What Can a Process Server Do and What Can't They Do? (2023)

Home » Family Law Blog » What Can a Process Server Do and What Can’t They Do?

Hossein Berenji, May 29, 2020

When you file for divorce, your spouse has to be served with the divorce papers. In many cases, a process server is used to serve divorce complaints and other divorce pleadings. However, a process server must follow the law for serving legal documents in California.

A process server cannot break the law when trying to serve papers, such as trespassing or breaking and entering. Therefore, a process server needs to understand how to become creative at times without crossing the line and doing something they are not supposed to do.

What is a Process Server?

Service of process may be made by someone who is over 18 years of age and not a party to the lawsuit. That person could be a professional process server, a county sheriff’s officer, or even a friend.

A process server in California that serves more than ten legal documents a year must be registered. They register with the clerk of court in the county in which they live, or they have their principal place of business. Businesses that intend to offer process services must also maintain a certificate of registration.

Some individuals are exempt from registering as a process server. Law enforcement officers are not required to register. Attorneys and their employees and anyone who is appointed by the court to serve its process is not required to register.

Licensed private investigators nor the investigators’ employees need to register. Professional photocopiers who respond to records production requests and subpoenas are also not required to file a registration.

Process servers are not required to complete a course or have a specific education to serve legal documents. The process server is responsible for knowing and understanding the laws related to serving legal documents in the state. Process servers are also required to post a $2,000 bond or cash deposit.

What Can a Process Server Do or Not Do?

A process server’s main job is to deliver legal documents to an individual or party named in the action. The purpose of process service is to place the party on notice that an action has begun or that a relevant document has been filed in the case.

Some documents in a legal action must be served in a specific manner. For example, a document may require that the process server personally serves the individual. Personal service is generally accomplished by identifying the person and handing the person the document.

Breaking and Entering is Illegal

Most process servers begin personal service by attempting to serve the person at their home. In most cases, the process server is not trespassing unless the process server unlocks a locked gate or enters a locked building without permission.

If the process server cannot legally enter the property or the building, the process server must come back or wait for the person to leave. When a person is avoiding service at his home or office, the server may wait until the person leaves to serve the papers on the person in a public place.

Cannot Use Threats or Harassment to Serve Papers

A process server cannot force someone to open a door. The server cannot threaten or coerce the person to force the person to allow entry or accept the document.

Cannot Pretend To Be a Law Enforcement Officer

A process server cannot pretend to be a police officer or other court official to force the person to open a door or accept a document. If a person refuses to open a door, it is illegal for the process server to claim to be a law enforcement officer to compel the person to open the door.

A Process Server Can Stakeout a Person

While a process server cannot harass or stalk a person that he or she is serving with legal documents, the law does not prevent a process server from waiting outside of a home or business for the person to exit. The process server may also wait in front of a known friend or family member’s home if the server thinks the person will visit there.

Cannot Leave Papers with a Minor

It may be tempting for a process server to leave the papers with anyone who might answer the door, especially in cases in which a party is avoiding service. The process server cannot leave the papers with anyone who is under the age of 18 years. If the person is evasive, the server may leave the papers with an adult household member.

What Happens if the Documents Cannot Be Served?

If a process server is unsuccessful in serving the person, the attorney may file a motion with the court asking to serve the person in another manner. The court may grant a motion to serve by public notice. An experienced family law attorney understands how to proceed if a spouse or other party refuses service of family law documents.


Why do people use process servers? ›

A process server is a support role in the legal and court system. Process servers hand deliver official court and legal documents such as subpoenas, summons, complaints, and more to individuals involved in court cases.

Do process servers leave notes? ›

Yes, a process server can leave papers with someone else as long as that person is of a sound mind, is competent, and is of a certain age. Usually that age is 18 years old.

What makes a good process server? ›

A good process server is part messenger and detective, can read people and situations accurately, is knowledgeable of the law and can remain calm and focused under pressure.

How many times can a process server come to your house in Illinois? ›

There is no limit to the number of times a process server can visit you or come to your house to serve you documents. Each process server has their own rules as to how many times they will attempt to serve documents. In most cases, three attempts will be made, and at different times of the day and on different days.

Can a process server just leave papers at your door? ›

If a process server cannot reach you in person, they may deliver your summons to a neighbour, or arrive at your place of employment to deliver it to a co-worker. Some jurisdictions even allow summons to be delivered via a letterbox.

What is the purpose of the process? ›

The purpose of process is to ensure consistency. A good process is like a checklist that ensures the right things get done by the right people at the right time. Unfortunately, sales is a discipline that often lacks documented processes.

Can you interfere with a process server? ›

If a Process Server is at your home or office to serve you, by law you can ask him or her to leave your property. However, if they are there to serve court documents, it is better to comply with the service. Furthermore, it is frowned upon to interfere with a service of process.

Do process servers get attacked? ›

Ask any process server about assault and they will likely tell you they've been serving process for years without incident. Still, there are many accounts of process servers being attacked with baseball bats, shot, punched, dragged by cars, and even killed while out on serves.

What happens if a server can't find you? ›

Summary: A process server will try their best to serve you personally. However, if they can't find you, the court may grant an order for substituted service, and the lawsuit may proceed without you.

Why is a process server calling me? ›

Answer: Legitimate process servers are highly unlikely to make such calls. The calls are almost certainly from scammers who try to frighten people into giving account information to transfer funds.

What are the benefits of using process? ›

All types of organizations can benefit from process-based management. The main advantages are: It provides a clear and global vision of the organization and of its internal relationships. An organization that is managed with processes is able to be more flexible than one based on hierarchies.

What is the purpose of process management? ›

Process Management refers to aligning processes with an organization's strategic goals, designing and implementing process architectures, establishing process measurement systems that align with organizational goals, and educating and organizing managers so that they will manage processes effectively.

Why is it important to have a process in place? ›

Having processes in place means having a system that helps you maintain control and keep things consistent. These are different from business processes and are restricted to the processes managers, or teams need to follow for effective team management.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Fredrick Kertzmann

Last Updated: 13/11/2023

Views: 5277

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fredrick Kertzmann

Birthday: 2000-04-29

Address: Apt. 203 613 Huels Gateway, Ralphtown, LA 40204

Phone: +2135150832870

Job: Regional Design Producer

Hobby: Nordic skating, Lacemaking, Mountain biking, Rowing, Gardening, Water sports, role-playing games

Introduction: My name is Fredrick Kertzmann, I am a gleaming, encouraging, inexpensive, thankful, tender, quaint, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.