documents, and how the process of serving is done.

Definition And Purpose

Process serving plays a critical role in the legal system as it ensures that all parties involved in a court case receive proper notice of their involvement. Defined as the act of delivering essential legal documents to individuals or entities, process serving allows for due process and protects each party's right to be informed about any legal actions taken against them.

The primary purpose of process serving is to guarantee that every individual involved in a lawsuit has ample time and opportunity to prepare for their case and defend themselves accordingly.

For example, when someone files a lawsuit against another person or company, the defendant must first be served with the necessary papers outlining the allegations levied against them.

This gives them an opportunity to understand the charges, seek professional advice from an attorney if needed, and formulate their defense strategy before appearing in court.

Legal Requirements

In the United States, legal requirements for process serving vary from state to state. A process server must follow the laws and regulations in their specific jurisdiction.

For example, some states require that a process server be licensed or registered while others do not have any such requirement.

Process servers must also adhere to due process requirements which ensure that parties involved in a legal case are given notice of the proceedings against them and an opportunity to respond.

Failure to properly serve legal documents can result in delays or even dismissal of a case.

Who Can Serve Legal Documents?

In the United States, legal documents can typically be served by anyone who is over 18 and not a party to the case. This means that friends, family members, or even coworkers of the parties involved in a lawsuit are allowed to serve papers.

In some cases, it may be advantageous to hire a professional process serving company to ensure that all legal requirements are met and that the service of process is done correctly.

Professional process servers often have experience handling difficult situations and know how to navigate laws and regulations surrounding service of process.

How Is Process Serving Done?

Process serving is typically done by a private citizen known as a process server. The server must follow all legal requirements, including properly identifying themselves and delivering the legal documents to the correct person or party involved in the court case.

Depending on state laws, there may be specific rules regarding how the documents should be served. For example, some states require that the papers be delivered directly to the individual being served while others allow for them to be left with someone else at their residence or place of work.

Process servers may use different techniques such as stakeouts or even disguises to serve papers successfully. If someone cannot be located or refuses to accept service, alternative methods like certified mail or posting notices in local newspapers may also be utilized.

Common Questions About Process Serving

How much does process serving cost? What happens if the person being served refuses to accept the documents? How to find out why a process server is looking for you? Read on to find answers to these frequently asked questions about process serving.

How Much Does Process Serving Cost?

The cost of process serving can vary depending on several factors, including the location of the person being served, the speed at which you need the documents to be delivered, and whether any additional services are required.

In general, fees for process serving can range from around $50 to $200 or more.

Some states have a statutory fee schedule for service of process by certified mail or sheriff's department employees. For example, in Maryland, service of process fees range between $20 and $60 per attempt.

It is important to remember that hiring an experienced and professional process server may be worth the extra cost as they have a greater knowledge of laws and regulations regarding legal document serving than uncertified private citizens.

How Long Does It Take To Serve Legal Documents?

The time it takes to serve legal documents can vary depending on the circumstances and the location of the person being served. Generally, most process serving companies aim to complete service within a few days or up to 2 weeks at most.

However, some cases may take longer if the person being served is difficult to locate or attempts to avoid service. In some instances, a process server may need to make multiple visits before successfully serving the papers.

Additionally, certain legal requirements such as specific time frames for delivering court summons can affect how long it takes for a process server to complete their task.

What Happens If The Person Being Served Refuses To Accept The Documents?

If the person being served refuses to accept the documents, the process server will typically make note of the refusal and continue with their attempts to serve them. Contrary to popular belief, a person does not have to physically touch or hold the papers in order for service of process to be considered valid.

In some cases, if a person is difficult or evasive, a process server may use alternative methods such as leaving the documents with another adult at their residence or place of business.

Alternatively, they may deliver the papers via certified mail.

It's important for individuals who are being served with legal papers not to ignore them and seek help from an attorney if needed.

How To Find Out Why A Process Server Is Looking For You?

If you've been served legal documents by a process server, it's important to understand why they are looking for you. Generally speaking, if someone is trying to sue you or there is a legal case against you, the process server will be serving documents related to that case.

It's also worth noting that ignoring legal papers won't make them go away. In fact, avoiding being served can lead to serious consequences such as default judgment against you or even jail time in some cases.

So it's best to face any issues head-on and deal with them in a timely manner before things escalate further.

Advantages Of Hiring A Professional Process Server

A professional process server offers advantages such as experience handling difficult situations, knowledge of laws and regulations, efficient and timely service, impartiality and objectivity.

Experience Handling Difficult Situations

One of the advantages of hiring a professional process server is their experience in handling difficult situations. In some cases, serving legal documents can be met with resistance or hostility from the recipient.

For example, a retired judge who now works as a process server shared that he often encounters individuals who are purposely evading service by hiding or avoiding contact.

He employs tactics such as surveillance to determine when the person is most likely to be at home, disguising himself as someone else, or approaching them in public places where they feel less threatened.

These techniques require skill and knowledge that only comes with years of experience in serving papers.

Knowledge Of Laws And Regulations

A professional process server should have extensive knowledge of laws and regulations surrounding the service of legal documents. This includes understanding state and federal rules regarding when, where, and how papers can be served.

For example, in some states like Ontario or Maryland, there are specific rules for the service of process that must be followed to ensure it is valid. Additionally, retired judges and law enforcement may have different requirements than private citizen servers.

By hiring a knowledgeable process serving company, you can ensure that your papers are being delivered legally and effectively.

It's important to ask a prospective process server about their certification and ID badges so you can verify their level of expertise. A reputable company will also provide transparent pricing information upfront so you know what to expect financially.

Efficient And Timely Service

One of the advantages of hiring a professional process server is that they can provide efficient and timely service. A good process serving company will have experience in handling legal documents and know how to serve them quickly.

They will also be familiar with local laws and regulations, which allows them to serve papers more efficiently.

For example, if you need to serve divorce papers on your spouse there may be time-sensitive issues involved. If the papers are not served promptly, it could delay the entire legal process.

Furthermore, a reliable process server understands the importance of communication throughout the entire process serving procedure.

Impartiality And Objectivity

Professional process servers are required to maintain impartiality and objectivity when serving legal documents. This means they cannot take sides or have any personal interest in the outcome of the case being served.

In addition to being impartial, professional process servers also follow strict rules and regulations set forth by their state or local jurisdiction. They understand the importance of due process, which ensures that everyone is afforded their constitutional rights under the law.

How To Choose A Process Serving Company?

Choosing a process serving company requires careful consideration to ensure that the legal documents are served on time and with accuracy. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Certified and Licensed: Choose a process serving company that is certified and licensed to operate in your state.

  2. Experience: Look for a process serving company that has years of experience in delivering legal documents.

  3. Reputation: Check reviews and testimonials from previous clients to see if they have a good reputation for efficiency, timeliness, and professionalism.

  4. Availability: Ensure that the process serving company is available when you need them, including weekends and holidays.

  5. Fees: Compare fees from different companies to determine which one offers affordable rates without compromising quality of service.

  6. Customer Service: Choose a company with excellent customer service, including prompt responses to inquiries, open communication channels, and transparency in their procedures.

By taking these factors into consideration when choosing a process serving company, you can ensure that your legal documents are served accurately and efficiently within legal requirements in your state.

What Questions To Ask A Process Serving Company?

When hiring a process serving company, it's important to ask the right questions to ensure that you are getting the best service possible. Here are some questions to consider asking:

  1. How long have you been in business?

  2. Are your process servers licensed and insured?

  3. What is your success rate for serving legal documents?

  4. How do you communicate with clients throughout the process?

  5. What methods do you use to locate hard-to-find individuals?

  6. Do you offer rush service options if needed?

  7. Can you provide references or testimonials from past clients?

  8. What is your pricing structure and are there any hidden fees?

  9. Do you offer any guarantees on successful serving of legal documents?

  10. How do you protect my privacy and confidentiality during the process?

Asking these questions can help ensure that you choose a reputable and reliable process serving company for your legal needs.


In conclusion, process serving can be a critical aspect of legal procedures and understanding its many nuances is vital. Whether you are a private citizen seeking to serve someone with papers or a law firm in need of litigation support, it is important to work with an experienced and professional process server.

By knowing what questions to ask and how much the service may cost, you can ensure that your legal documents are served quickly and efficiently.


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