In California, there are many different methods by which a person can be served with court documents. The allowable method will vary depending on the type of case as well as some other factors such as the location of the parties, if they have previously filed documents on the case or even if you can locate them. While Serve by Publication is an available option for serving someone, it is not the first available option. The California Courts require certain tasks are completed before a serve by publication is allowed.

First off, what is “service”? With regards to the California Courts, service is described as follows “”Service of process” means that the other party must get copies of any paper you file with the court.  In “service of process” a third person (NOT you) is the one who actually delivers the paperwork to the other side.  The person who does this is called the “server” or “process server.”” Full text found here.

In California, a mandatory waiting period is started at the time of serve. This timeframe is the allowable time for the person served to file a response at the court. Essentially, even though the court documents have been filed, the court case starts moving when the other party has been served.

So when can a serve by publication be used. Generally speaking, a serve by publication is an option available when you are able to prove to the court that you have tried as reasonably possible to locate the other person to be served. Even though the California Court’s website described it above in one sentence, there is quite a bit of information there. First, you must have exercised due diligence. Second, you must have proof of these attempts, and third, after all that you were still unable to find the other party. The court further requires permission to do the serve by publication, which is where your documented proof of searching comes into play. The court outlines instructions to complete the request on the above link, but Legal Document Assistants can also help with this requirement if you think you will need to serve by publication.

Costs to Serve by Publication. It is important to know that this method of serve has extra costs associated with it. Regardless if you have a granted fee waiver on file with the court, you will likely be spending a bit more than a traditional process server to complete your serve in this manner. The court may have a fee for the Judge to review your request and grant permission to do the serve by publication. A fee waiver does cover this but for those who do not have a fee waiver the court fee for this is currently about $20-$100 depending on the court. The newspaper is a third party business with no affiliation to the court, which means that they will have a fee to publish your notice. Smaller newspapers with a small circulation could be as little as a few hundred dollars, but in bigger newspapers with a larger circulation, newspaper publication fees can be as high as $1500. It is important to note that you cannot choose any newspaper either. They must be adjudicated, meaning the court must have approved them. Each court may have a list published, but it is ultimately up to the petitioner to make sure the documents are published in the correct newspaper. You can also find approved adjudicated newspapers on websites like