Suppose you’ve decided to make a legal claim against another party. For example, you are filing for coverage for expenses incurred due to negligent medical attention or filing for custody of your kids. You will have to let the other side know you have started the process, and you must do this to give them enough time to brace up and react to your forthcoming suit.

While there are several ways, you could take to notify them, the easiest and by far the most common is through your lawyer. Lawyers work with professional court paper servers who help with delivering notice to a defendant.

What Is a Process Server?

A process server is indispensable to the legal process. These professionals are responsible for filing claims and exchanging documents with the court. More commonly, the process server is the person who serves court papers.

Process servers can work for agencies or operate independently in most states, and they need no formal education or training. The principal criterion for consideration as a process server is that you are over 18 and have no affiliation with the lawsuit under consideration. 

However, you must be registered in the district you live in if you plan on serving more than ten papers annually.

What Is a Process Server Allowed to Do?

At times, the opposing party may want to evade service, which may complicate issues. In such cases, you might wonder, “what is a process server allowed to do?” 

Fortunately, there are several ways professional servers can take to deliver to the evasive prospective defendant without breaking the law.

Service by Mail

With this option, the process server mails the paperwork to the second party’s home or business address —whichever is more convenient. This option is unreliable as the court may not ascertain if or when the recipient received said document.

Personal Service

This option is the most reliable available to a server. The server hands the documents directly to the intended recipient and explains the contents of the notice to them. 

Substituted Service 

When a personal service fails, and the server can present the court with proof of several failed attempts, the server may task another adult who is related with the defendant in some capacity to handle the service.

Besides being over 18, the substituted recipient must live at the prospective defendant’s address if they are being served at their homes or be in charge of being done at a business address. 

Beyond verifying these requirements, the server has to fill out paperwork and submit it to the court, affirming they could not serve the opposing party directly.

Alternatives to Process Service

If none of the above pans out, the alternatives outlined below may be preferable, although they apply to specific cases. They are:

  • Courthouse Public Boards: This form of service allows the process server to publish the service notice in public view at the courthouse. The court must agree to this form of service.
  • Newspaper Publications: If the court agrees to this service form, the server can publish the service notice in newspapers.

What Can’t Process Servers Do? 

While being a process server might require that you get creative to serve evasive parties, you must ensure you adhere to state rules and guidelines to avoid breaking the law.

The law prohibits the following actions:

  • Compelling the defendant to accept the documents
  • Rummaging through the defendant’s mailbox
  • Forcing an entry into the defendant’s home or business to serve lawsuits
  • Threatening or trespassing on the defendant’s properties
  • You have to be explicit about who you are; do not pretend you are a member of law enforcement 

Violating any of these rules could make a judge dismiss the lawsuit.

Reasons You Need a Professional Server

Occasionally, some people choose to bypass a professional process server and instead contact their local sheriff for assistance. While this move is more cost-effective in some cases, it’s nowhere near as effective as having a pro handle the service. 

We’ve outlined three reasons below why you shouldn’t delegate the job for a person who serves court papers to someone else:

Quicker Service Delivery 

In an impending lawsuit, perhaps the only consideration more pressing than actually serving papers is having the defendant receive them on time. Sheriffs have way more responsibilities and obligations than you find with your average server — talk about maintaining law & order to overseeing prisoners’ transport etc. You leave the craft for the professional court paper servers.

Customer Service

Their job description is for process servers to give you feedback on your paperwork service, respond to job-relevant questions you might have, and stick it through when an evasive defendant is presenting a tough time.

On the other hand, Sheriffs don’t have to pay special attention to your paperwork since they have to attend to anyone who might need their help. As such, you could end up disgruntled with the lack of feedback.

Conversance with Rules & Laws 

The last thing you want when you file a lawsuit is to have the judge dismiss your case on the grounds of improper notice serving. However, you’re spared this fear with a professional server because a server is bound by law to keep to the laws of civil procedure. 

Beyond this, their previous niched experience affords them the expertise to deal with job peculiarities like serving several people under different jurisdictions and filling out an Affidavit of Service at the courthouse. 

On the other hand, the law isn’t binding on the sheriff in this regard. They know enough law to oversee several possible violations. However, it’s unlikely they would ever match the service a professional person who serves papers affords you.


Court notice served improperly could, at minimum, toughen your court case. It’s not beyond a judge to throw your claims out of court if they feel you’ve violated the defendant’s privacy while serving your notice. We urge you to consult with an experienced process server to deal with the preliminary aspects of your legal affairs.