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When a lawsuit is initiated by a plaintiff against a defendant, the latter must be “served” with the proper documents regarding the legal action. Typically, these documents are served in person; in other words, they are hand-delivered to the defendant. Sometimes, however, the defendant in a lawsuit cannot be found to accept delivery of legal documents. In such a scenario, the federal and state rules of civil procedure allow for an alternative method of service via publication.

How Does Service by Publication Work?

The process of service that is done by publication may be allowed by a judge’s order. Publication refers to the actual official notification of the defendant by publishing the lawsuit in a newspaper. Not surprisingly, service of process by notice of publication must meet certain legislated guidelines regarding process and format.

Service by publication occurs when a summons or other legal document relating to a lawsuit is served by publishing the documents in a general-circulation newspaper. The act of publishing these legal documents gives the defendant “constructive notice.” This is used when the defendant is unknown, intentionally avoiding personal service, or is in hiding. “Constructive notice” includes the assumption that the intended person receives the notice despite it not being delivered in-person. This service of process is only permitted by a judge’s order and after a sworn declaration has been provided to the court affirming a failure to locate the defendant after exercising due diligence. As a result, the court will accept publication as effective service regardless of whether or not the defendant reads the published notice.

Types of Service of Process

There are three general methods of effectuating service of process on a defendant who is party to a legal action. These include:

  • Personal service,
  • Substituted service, and
  • Service by publication.

Personal service of process happens when the legal documents are provided directly to the person or entity named on the summons, complaint, or petition. Most domestic lawsuits require personal service to establish the defendant was properly served. Substituted service, on the other hand, occurs when the process server is able to serve the named party indirectly. This may include giving documents to another court-approved person–whether family or a friend–or by sending it by mail or dropping it off at the defendant’s place of work.

The best first step is to hire a professional process server company to effectuate personal or substituted service. This is because these companies and the process servers they use are specifically trained to locate and serve legal documents on hard-to-find individuals. Once a process server is unable to locate a defendant, the next step is to request a court allow service by publication.

We can Help

Ancillary Legal can help you with all of your process of service needs, particularly if it has to do with international lawsuits. Filing a legal claim that has international implications is complicated. You do not want your suit dismissed due to improper service. Contact us today to handle all of your service processing needs.