We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Involved in Serving a Summons?

Lainie Petersen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The process for serving a summons differs by jurisdiction and often by the type of summons served. In most cases, a plaintiff in a case must first determine the best or most appropriate method of serving a summons, and if necessary pay for a professional summons service or a law-enforcement agency to physically serve the defendant. Different ways of serving a summons include postal mail, personal service, and service by publication. Each method is very different and requires that certain steps be taken in order to establish that the service is legitimate.

In many places, the primary way of serving a summons is through personal service. This means that one person must physically deliver a summons to another person. Some jurisdictions restrict who can serve another person with court papers, and these restrictions may vary by the type of case. Some areas allow any adult more than the age of 18 to serve papers, provided that they are not involved with the case. Other jurisdictions are far stricter, permitting only law enforcement to serve a summons. A middle ground exists in some areas that permits private detectives and special process servers, neither of whom have law-enforcement authority, to serve defendants with a court summons.

Another method of serving a summons is by mail. Some places do not permit mail service, and those that do often require plaintiffs to take several steps to ensure the defendant receives the summons. This usually includes sending a letter through the postal mail by some trackable method. In the United States, this requires that the letter be sent by certified or registered mail so that the plaintiff keeps a record of the mailing. The defendant must sign for the letter, providing a record showing that service was made.

In some cases, it becomes very difficult to track down the defendant or to get the defendant to sign an acknowledgment that she was served with papers. In such cases, the process server may be at liberty to leave the summons at or around the residence or workplace of the defendant. The law may then require the server to file an affidavit with the court stating that service was attempted.

If it is impossible to locate the defendant, a plaintiff may be able to serve a defendant with notice through a classified ad in a local newspaper. This is the method of last resort, and many judges require a plaintiff to offer a full explanation of all her efforts to locate the defendant before the judge will permit service by publication. The plaintiff will run an ad for a certain number of weeks in the legal notices section of a newspaper, and the ad will instruct the defendant to take certain steps, such as contacting the court, in order to protect his rights. Once the ad has run for a specific time period, the defendant has been served, and the legal case can proceed with or without him.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.
Discussion Comments
Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.