When a legal action is being taken against an individual in either civil or criminal court, the legal procedure notifying that individual is process service. An individual is required to be notified concerning their involvement in a court procedure before it begins according to federal law.
Common documents served include subpoenas, writs, complaints, and summons. Any and all documentation describing the legal action directed toward the recipient must be delivered through process service.
When a process server has identified the recipient and notified them that they have legal documents that recipient is considered served in the eyes of the law. This is true regardless of whether or not the recipient has physically touched the documentation.
An Affidavit of Service will be provided to the attorney of record after documentation has been served. The affidavit is a signed document that states the who, where, and when that the service was completed and will be filed with the court. In the event that the intended recipient is difficult to locate, an Affidavit of Due Diligence will be provided by the process server.
In the event that an individual is proving difficult to locate or is avoiding being served, there are a few possible steps to take. If the rules allow it, the documents may be left with another member of the household when the individual isn’t at home, known as substitute service. In more difficult situations a possible method of delivery is to conduct a stakeout by waiting at a location the individual presumed to be. When these scenarios prove unsuccessful filing for alternative service may be required. This means that the service may be mailed or possibly published in a newspaper.
Requirements to be a process server vary by state. Some states, such as Alaska and Nevada, require a process server to be licensed. A New Jersey process server does not require a license but must be 18 years of age or older and not directly involved in the case.