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How Does the Defendant Find Out About the Claim?

You must make sure the defendant finds out about the lawsuit. This has to be done according to the rules or your case may be dismissed or delayed. The correct way of telling the defendant about the lawsuit is called service of process. This means giving the defendant a copy of the claim. YOU CANNOT DO THIS YOURSELF. Here are four ways to serve the defendant.

Service by a law officer
  • You may ask the Sheriff's Office in the county where the defendant will be served.
  • A fee will be charged.
Process Server
  • You may ask anyone who IS NOT a party in your case and who is at least 18 years old to serve the defendant.
  • The person is called a process server and must personally give a copy of your claim to the defendant.
  • The person must also sign a proof of service form showing when the defendant was served.
  • Registered process servers will do this for you for a fee. You may also ask a friend or relative to do it.
Certified Mail
  • You may ask the clerk of the court to serve the defendant by certified mail. The clerk will charge a fee.
  • You should check back with the clerk before the court hearing to see if the receipt for certified mail was returned to the court.
  • Service by certified mail must be done by the clerk's office. You cannot serve the defendant this way yourself.
Substituted Service
  • This method lets you serve another person in place of the defendant. you must follow the procedures carefully. You may also wish to use the Sheriff's Office or a registered process server.
  • A copy of your claim must be left:
    • With the defendant's authorized agent; or
    • At the defendant's business with the person in charge; or
    • At the defendant's home with a competent person who is at least 18 years old; and
    • The person who receives the claim must be told about its contents; and
    • Another copy must be mailed, first class, postage prepaid, to the defendant at the address where the claim was left. The service is not complete until 10 days after the copy is mailed.
No matter which method of service you choose, the defendant must be served by a certain date or the trial will be postponed. If the defendant lives in the county, service must be completed at least 10 days before the trial date. This period is 15 days if the defendant lives outside the county.

The person who serves the defendant must sign a court paper showing when the defendant was served. This paper is called Proof of Service. It must be signed and returned to the clerk's office as soon as the defendant has been served.

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