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When am I "served" in a court case?

Posted by attorney Thomas Valkenet

A court cannot exercise jurisdiction over you (translation: order you to do something, not do something, or pay money) unless a summons or subpoena has been personally delivered to you. This website has recently featured questions from folks asking "can I be served by phone," or "why is a process server calling me, asking to meet?"

In each question, the process server is seeking to get the summons or subpoena into the persons hands. Only then does the court acquire "jurisdiction."

There is no benefit to avoiding the process server. They don't go away, they only get creative. And after several failed attempts to serve you, the court will give the lawyer permission to serve you by "mail," or posting, or by handing the summons to another adult at your workplace or home address. Now, others know your business!

It's always best to accept service, meet with your lawyer to figure out what is going on, and to then meet the problem, head on.

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