When and Where can Someone be Served with a Legal Document?

Serving a legal document is the fundamental outset of filing a claim against someone. To ensure that the procedure runs smoothly and legally, it is vital to serve the documents in the correct way. You must take care to guarantee that this step is performed at the right time, in the right place, and involving the right people.  

To avoid administrative delays or issues with your claim, it is always best to thoroughly prepare for the serving process, whether you are doing this personally or employing a professional. It is important to know when and where you are permitted to serve someone a legal document. 

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How do you serve legal documents?  

In any dispute, it is critical that documents are served on other parties as early as possible. Service of documents means that all the papers in the case have been provided to the other party so that they are fully aware of the details of the claim. 

There are several different Rules included in the Civil Procedure Rules, and the detail varies depending on whether you are serving documents to an individual or a company. These include: 

  • You may choose to personally deliver your documents to someone else, send them by first class post or another overnight delivery, or use an email or social media, though this is only permitted under specific circumstances. 
  • The method through which you serve the papers will depend on the recipient and your specific case. 
  • It is possible to serve papers on an individual by sending the notice to their place of work if you do not have an address for them. 
  • When serving documents on a corporation registered in England and Wales, you can use the primary office of the corporation, or any place of business within the corporation that is related to the claim. 

Government permitted locations of service 

Official government guidelines on where you can serve someone with a legal document is dependent on who the recipient is. This is shown below. 

Recipient Type Location of service 
1. Individual Usual or last known residence. 
2. Individual being sued in the name of a business Usual or last known residence of the individual; or principal or last known place of business. 
3. Individual being sued in the business name of a partnership Usual or last known residence of the individual; or principal or last known place of business of the partnership. 
4. Limited liability partnership Principal office of the partnership; or any place of business of the partnership within the jurisdiction which has a real connection with the claim. 
5. Corporation (other than a company) incorporated in England and Wales Principal office of the corporation; or any place within the jurisdiction where the corporation carries on its activities and which has a real connection with the claim. 
6. Company registered in England and Wales Principal office of the company; or any place of business of the company within the jurisdiction which has a real connection with the claim. 
7. Any other company or corporation Any place within the jurisdiction where the corporation carries on its activities; or any place of business of the company within the jurisdiction. 

Can legal documents be served using social media? 

Although this is a legal option, it may not be allowed in every situation. 

Using social media to serve papers has been permitted in the UK since 2011. Justice Lewison had previously authorized the use of a social networking platform to serve an injunction in a 2009 case where one party only knew the other by the Twitter handle. However, you can only use social media for serving papers as a last resort.  

Generally speaking, social media should only be used to serve court papers if no other options are available.  

Clients use social media when they do not know the real name of a defendant or are unable to find the defendant’s real address. The court will want to know you (or a professional process server) tried every option to serve the documents, just as with other methods of serving. 

Can legal documents be served at work? 

Yes, if a residential address is not a feasible option.  

In some cases, a recipient’s place of employment can serve as a substitute for a residential address if it is known that they are still employed there. Depending on the nature of the workplace, you may have to exercise caution or subtlety. Be sure that your intended recipient will receive the papers without delay and that they will be delivered to them with care. 

Can legal documents be served by email? 

Whether or not the documents can be served by email will depend on your situation. 

Rules 6.3(1)(d) and 6.20(1)(d) of the Civil Procedure Rules allow service by email within England and Wales. However, this permission may not be as simple as it initially appears.  

For service by email, the party to be served, or their solicitor, must have confirmed in writing that they agree to receiving documents by email, and allow for their email address to be used.  

This must be confirmed in writing, whether this is the form of a reply to the claim which includes the email address on its Statement of Case, or their address being displayed on the official writing paper of their legal representative along with a statement of consent. 

When can the documents be served by email? 

A claim form is distinguished from other documents by the Civil Procedure Rules in England and Wales. 

Rule 6.14. In the case of email-delivered claim forms, it is deemed that the defendant has been served on the second business day after the email is sent. 

Rule 6.26. Whenever service of documents other than a claim form is performed by email, the deemed date of service is determined by the date the email is sent.  

The conditions are if the documents are sent on a business day before 4:30 pm, accepted to be served that day, a business day after 4:30 pm, accepted to be served the next business day, or a non-business day at any time, accepted to be served the next business day. 

What happens if the recipient’s address is unknown? 

In this case, you can attempt to contact them through the discussed alternative channels. This may include email, social media, or their place of employment, if this is known and if the court permits it. 

However, you might also need to employ the services of a professional process server, who will do everything within their power to track down the recipient and ensure they receive the papers.  

The benefit of choosing this option is that the server can ensure the process is carried out according to legal practice, and will provide you with the necessary documentation to prove the papers were received. 

Why is using a Process server important? 

In order for a court claim to be accepted by the court, a court claim must be served on the right individual or company, and certain requirements must be met to ensure the documents are properly served. The court can dismiss a case or request for the documents to be reserved if there are errors made or if the documents are served incorrectly. This can delay the process. 

A service order must be made aware of both the subject and the company being served. The recipient should be given the opportunity to respond and obtain legal advice if necessary. Claimants should not get judgement based on the assertion that the defendant has received and is aware of the documents and ignored the claim. 

A witness statement or certificate of service is provided as proof of service, which demonstrates that the other party has received the legal documents. So far as the court is concerned, the defendant’s failure to respond to the claim clearly means that any blame belongs to them and not the claimant. 

Why choose Able Investigations as your Process Servers? 

If you need a process server to deliver legal papers on your behalf, Able Investigations can help. We are experienced in serving legal papers and operate within 24 hours to ensure the process is completed correctly. 

Our price for serving papers in the UK is £125.00 + VAT. We will attempt to deliver the papers three times, and offer research services if the recipient cannot be found. We also offer a discount of 25% on volumes exceeding 10 cases a week. 

The documents are served personally (when it is possible) to ensure that a Certificated Enforcement Officer from our company will attend to serve them. 

For more information on process serving please call one of our team on 0845 370 7401 or use our contact form

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