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Everything You Need To Know About Serving Legal Documents

Author: Jimmy Barron
Published:September 28, 2023
4 mins 59 secs

Before a legal process can start, documents must be served to all parties involved.

It is a crucial part, whether it is for a civil or criminal case, which is why professional servers are being called upon to deliver them in most cases.

In this article, we will succinctly answer questions relating to serving documents to help anyone who may need to initiate a court case.

What Are Considered Legal Documents?

The first thing that must be understood in regards to serving legal documents is what can be considered as such.

It refers to papers filed in court to in order to launch legal proceedings or to request or respond to relief.

There are a few types of documents that fall into this category, which are pleadings, motions, affidavits, subpoenas, orders and judgments.

The reason why these documents need to be served to a party is so that they can be made aware of the court proceedings and act appropriately.

This is why serving legal documents correctly is essential for the person being sued or the defendant.

What Are Considered Legal Documents

Who Can Serve Legal Documents?

Although in most states anyone over the age of 18 and who is not a party to the case can serve legal documents, professionals process servers are normally called upon to do the job.

Partly because in some states it is required that legal documents be served by their service or via a sheriff’s deputy.

To know if that applies, you must ask your local court in order to understand the specific rules that you need to follow.

However, if you enter into a legal process, the best solution is to call upon a company that employs professional process servers in all states.

Serving legal documents is not an easy task. First, the process server needs to locate the defendant and they may not want to be found.

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Secondly, it involves a lot of technical legal elements (as we will describe below) and if they are not respected, the case could be slowed down or even closed.

That is why it isn’t worth taking the risk of not using professional services. For a nationwide company, check out this website:

In Which Way Do Legal Documents Need To Be Served?

In most legal cases, the documents will need to be served through a personal service.

This means that someone who is not involved in the case will have to hand the legal documents over to the person being served directly.

This action can take place anywhere, including the home or workplace of the defendant or any other location where they may be found.

However, this is not the only method, which can be used. It may vary according to the documents that need to be served as well as the jurisdiction and the rules of court.

Here are the other most common methods that can be available in specific cases.

  • Substitute service: documents can be delivered to someone other than the defendant at the place where he lives or works. That person needs to be over 18 years old. This is a solution that can be considered legal in some cases, if the respondent can’t be found.
  • Service by mail: in some cases, legal documents can be delivered through mail. However, it is important to receive confirmation by the jurisdiction where the case will be trialled before sending documents this way.
  • Publication service: when a person cannot be found after a few trials, some states will allow publication service to take place. This means that it will be announced in a local newspaper for a defined number of days.
  • Electronic Service: now that we have moved on to a digital age, some courts consider that sending legal documents through electronic form can be valid. Again, before sending out legal documents in such manner, it is important to check with your court on their specific rules and regulations regarding this type of delivery.
What Is Proof Of Service

What Is Proof Of Service?

Serving documents to a defendant is of outmost importance in order to launch the legal process.

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However, a person can’t simply affirm that someone has served the documents on his behalf.

There needs to be a proof of service provided to the court, in order for the legal procedures to be launched.

Just like methods of delivery, there are a few ways to prove that legal documents have been served, as we will now describe them.

Again, it is important to check with the jurisdiction where the case will take place to confirm the possibilities below.

  • Affidavit of service: this written statement is made under oath and certifies that the legal documents were properly served. This is partly why professional process servers are best when it comes to serve legal documents. Their expertise in the field enables them to complete an affidavit of service that will stand in court every time, which is the most important part of the process.
  • Certificate of service: in some cases, it is possible for the person who delivered the legal documents to fill out a form called a certificate of service. In it, the delivery man or woman will be asked to describe where and when the delivery took place in detail.
  • Return of service: this is a simple document signed by the person performing the service, indicating when and where the documents were served. This is the simplest form and may not pass the test of court every time.


Serving legal documents is a critical part of the legal proceedings as it is meant to enable for the proceedings to start.

That is why it has to be done according to the rules and regulations, so that all parties can be notified properly.

Choosing a professional process server is always the best route to ensure that you will be serving legal documents properly to the defendant involved in the case.

In doubt, don’t hesitate to contact your local jurisdiction and ask any question that you may have in regards to serving legal documents.