A Guide to Serving Family Court Papers in New York

The Family Court’s Caseload Activity Dashboard shows noticeable variations in the number of pending cases, filings, and dispositions over the years. Whatever the reason for the case may be, one thing is for sure — papers must be served at least 8 days before the scheduled court date.

If you’re one of the parties involved in a Family Court case, you can hire a process server to deliver the papers to the defendant. Anyone over 18 can be a process server unless they are a petitioner or a respondent in the case.

Read to learn how to serve papers to the Family Courts, along with the accepted process service methods by the State of New York.

What to Know Before Serving the Papers

You cannot be a process server in your case. Instead, you can turn to a family member or a friend (over 18 years old), hire a process server, or even ask a police officer to do it, even though they are not legally obligated to accept the request.

Moreover, you can also visit the sheriff and pay a fee to have a clerk serve the papers to the defendant. Whichever course of action you take, ensure the person serving the papers completes and notarizes an Affidavit of Service. 

Lastly, you should bring the signed and notarized affidavit on your court date.

Papers can not be served on a Sunday.

Process-Serving Methods Accepted by the State of New York

Serving Family Court Papers in New YorkPlaintiffs are allowed to utilize one of the five acceptable process-serving methods recommended by the State of New York. The plaintiff must have gathered all the necessary documentation before submission, as the court will only review complete documentation.

  • Personal Service: This type of process serving is mainly favored by the parties since the defendant/respondent will receive the papers in person. 
  • Substituted Service: This is a method for formal delivery of court papers in case the defendant isn’t present to receive the papers. The server can leave the court papers with another residing adult in the household, a designated agent, or a work manager at the recipient’s workplace.
  • Conspicuous Place Service: In case the defendant refuses to open the door to their premises for the process server to serve the court papers, conspicuous place service comes into play. In such instances, the process server is allowed to attach the papers to the entrance door of the premises. Moreover, the process server must send out true copies of the papers by regular or certified mail.
  • Service by Mail: In some instances, courts in the State of New York will impose mailed process services. In such cases, the process server can choose a regular or certified mail carrier to deliver the court papers.
  • Service by Publication: This type of service method is considered the last resort. Only a judge can impose service by publication if there is an obstruction of the personal service or substituted service. When a process server has attempted to reach the defendant multiple times at the given address and failed to do so, the judge will order a publication of the service in a major newspaper in New York.

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