Process Serving: What happens if someone refuses to be served?

Process serving is where a legal document must be delivered to a specific person.  This needs to be done at a level which ensures the person receives the documents so they cannot be posted to them and need to be handed to someone.  But what happens if that person refuses to be served when process servers find someone?

What is Process Serving?

Process serving takes place when a person has to receive documents in a legal matter and simply posting them won’t do – there needs to be confirmation that they have received them.  The person issuing the papers is known as the Claimant, Petitioner or Applicant while the person receiving them is the Defendant or Respondent.

Some examples of the kinds of papers that require serving in this manner include:

  • Orders to attend court
  • Injunctions
  • Statutory demands
  • Family course orders
  • Divorce petitions
  • Claims forms
  • Bankruptcy petitions

When papers need to be served to someone, the independent party needs to be used to take the papers to the Defendant or Respondent by hand.  While the process is often used for papers from County Courts or even High Courts, sometimes there is simply the need to ensure someone receives a letter or other paperwork and a similar system can be used.

Who can carry out a process serving?

The process serving industry is one with few regulations currently in the UK meaning there are no specific rules about who must carry out the process.  They simply need to be independent and not involved with the case as one of the parties.

A common option is to use an enforcement agency to handle process serving.  Solicitors will often work with companies who handle this kind of situation on a regular basis.  This ensures that a set system is in place to handle the different situations that can arise as part of process serving.

Another benefit of using an enforcement agency to handle this is that they have the skills and systems to track down someone.  If the person receiving the papers isn’t easy to find, this can stall the whole process.  But a professional investigator will have the resources to track them down and increase the chances of the papers being served.

How an evasive Defendant can be handled

While there are no rules about who can carry out process serving, there are rules about how it is done, and these come under Civil Procedure Rules.  There are some allowances for the use of phone, email and even posting papers but they are very specific.

For example, a minimum number of attempts need to be made to serve the papers.  This can include sending a letter of appointment to the last known address of the Defendant.  An experienced process server will know which rules will apply to the case and what options are available to them to attempt to serve the papers.

Sometimes a place of business or workplace can be used as an alternative address.  If these systems don’t work, then some substitute services may be permitted by the courts.

Substitute services

If someone continues to avoid a process server, there are a few other options that can be employed to get the papers to them.  These are the last resort when all other options have been attempted and the process server can show due diligence to serve the documents in the standard ways.

Third party serve

This is an option where you serve the documents to a family member or a neighbour.  The same rules apply as handing to the original person in that they need to be given to them in person and proof of delivery obtained.  The person receiving the documents is then legally responsible for getting them to the Defendant so it is important to check they have regular contact with them and can do this.

Newspaper serve

This is a less reliable method but one that can be used if a judge allows it.  This involves placing an advert in the local newspaper that notifies the recipient of the document service.  If you are unsure of their exact location, you can use the last known local area.  Copies of the advert would need to be kept to prove proof that it was published.

Social media serve

The newest and perhaps least widely accepted option is to use social media as a way to process serve.  This involves using a social media network such as Facebook or Twitter to send the papers to the recipient.  Again, proof of the serve will be needed.

What happens after serving?

In many cases, the process is a straightforward one and the documents will be handed to the person who needs them.  If someone refuses to be served, these various steps can be authorised by the courts to finish the process.

When they are served with the papers, a proof of service is required.  This can be a certificate, a statement or an affidavit (a sworn statement) of service.  When using a professional to handle this, they will have a system in place that ensures this requirement is met.

Why a professional is so important

If papers cannot be served correctly, there could be a postponement of the case or even thrown out of court.  That’s why it is very important that you should contact a professional to ensure the process is completed accurately and legally.

By using an enforcement agency to carry out the process, you can guarantee that all possible legal steps will be taken to serve the papers.  As an experienced process server, Able Investigations and Enforcement Services have worked with clients of all kinds across the UK.  We are experts in the rules that apply to the process and ensure we document every step we take to reach a Defendant.  We also have the investigative skills to track down people who have moved or are simply avoiding us.

Don’t leave this crucial part of the process to anyone other than an expert and ensure you are compliant with the laws at every stage by using an enforcement agency.

For more information on process serving or to discuss your requirements please call one of our team on 0345 366 0000 (24 hours service) or use our contact form.


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