With almost every court proceeding in California, documents need to be served on the other party(ies) after they are filed with the court clerk. The California Courts website describes in depth more about the process serve and the requirements to complete it here. The most common type of process serve complete is known as a “Personal Serve”, in which someone physically hands the filed court documents to the other party. That person who gives the documents to the other party completes, signs and files the Proof of Service as verification with the court clerk.
So how much does the court charge if you want them to handle this for you? They actually do not offer this service. Process serving is mandated to be completed by someone over 18 years of age and not a party to the action. So essentially, anyone you know, minus the other party can complete the serve. This includes a friend, family member or someone at work. When people do not want to get any of these people in the middle of their court case, a professional process server can be hired to handle the task. A process server will charge a flat fee to make attempts, and when the serve is complete they prepare the proof of service to file at the court. It is important to ask before hiring a process server a few questions such as if they will file the proof of service at the court, or do you have to file it. Also, how many attempts will they make, average being between 3-5 attempts before charging a fee again.
I’ve heard that the court does offer this service, is this a new change? Actually no, a common misconception is that the Sheriff’s department works as court agents to complete a process serve. The Sheriff does offer process serving, but independent of the court with one exception. If you have an active fee waiver on file with the court, most Sheriff Departments will complete your process serve at no charge. Wow, that sounds great…a free process serve. Well, keep in mind that it could be free, and even at face value it is most often cheaper than a private process server, but the Sheriff’s Department is a governmental agency. They are subject to work flow backlogs. The service they offer could take up to weeks, while a process server can dispatch as soon as same day. If time is a concern, you will want to surely confirm the timelines of your options.
Overall, a process serve doesn’t have to be a major hold up in your case. You have plenty of options for people or professional services to complete the action. The important thing is that it needs to be done per California guidelines. Process serves deemed to be incomplete or invalid by the court could set your case back months. If you want to ensure this doesn’t happen to you, consider a professional process server to assist on your case.