What happens if you can’t serve papers?

If a legal case is proceeding to court, the recipient will normally need to be notified of the court summons with details provided for the hearing. This integral element of UK law is called “process serving” and in particular cases, a legal requirement lies with the instigator to serve those official documents.

The procedure for serving papers should, in theory, be very straightforward. For example, in a case where someone is filing for divorce and no longer wants to have any contact with their spouse, they will hire a process server who can deliver to their spouse the divorce papers. The instigator tells the process server as many details as possible, then they will locate the spouse and deliver the documents to them in person. After the documents have been received, the process and hearing can continue.

However, what happens when papers cannot be served? What happens if the process server is unable to find the intended recipient?

Using A Substitute Service

Although the above scenario is the ideal one, unfortunately things don’t always go according to plan. Since you shouldn’t serve papers yourself, an alternative method must be used. Using a substitute service is the primary option in these circumstances.

What Are Substitute Services?

There are three main kinds of substitute service open to those who have been unable to serve papers on the recipient, however none can be used without making an application to the judge and receiving their permission.

  • Third party serve – one substitute service is to serve the papers to a family member, neighbour, close friend or employer. The papers will still need to be handed over physically with proof of the delivery being obtained however the legal responsibility for making sure the intended recipient receives the papers will then lie with the person who is handed the papers.
  • Newspaper serve – if the instigator isn’t sure where the intended recipient lives, a judge might permit adverts to be placed in newspapers to notify the recipient about the paper service. A copy would need to be kept of the advert in order to prove it had been published.
  • Social Media serve – although this is fairly uncommon, it may occasionally be permitted to post the notice of service via social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Proof of posting must be provided.

None of these three options can be used as the primary serving method and are only available as an option if the instigator is able to prove they have used due diligence to serve the papers to the recipient.

Using An Enforcement Agency To Serve Papers

Hiring the services of an enforcement agency for process serving is vital. With all the necessary skills to serve court documents on the intended recipient, Able Investigations can visit the intended recipient’s address three times and once outside of office hours to make sure that due process can take its course.

To find out more about serving papers, speak to a member of our team by filling in our contact form or you can call us on 0345 366 0000.

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