How to Complete Legal Process in California

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Formal notice is necessary when suing a person, company, government or other entity, and this starts the legal process involving the courts in California. Filing paperwork for the compliant requires the need to ensure the opposing side has a copy in most instances, and this is the process of serving the defendant or other witnesses.

After serving someone with the summons to appear in court for a grievance or complaint, other documentation is necessary as well such as copies of other paperwork filed for these matters. Once the filing the concern, the plaintiff must ensure that the information served includes other papers and information. These provided details go through another individual that is not the plaintiff. This is usually a process server in California. Until served properly by a process server, the defendant does not know to appear in court, and the judge is not able to make any orders or judgments that are permanent.

What Is a Process Server?

There are many individuals that may act as a process server. This person may be a friend, relative or even a coworker. He or she is usually someone from the county sheriff’s office, a professional or another that is over eighteen that is not part of the claim. Those that serve must not have any part in the case, serve paperwork by the time required and fill out forms for the service. These files must contain who he or she served, when it occurred, where it happened and how the defendant or witness was given the summons. The courts need this information and a return of proof of service. The plaintiff cannot serve the papers himself or herself.

Service Specifics

Service is often complicated, and providing summons is complex based on certain situations. If the defendant cannot be found, this makes summoning him or her to the courts more difficult. If the service is not performed correctly, it is often not possible to continue through the case. If for any reason the individual plaintiff does not know how to provide service paperwork, he or she could ask the court’s clerks. A family law facilitator, legal advisor or others may also assist in this same manner. Summons may process through personal service by a person hand delivering the documents, through mail or by substituted service.

Service requires a notice and acknowledgement of receipt that the paperwork was given to the correct person. The details usually must explain what occurred. Publication in a local newspaper may become the only option if the defendant cannot be found. Some claims may process through certified mail if they are small claims only. Eviction may go through postings on the premises and through mailing. Out of state individuals process through certified mail. Many receive personal service where an individual appointed by the court services the papers to the opposing side through hand delivery. The person may service the summons at the individual’s home, work or anywhere in public.

Personal Service in California

When an individual receives paperwork such as a summons from a court by hand, this is personal service. This could occur in any private or public venue, but usually the person receives these files at work or home. The process server will identify the defendant or witness personally, hand him or her the documents and then inform the person that the papers are from the court. Even if the papers are not accepted or wanted, they may be left at his or her feet or on the ground near him or her. If the individual tears or destroys the documents, this is still considered a valid serving of summons. There is no need to sign anything.

A proof of service filled out details the specifics such as when he or she provided the paperwork and how it occurred. This is then sent to the court. The personal service for the plaintiff is complete on the specific day the process server supplied the paperwork. Because personal services are most reliable, they are often the most used to accomplish this goal. This also becomes the most used service, and is valid for all case types.

Legal Help with Summons

When a plaintiff needs to file a complaint with another party, it is important to hire a California lawyer. The legal representative may hire the service so that personal service occurs. Then, it is more reliable and possible for the defendant or witness to receive the paperwork and appear in court.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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