In every lawsuit, a person has to be notified when a legal action has commenced against them – be it taking an issue to court, or if they are being sued. Copies of pertinent official legally binding documents are filed with the courts in the correct manner. This is known as “service of process.”
The plaintiff (who starts the action) has to demonstrate evidence to the court that the defendant has been timely served the underlying legal documents by completing and filing a Proof of Service form. Read on to learn more.
Proof Of Service Definition
This is an official affidavit, that must be signed under oath and then filed with the courts by a person following the successful service and personal delivery of legal documentations to another party.
The reason for having a Proof of Service is to ensure legal proceedings run smoothly, with notice to all parties to assure due process, and according to the established protocol. It gives both parties the opportunity to prepare and defend the case. Sometimes you will hear a Proof of Service referred to as “Affidavit of Service.” It always has to be completed and filed with the court within specific chronological parameters for it to be valid.
The Proof Of Service Form
Although they can vary from place to place as well as in some cases for varying actions being taken – each Proof of Service incorporates the following details:
- The official name of the court where the documentation has been filed.
- The case number and name.
- The name of the defendants.
- A manifest of documents timely and physically served.
- The time and date of the serving of the documents.
- The method of service.
- The place where the documentation was served.
- Clarifying if the documents were served in person, by drop service or by mail.
The person responsible for serving the documentation must put their signature of an affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that the documents were served in the method and manner started in the Proof of Service form. This can be written or typed as long as it contains the pertinent information and a valid signature from a licensed process server.
Usually there are check boxes you can mark off so the documentation can be easily identified. Categories may include summons, complaint, alternative dispute resolution package, the cover sheet for the civil case, the cross-complaint and other.
The serving of legal documents must be completed by a non-party to the case and is normally performed by a county Sheriff, Constable or Marshall, a licensed process server greater than eighteen years of age.
Although laws can differ depending on your location. In all cases the documentation must be personally served – this equals the server handing the papers to the party wherever the defendant may be located. It may be at the workplace of the person, their home, a store, a restaurant or on the sidewalk or street. The person responsible for the serving of the papers must ensure they have verified the identity of the individual they are serving the documentation too and to let them know these are court documents.
However, the defendant does not have to accept the documents. They can be left at their feet or even at the front door. Should the individual being served destroy the documents – they still count as being served. The proof required must include, the time, date, and location where the documentation was handed to the party they are intended for.
Service By Mail Delivery
Further documentation can be served via mail. The documentation must be contained in an envelope that is securely fastened and has the address of the party on the envelope that matched the address the court has, or the address where the party has asked for documentation to be delivered. This may be an office used by the attorney of the person being served. The cost of mailing must be covered in full. It is also vital to note the date of the mailing as in many areas it takes five days before they are considered to be served.
When delivery has not succeeded, some courts allow a form of substitute service. There are very certain rules that must be followed regarding previous delivery attempts and they must be documented. For example:
- One must demonstrate at least three prior attempts at delivery.
- Personal service tried at the home of the recipient on multiple days of the week and at times of the day that differ.
- If their place of employment is known, attempting to serve them there has met with a lack of success.
In these circumstances, so long as you have court approval to do so, the papers may be left with an individual who resides in the same home as long as they are greater than eighteen years of age. Or a person of authority, also over the age of eighteen at the place of employment of the recipient. The server has a duty to inform the person where and with who the documents have been left and that they are legal documentation for the party. The server has an additional obligation to mail a copy of the documentation to the address where the documents were dropped off.
Source: Team, by: Content. “Proof of Service – Definition, Examples, Processes.” Legal Dictionary, 19 Aug. 2015, legaldictionary.net/proof-of-service/.
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