The Role of Sheriffs and Process Servers in Civil Process

When a civil lawsuit is brought to redress, protect, or enforce a private or civil right, civil process is issued. This involves the processing of all the paperwork related to the case including child support and custody documents, divorce papers, eviction notices, foreclosures, subpoenas, summons, various motions, writs, and more. These papers may be delivered or served by a sheriff or an authorized process server.

The service of process is important to civil proceedings because it is the formal notification for the parties involved that a case has begun.

Serving Documents in a Civil Process

Although any adult that is not involved with the case can technically serve the court documents, many plaintiffs, claimants, or petitioners typically opt to use the services of either the local sheriff’s office or a third-party professional process server. This is because the cases themselves may be dismissed if the service of process is not done properly.

Factors in Choosing who Serves the Documents

Here are a few of the most important considerations when choosing whose services to use when conducting the service of process.

  • Assurance of delivery – the main concern when serving court documents is whether the person or persons intended to receive them will, in fact, receive them. This is especially troublesome in cases where the defendant, for example, is evasive. In terms of the number of attempts, process servers generally make more attempts at delivery compared to the sheriff. This means process servers are more likely to make the delivery. Sheriffs also have other tasks to fill their days compared to process servers, giving the latter more impetus to successfully serve the court documents.
  • Speed of delivery – since cases have their set timelines, the speed of the delivery of court documents is also a critical decider of whose services to employ. While process servers can already make their attempts at delivery upon request, sheriffs may take one to three days after receiving the documents before they may their first attempt. Sheriffs also have a set schedule while process servers can typically work even during evenings or weekends.
  • Cost – Sheriffs typically charge less for delivering court documents. However, in some cases, multiple attempts may incur additional charges. The speed of delivery of process servers also helps lessen the cost. Even when sheriffs do charge less, the difference is usually little.
  • Proper service of process – when it comes to the accuracy and validity of the process of service, both sheriffs and process servers understand the laws that are applicable. This means by using their services, plaintiffs can be assured that the service of process is properly conducted.
  • Additional services – many process servers offer additional value-adding services to their work. Some offer real-time updates. Some offer guaranteed timeframes. These additional features are usually absent when working with sheriffs.

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Predictable Outcomes

It is important that the party filing the suit or claim is assured that the necessary documents reach the necessary parties. The speed and accuracy of the service of process are equally critical. It is also of utmost importance that the service of process is conducted according to the letter of the law to properly pave the way for the case.

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