How to serve documents for court

In order to have your paperwork be effective in court, in most cases it needs to  be “served” or legally given to the other party. Service means “to leave with”.
First, you generally cannot serve the other party yourself. You need to have someone who is not also a person involved in the lawsuit, who is over 18 years old, and is a resident of the State serve the papers. They need to serve every document that you are filing with the court.

In every type of service, you will need to have the affidavit of service filled out, listing each document served as well as when and where the papers were served.

Personal Service

For personal service, they need to actually give the person the papers. It is best to make a list of each document to be served on the affidavit of service and the server should make sure that each of the listed documents are in the packet to be served. They will be required to sign a document affirming under penalty of perjury that they served each document to the other party. That document is called an affidavit of service and the completed form must be filed with the court clerk after the papers are served. The date, time and place of service must be filled in.

Substitute Service

Papers can also be served on another person who lives at the same place as the opposing party. The person served must be of “suitable age and discretion” then resident therein. This varies but would normally be an older teenager. It is always best to get the name of the person who the papers are left with. A description is helpful if the other side denies they received the papers.

Service by Certified Mail

Certain cases (child support modification is one) can be served by certified mail. If you use this method, you must use a form of mail where the person must sign for the document themselves (restricted delivery) with proof of that delivery returned to you (this is commonly the postal service green card). That proof will need to be filed with the court as the affidavit of service.

Service by Publication

Certain types of cases allow papers to be published instead of giving the other side the papers directly. Generally these are cases where you have no idea where the other party is residing or located. Publication is fairly expensive and you should get legal advice if you think this is proper in your case.