This document explains what 'service' means in court, and your choices in serving your legal documents. Briefly, Verbeck Law works with reputable process servers, and can serve your documents for you for an additional fee, or we can show you how to do it yourself.
What Does Service Mean?
Service, in legal terms, refers to the process by which your legal documents, like motions or petitions or answers, get to the court and to anyone else who's involved in the case. If you're suing someone, you have to provide your initial petition to the court, and you have to prove to the court that you provided a copy to the person you're suing, as well. Service is what we in law call a 'threshold question,' which is a fancy way of saying that, if you mess up service, the court will dismiss your case without hearing your arguments.
When Service is Required
The simple answer is that service is required every time you file something, but that it's the hardest to achieve when you begin a case. When you begin a case, say with a Petition for Dissolution (Divorce), you must prove that the other party, your spouse in this case, got a copy of the documents in the correct way. For contentious cases like divorce or custody, a party may try to evade service to prevent the case from moving forward. It is often here that you need a professional process server, to track down the other party and to testify in court that they got a copy of the court documents.
After this first step is achieved, service is usually a lot easier. Service on parties who have attorneys can be done by mail, and sometimes even by email. Unfortunately, in some types of cases, notably evictions, service can be an ongoing problem, and in severe cases, you may need a professional to serve papers for each document.
Can I Serve Papers Myself?
Usually you can't, but a friend can. The law in both Oregon and California allow responsible citizens to serve parties with documents, and we can provide you with the forms they'll need to fill out after they do so. If you have a mutual acquaintance with the other party in your legal matter, this can be a good option.
However, if the process sounds daunting, you have some bad history with the other party, or you just don't want to bother, we can do service for you. It usually costs $100, which covers our cost to hire a professional process server, who will serve your documents and prepare an affidavit swearing that those papers were served. This is highly recommended for evictions and for family law cases in which there's some history or allegation of domestic violence, but it can simplify any case.