This article will provide guidance on how to serve legal papers on hard-to-find individuals.  Many individuals will go to great lengths to avoid being served legal documents. A process server must know the defendant’s appearance, occupation, and normal whereabouts to serve them with the appropriate legal documents. This is important to prevent mixups in service. For evasive defendants, this is imperative, especially since mixups in service may lead to the actual target of the case being discovered. Evasive defendants often take any chance they can get to avoid service, and it is foolhardy to give them additional time to escape these documents. Your choice in process server thus becomes a decision that cannot be taken lightly. At Undisputed Legal, we aim to deliver only solutions. Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers!

How Process Service Works

Why serve process

The steps involved in process serving include providing the recipient with a duplicate of the formal complaint, a subpoena, and a court appearance date. To allow the defendant to react to the complaint and seek legal representation before the hearing, it must be sent out before the court date. Click here for information on How Rush Process Service Can Expedite Your Case.

The courts adhere rigidly to a predetermined set of procedures to guarantee that all parties involved in a legal proceeding experience uniformity and standardization in the judicial process. The situation becomes more complicated when the defendant acts evasively or refuses to be served. An individual cannot proceed in court proceedings if the strict rules and processes do not serve all parties. Click here for information on How Service of Process Ensures A Solid Foundation

Civil litigation processes need process servers at the commencement and continuation of a case. However, acceptance of service of process is not guaranteed by all defendants.   Our process servers’ routine service is initially attempted within five business days after obtaining papers at Undisputed Legal. Whether they can effectuate service on the first attempt depends on how much information you can provide about the subject, the documents being served, and how difficult it is to find the defendant. At Undisputed Legal, we specialize in the service of evasive defendants and skip tracing. Rest assured, your papers are well taken care of. Click here for information on How Process Servers Protect Your Rights: Myths Debunked

The first step to finding an elusive individual is to uncover all relevant information about the defendant. Only with a foundational base of information present can clients move forward. They must dig deeper and discover where and how they can be served. There are many search methods, including traditional and non-traditional methods. Click here for information on How To Overcome Language Barriers in Process Service 

  1. Social media as a tool 

There is a lot of valuable information floating around on social media that can help you track someone down. By conducting a name and location search on the defendants’ social accounts, we can find out where they usually are present and may be able to contact some of their friends or family to find out where they are. 

Professional social networking websites may help you uncover the respondents’ places of employment, opening up more avenues to serve legal papers to them at work or via substituted service. At Undisputed Legal, we are highly abreast of process service technology. We ensure that we comb through online clues that the individual may leave. Often, critical bits of information can show up in the defendants’ online presence. Finding someone is never as easy as using a search engine. These sites aggregate data from several sources. Personal search engines are tools available to professional process service agencies like Undisputed Legal that can provide details about a person upon a search. The details would go through public records and social media to create an extensive profile that may include a person’s present and previous residences, associated people, and even phone numbers.

When a process service agency like Undisputed Legal knows the person’s name, email, or past address, we use that information to refine our search. We can often find the person via a reverse address search if you know their prior address. This technique involves entering an address into a search engine to get details on that location’s present and previous inhabitants. It may provide valuable information that may be utilized to find the individual, including a new address or other forms of communication.

  1. Ask Friends and Family

A defendant’s close circle is likeliest to be the ones that know where they are. We contacted the respondents’ friends and family to ascertain whether they would help you track the person down. Understandably, those close to the defendant may be reserved about assisting if they know what is happening, so our servers are trained to be polite and respectful. Sometimes, the information uncovered through conversations can be as valuable as being led directly to the defendant.

  1. Speak With Their Employer

Employers are more likely to be unbiased when helping process servers. Although many companies have policies to protect their employees’ details, servers can confirm whether the person still works there or has moved on where they are employed now.

If you are having trouble finding out information about the defendant in your case, the best option to move forward is to hire a professional process server like those at Undisputed Legal to assist. We are experts in this field and have invaluable years of experience moving through the process of service accurately and effectively. Additionally, a process server with boots-on-the-ground experience often has a track record of hunting down elusive defendants and serving them quickly. Opting for professionals can save you hours tracing avoidant individuals and researching the correct procedures and necessary court documents.

The next step is to gather the necessary legal paperwork to be served. Various court notifications, such as summonses, complaints, subpoenas, writs, and so on, fall under this category. Anyone dealing with the matter, including the court clerk, clerk for small claims, or attorney, should be able to provide you with these necessary papers. Before serving any paperwork, making a copy and retaining the originals for personal records is essential. At Undisputed Legal, we provide you with copies of your documents and copies of the affidavit of service. We aim to take the hassle out of serving process.

The deadline for serving documents before the court date is always specified. Each state has its deadline. In some situations, locating the defendant and serving them with documents may be done up to eight days before the court appearance. In other states, the defendant must be served at least thirty days before the court hearing.

Whether the defendant is abroad is one of the other elements that will impact the service deadline. To ensure that papers are served in a timely and lawful manner, it is essential to review the requirements for the paperwork. Undisputed Legal can help you with any errors in paperwork, but it is vital to gather all necessary documents well in advance. 

On the appointed court date, a ‘summons’ requiring the defendant to appear in court is the foundation document.  The legal document used to initiate the process of taking that individual to court would be the summons.  To avoid any mistakes during service, it is important to double-check all documents before sending them out. A Proof of Service must also be filed after the papers are handed to the individual.

Often, individuals are required to fill out and submit a proof of service form before their court proceedings, regardless of the method of serving.  It is essential to include details on the time and place of service and the identity of the person who received these documents on the evidence of service form. An authority must also notarize it. With a professional process service agency like Undisputed Legal, you do not have to worry about the intricacies of service. We handle the proof of service requirements with GPS updates and email affidavits of service to you.  A private process service agency like Undisputed Legal may be retained at the client’s discretion to execute the process serving on their behalf. Often, clients find that the difficulty in identifying the defendant for service may necessitate them to use the services of a private investigator or process server.

Anyone above eighteen and with no vested interest in the case’s outcome can technically serve legal documents. However, the service of documents also comes with the question of safety. How to Serve Papers Safely should be a priority. Documents may only be served to a defendant by certain kinds of persons. Due to their substantial training in the ins and outs of local process service rules and procedures, professional process servers like those at Undisputed Legal are unparalleled in their proficiency and competence. Additionally, they are well-versed in the industry and adept at navigating obstacles. Click here for information on How Rush Process Service Can Expedite Your Case.

Serving an evasive defendant Through Certified Mail

It is not always possible to provide individualized assistance. If a party becomes aware of the defendant’s registered mailing address, they can also use certified mail to serve legal documents in a small claims action. To achieve this, one must mail the defendant a copy of the complaint and the summons. After ten days, the defendant is deemed served. At Undisputed Legal, include the recipient’s signature and the delivery date and time on the return receipt. In a court of law, these papers serve as evidence of service. 

How Can I Send Mail to Someone Whose Address Is Not Known?

At Undisputed Legal, even not having the defendant’s address is no barrier to service. In this scenario,  we investigate the defendant’s present address further. It is essential to ascertain the client’s knowledge of the defendant: service can also be done if the client is unsure of the defendant’s postal address but has their last known location. Their last known address may be used to send a letter with the attached words ‘Return Service Requested. ‘ Once we have the new address, we use certified mail to serve the paperwork.

Substituted service works when all efforts and means for personal service have failed. Finding the defendant’s residence or place of employment allows the process server to serve papers to a mentally capable adult over eighteen, who can subsequently forward the documents to the defendant. Whoever signs for and receives the service at work could be a manager or company owner. Subsequently, the courts are notified of the substituted service.

Electronic service becomes available when all other means of physically serving someone have been exhausted. This strategy will be more difficult than most alternatives and is generally only obtainable by a municipal regulation or court order. Electronic service comprises sending court documents to a party by electronic transmission or electronic notice, such as email or e-filing. It is the final option since there are so many hazards involved. For example, the document may get filtered through spam and malware systems, a common issue in civil litigation. Moreover, the file size of the papers is often too large to transmit and open via email.

The publication method is similar to posting papers at the courthouse, though instead, the documents get printed in a local newspaper. Most courts require that clients have fatigued all other methods before service by publication, as it is understandably invasive and can cause public embarrassment to the defendant. Usually, it is best to serve the defendant discretely and in person to maintain respect for their privacy and demonstrate goodwill as you progress through the case.

The choice of alternative service methods is entirely up to the court and must be by the jurisdiction’s legislation. They are reserved for extreme cases and need strong proof that the usual means of service of process have been exhausted. Various regulations in different states govern acceptable ways of service. Personal service, in which a certified process server delivers the court documents to the defendant in person, is the most typical technique in New York. Substituted service is an alternative to personal service. It allows you to leave the documents with an adult at the defendant’s residence or place of employment and then send them a copy. The court may authorize publishing or certified postal service if personal and substituted services do not work. However, we understand the intricacies that personal service can have. 

For service by mail, we send the court documents by first-class or certified mail within twenty-four hours, and we will indeed seek a return receipt. The return of the certified postal receipt serves as evidence of service. Courts can permit service via publishing in a local newspaper when the defendant is evading service or cannot be traced. Click here for information on How Service of Process Ensures A Solid Foundation.

Requirements from process servers

Being professional is essential while serving court paperwork. Our servers follow strict protocol when they are serving papers to the defendant. Primarily, they identify themselves and state their purpose for visiting. The defendant must understand that service has been done, and the process server will thus relinquish the papers if they are being served personally. The laws of the state where the recipient resides will apply if the party is serving someone in another state. Another option would be to use the services of a process server authorized to deliver legal documents in that state.

Delivery of legal documents to a designated agent, such as a general partner in a limited partnership or a sole owner in a single-owner firm, within regular business hours if the entity in question is a corporation. Proof of service must be submitted to the court once the legal documents have been served. An Affidavit of Service, or evidence of service form, may specify the time, place, and person(s) to whom the papers were served. At Undisputed Legal, we ensure this affidavit is filled out thoroughly and have it notarized. 

At Undisputed Legal, we often resort to skip tracing, a more sophisticated technique, when trying to locate a person who has gone missing or is avoiding capture. The process entails examining various data sources to trace a person’s behaviors and financial dealings.  Examples of this may include registering for utilities, applying for jobs, or using a credit card. The person’s present whereabouts may be determined using skip tracing by revealing patterns or routines. There are a lot of obstacles that could arise throughout the process of serving legal documents. Every stage of the process may be challenging: finding the defendant, handling unfavorable responses, comprehending jurisdictional complexities, and creating indisputable evidence of service. However, with Undisputed Legal, we ensure your papers are carefully delivered. No defendant can remain hidden too long with Undisputed Legal!

Written by: Undisputed Legal Inc.


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Pick up the phone and call Toll-Free (800) 774-6922 or click the service you want to purchase. Our dedicated team of professionals is ready to help you out. We can handle all your process service needs. For information on What is a Process Server, Click Here!

Please feel free to contact us for more information about our process-serving agency. We are ready to provide process service to all our clients globally from our offices in New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C.

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1. We can also ensure that you have a certified copy of the mail to keep you in the loop for your service. 

2. If indicated as ‘Do Not Forward,’ the USPS will return the letter with the defendant’s forwarding address if it is on record.

3. Or, at home, it could be anybody living there who is at least 18 years old


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