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What does a process server do

If you have ever been involved with a legal matter, chances are that you have dealt with a process server. The role of a process server is simple: he or she delivers court summons to those who are party to a legal proceeding. However, the job is rarely as easy as it sounds. Here is what is truly involved in process serving.

What Is Process Serving?
Process serving is part of the United States legal system's Due Process of Law, in which an accused person has the right to present a defense. Process serving is the act of delivering notifications, summons and other relevant paperwork to those who are involved in a court matter. Specific laws and guidelines cover process serving in each state, but in general the paperwork must be hand delivered to the relevant party. This process helps to protect the rights of all involved.

Who Can Be a Process Server?
Originally, process serving was performed only by law enforcement officers and court representatives. However, in most states any adult over 18, who is not a party to the case, can act as process server. Regulations vary from state to state, however, sometimes requiring the posting of a surety bond or the obtaining of a process server license.

What is Involved in Process Serving?
If things go well, the process server can simply visit the party's home or business and hand deliver the relevant paperwork. In actual practice, however, the job is normally much more difficult.

First, the defendant must be found. In many cases, the person's last known address is not his or her current address. Skip tracing, the act of locating someone who may not want to be found, can be time consuming and difficult.

Next, the paperwork must be delivered. While many parties are respectful of the legal system and will accept the paperwork without protest, this is never guaranteed. Some would-be recipients have an almost textbook knowledge of the laws surrounding process serving, and will try their best to avoid being served. It is critical that the process server have at least as much legal knowledge of the system as does the would-be recipient. Remember, if the papers are served incorrectly, the entire case may be thrown out on a technicality.

Sometimes process serving becomes a cat and mouse game. The process server may need to follow the intended recipient, employ diversionary tactics and use other methods to ensure that the papers are delivered, all the while following state and local laws. Process serving can be a complicated mission.

The Bottom Line
Process serving is a relatively simple job that is often made complex or even dangerous by circumstances. In some states, any non-involved person over the age of 18 can function as process server. In other locations, process servers must be licensed and/or bonded. Whatever the requirements for becoming a process server, the job must be performed according to a specific set of guidelines and without breaking any laws. The process server's skills and abilities may help determine whether the case is able to proceed.

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