Depending on the type of court papers you need served, you may have the option to have the papers served by someone who is not a professional, registered process server. Under California law, many types of papers may be served by anyone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the matter. For instance, a civil summons may be served by such a person (Code of Civil Procedure 414.10), as can some subpoenas (Code of Civil Procedure 2020.220), while an Order to Appear for Examination (a process used when attempting to collect a money judgment) only has teeth when served by a registered process server or Sheriff (Code of Civil Procedure 708.170).
However, employing a friend or family member to attempt to properly deliver the papers and fill out the required Proof of Service form afterwards can present its own set of problems and issues. If the Proof of Service form is not completed properly, a box is checked and shouldn’t be or a piece of information is missing, you risk being thrown back to step one and having to re-serve the papers even months down the road. This is an incredibly frustrating experience you should avoid at all costs.
If the paperwork is filled out properly, it still may not be worth the money you save to involve a friend in a possibly volatile situation. I speak with many clients who say they were going to have a family member or a friend do the service but in the end decided that they did not want to drag someone else into their legal matter. I also speak with people who started with having a friend try to serve but the defendant is slippery and evasive and without the knowledge of a professional process server, the chances of a friend effecting valid binding service are slim.
I’m clearly a bit biased on the topic but I can’t recommend enough that you hire a registered process server to take care of this step of the procedure for you. You will pay a fee for the server’s time, effort and experience and it may well be money you will never get back from your defendant, but the pitfalls you avoid by hiring a pro make up for the investment tenfold. It will save you money, hours and frustration to have the job done quickly and properly the first time by a professional.
I recently spoke with a nice lady who was suing her ex-tenant in small claims court for damages to her property or some such. She filed her case which was set for a trial date about 90 days out and had her nephew serve the papers to the tenant, which he was able to do. A Proof of Service was filed and she thought she was all set to wait the 3 months to the trial. About 2 weeks before her court date, the court clerk called and said the Proof of Service was rejected because the nephew failed to indicate the date he mailed a follow-up copy of the case to the defendant. A minor technicality ended up completely screwing this lady up.
She had to extend her court date to allow for more time to re-serve the defendant. She sent her nephew out to the property to serve the guy again but this time the apartment was empty. The guy skipped and she has no idea where to find him. Instead of getting her judgment the first try, she now has no judgment, no service, no idea how to serve the guy, and without the help of a costly private investigator or much research on her own she’ll never find the tenant and will never get her day in court. I bet it would be worth the $75 or $100 to her now if she could go back and hire a pro on day one. It’s just a thought to ponder while weighing your options.
As always, if you would like to discuss the particulars of your situation and see what a registered process server can do for you, call me anytime at (858) 255-4070 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck!