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What Exactly Can a Process Server Do to Serve Papers?

What Exactly Can a Process Server Do to Serve Papers?

The US Constitution requires you to notify a recipient of a pending lawsuit against them. The lawsuit might be seeking divorce, child custody, child support, any combination of these, some other family law issue, or some other civil law issue such as personal injury.

This notification takes the form of “service of process,” where a trained, neutral third party delivers certain documents to the recipient. There are legal limitations on what a process server can do to accomplish their objective. Below is a brief outline of what processors do.

Locating the Recipient

It is difficult to notify someone you cannot locate. That is why locating a recipient is one of the most important skills that a process server can possess. In many cases, the recipient already knows of the proceedings and is deliberately evading service of process. Imagine a husband, for example, who seeks to evade service of process because he doesn’t want to divorce. 

A process server can use any legal means to locate a recipient. Naturally, they cannot use illegal means, such as hacking into the recipient’s email account to find out where they live.

Personal Service

Personal service is the ideal of the justice system. Personal service means you confront the recipient face to face and physically place the relevant documents (typically a court summons and a copy of a lawsuit complaint) into the recipient’s hands. 

With personal service, the recipient is deprived of the opportunity to claim not to have received notice of the proceedings.

Substitute Service

Sometimes, it is impossible or impractical to personally serve the recipient. In that case, a court may allow a process server to leave the papers with someone “of suitable age and discretion” at the recipient’s home or workplace.

Mail Service 

Some courts allow process servers to serve process by certified mail, at least if attempts at personal service and substitute service have failed.

Document Delivery to Authorized Agent

You can place papers directly into the hands of an individual recipient. You cannot, however, place documents in the “hands” of a corporation, because corporations do not have hands. 

They do, however, have individuals as the corporation’s registered agents for service of process. When the recipient is a corporation, the process server can deliver the necessary papers to the corporation’s registered agent.

Service by Publication

If the process server or the complainant cannot locate the recipient after a diligent search, the court might accept service of process via publication in a newspaper.

Electronic Service of Process

The conditions that justify service by electronic means (email, for example) are an emerging area of law. Different courts apply different rules, and they can change rapidly.

Filing Proof of Service 

After serving the papers, the process server must provide the court with proof of service by submitting an affidavit that specifies how, when, and where the papers were served. An affidavit is a sworn statement–making a materially false statement can carry criminal penalties.

Service of Process and the Statute of Limitations Deadline

The first step in filing a lawsuit is to file a formal complaint with the court. You must also pay a filing fee. The next step is to serve process on the defendant. 

New Jersey law allows a specific period (typically 90 days) to serve the recipient and thereby avoid dismissal of the action. A court will extend this deadline under certain circumstances, especially if the defendant is actively evading service.

Process servers in New Jersey must navigate these specific state rules to ensure the legal process is upheld. The nuances of New Jersey law, highlight the importance of understanding local legal frameworks for effective service of process.

If you are considering filing a family law action, it is likely to be contentious despite your best efforts. That is exactly why you probably need the services of an experienced family lawyer to help you work things out. Service of process, or responding to service, is only one of many challenges you will have to meet.

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm in Red Bank. NJ at (732) 747-1882 or contact us online today.
You can also visit our law firm at 157 Broad St #111, Red Bank, NJ 07701.

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