logo

How is Service Done?

en español>

How is personal service done?

Ask someone who is at least 18 years old and not a plaintiff in the case to personally "serveOpens new window (deliver) a copy of your court papers to the person you are suing, to a corporation’s (or LLC’s) agent for serviceOpens new window or to another person legally authorized to accept court papers for the defendant.

Your server can deliver the papers to the defendant anytime, anywhere. However, for personal service to be valid it must be done at least 15 days before the court hearing (or 20 days, if the hearing is in a county different from where the service took place).

Tell your server to: 

  • Walk up to the person to be served. 
  • Identify the defendant (or agent for service) – preferably by name. (If this isn’t possible, note what the defendant (or agent for service) looks like to be able to describe him or her.) 
  • Say courteously and calmly, "These are court papers." 
  • Give the person copies of all the court papers. If the person won't take the papers, just leave them near the person and say, “I’m leaving them here.” (What the defendant does or does not do with the papers is up to him or her.) 
  • Fill out and sign page 2 of the Proof of Service (Small Claims) (Form SC-104). Opens new window

TIP:  If you are using a friend or family member to serve for you, ask your server to read the Proof of Service, Form SC-104, before serving so they will be able to more easily fill out the form after delivering the legal papers.

How is substituted service done?

Substituted service can only take place at the defendant’s home or place of work.  For it to be valid, substituted service must be done at least 25 days before the court hearing (or 30 days, if the hearing is in a county different from where the service took place). The days are counted from the day your server mailed the 2nd copy of the papers to the defendant. See below.

If the person you have to serve is not at home or work when your server goes there, your server can give the court papers to: 

  • A competent adult (at least 18) who appears to be living at the home with the person to be served, or 
  • An adult who seems to be in charge where the person to be served usually works, or 
  • An adult who seems to be in charge where the person receives mail (including a private mailbox, but not a U.S. Postal Service P.O. Box). Note: This is only for cases where the physical address of the person to be served is not known.

Your server also has to: 

  • Tell the person that he or she is leaving the court papers with to give them to the person you're suing. 
  • Write down the name of the person he or she gave the court papers to. If the person won't give his or her name, your server must write down a physical description of the person who took the papers. 
  • Mail (on the same day) another copy of the court papers by first-class mail to the person you're suing at the same address where he or she left the papers. 
  • Fill out and sign page 2 of the Proof of Service (Small Claims) (Form SC-104). Opens new window


How is service by mail done?

In small claims court cases, only the court clerk may serve your papers by certified mail. (There will be a fee for each defendant served.)  But if the person you are suing, or the business' agent for service, doesn't sign the U.S. Postal Service mail receipt with his or her complete name, or if someone else signs the receipt, there is no service and you will have to serve using personal or substituted service.

TIP:  After 2 weeks have passed from the time you filed the claim call the court clerk to find out if they were able to serve the defendant by certified mail. If not, you will have to consider using personal service of substituted service.



<BACK TO DURING A LEGAL PROCEEDING LIST>

<BACK TO FAQ'S MENU>

<NEXT QUESTION>



Did this information help you?  Tell us what you think.