A common question asked by our clients who are beginning a domestic process, or a family law litigation process at LaCourse Law is, 'How do I let my other party know that the process began?' or, 'How do I serve that person with domestic papers?' The law is clear on this matter. In the United States, we have a concept called 'due process' in which everybody has the right to know that a case has been levied against them. They also have the 'right of due process,' here they can either fight that, agree to it, or understand that a case has begun against them. Apart of the due process concept is serving someone notice of these proceedings. Service is done primarily in one of four ways, which we will share today.
The first way to serve someone consists of you hiring a private processor to serve that person the papers. Which sometimes cannot be easy. Some people do not want to be served and they hunker into their residence to avoid receiving the papers. In scenarios such as this, private processors have a few ways they manage to serve that person. If the private processor knows that said person is in the building, he's seen them go in and there's no other way out, and he can confirm that this is where they are, the private processor can then say that he has served them at their known location. If someone else is also living at that residence, answers the door, and is over the age of fourteen years, the private processor can serve that person the papers, and that is considered good service. Private processors can also become very creative in how they deliver papers to people. Most things you watch on television are not true, but instances such as private processors pretending to be pizza delivery guys and serving the person alongside pizza can happen since people are more ready to receive a pizza than they are a process server. Private processors can go to people's workplaces, they can also serve them in parking lots, essentially, they try to find them where they know they're going to be.
The second way you can serve papers is by using the sheriff's department. The sheriff's department can be hired to go and deliver those private papers to an individual at their residence.
Another way to serve papers is by, what we call, service by publication. Service by publication is a court-enforced mechanism of notifying the person. We only do this, however, if we have tried every way that we know to find them individually, such as, calling their parents, and going to Facebook. So, in order for us to serve them, we need to publish it in a local newspaper. Within the local newspaper this person is hereby given notice that there are papers that have been drawn up against them, that we can't find them, and that we want it to be known that we are serving you through publication. This process requires the permission of the court to do so. It is important to note that you cannot just go straight to publication. You have to actually attempt and utilize every mechanisms possible in order for that person to be served the papers. The law defines what steps have to be taken, what is good measure, what are good-faith steps to try and find that person. Once that is exhausted, we then can ask the court to give us an order allowing us to serve by publication. We then go to a local newspaper and give notice through them. If nobody responds, this is still considered to be good service through publication.
The last mechanism is that somebody can actually agree to just receive service individually. Here, they sign a statement called a waiver of service, which means they agree to accept the papers. They sign that service in front of a notary, which they can do at a law office, a bank, and many other places. By accepting the papers, it does not mean that they are agreeing to the statement that's inside, it simply means that they are just agreeing to receive the papers and do not need a sheriff or private processor to come to serve them.
If you have more questions about the domestic process or how to serve somebody please feel free to contact our office at lacourselaw.com or 918-744-7100 would be happy to talk to you about your scenario