Author: The Process Server Center | PROServerCENTER is a legal professional organization whose mission is to set a national standard for the process service industry in the United States.
Highlight: Non-services do not have to ruin your process server's reputation. Learn what's the difference between a complete and incomplete process service.
Service of process is the method employed by the parties in a lawsuit to formally deliver the legal documents on the other parties and the court. It is an essential step in commencing a civil lawsuit. In fact, service of process is so essential in a lawsuit that, if it is not performed properly, a lawsuit cannot proceed. Service of process is critical because it establishes that the court hearing the lawsuit has jurisdiction over the defendant. Jurisdiction is a court’s ability to hear a controversy involving two or more parties. A court has jurisdiction because these parties have some connection to the court, whether it is because they are citizens of the state where the court sits or because the state in which the courts sits is the site of the plaintiff's claim. Service of process is also important because it notifies the defendant that the plaintiff is bringing a lawsuit and that the courts will hear the impending lawsuit.
There are strict rules about how to serve different kinds of documents. These rules vary by federal, state, county and town courts. They also vary by the type of legal documents a process server has to deliver. It is very important to understand how to properly serve documents to the opposing party (or their lawyer if represented). Not doing it correctly can make your case grind to a halt. You may learn how to differentiate between different courts and types of documents by enrolling in the Process Server Center's Training Program for process servers.
It is clear that for a court to obtain jurisdiction to hear a case, the parties must be properly served. Based on that, for the purpose of the court and your client, a complete process service is a service that has resulted in the successful delivery of the legal documents to the person being served. Any other outcome regardless of the reason behind it, does not allow the court to proceed with the lawsuit. Hence, why attorneys and paralegals are unhappy when a process server does not complete the service and instead returns an affidavit of non service. It is important for process servers to understand the difference between a complete and incomplete service of process and how to perform thorough due diligence in order to help their clients move forward with the case.
Outcomes in Process Service
Process serving begins every time a process server is hired by an attorney or paralegal to deliver legal documents. As described above, the result of this delivery is crucial to your clients and the court in order for the lawsuit to continue. There are 2 main outcomes when serving process:
Complete Process Service
A complete process service is the successful delivery of legal documents to the person or business entity being served. For service of process to be deemed sufficient and complete, it has to be served exactly as prescribed by the originating court following the exact rules and regulations governing the lawsuit. The service of process must be done within the timeframes allowed by the court and an affidavit of service must be filed again exactly as defined by the court in this particular case.
Incomplete Process Service
An incomplete process service is any service that results in the failure to deliver the legal documents to the person or entity being served. The reasons for the incomplete process service may vary depending on the circumstances but some common reasons are:
Regardless of the reason, every incomplete process service delays the lawsuit, increases the legal expenses and causes frustration to your client. The best process servers understand what incomplete service of process really means to their clients. They act proactively in order to minimize the percentage of incomplete services and prove that thorough due diligence has been completed for each and every service. After all, the best process servers know that even though it may not be their fault, incomplete process service is greatly frowned upon by their clients. They also know that happy clients lead to more clients and ultimately to what most process servers want - to grow their process serving business! In order to minimize the number of non-services you send back to your clients, process servers may use these 8 tips for proper process service:
Many services may not be possible to complete due to factors beyond a process server's control. However, executing thorough due diligence with each attempt and fully recording/documenting all attempts made, would ultimately prove to your clients and the court that you have performed your duties as a process server, even when a service ends up as an incomplete. Being proactive and including a full write up of your evidence in your non-service affidavit would convince your client of the quality of your services. Some of the suggestions here require extra work and incur additional expenses. However, after you advise your client of the findings in the field, you may offer additional tools to help them locate, find and ultimate serve the defendant.
Accurate and timely process of service is a critical part of every legal proceeding, since most future legal action cannot be taken until documents are delivered to all involved parties. Hiring a process server with PROServer List is usually the most efficient way of ensuring legal documents are received by their intended recipients and your service of process is complete as prescribed by the rules of the originating court.