Process serving is the legal term for the personal delivery of Legal Documents to individuals, companies or firms who are (or to be) the subject of some form of court action.
When court action is instigated, and indeed frequently throughout the case, a court needs to be satisfied that all parties involved have been “served” with all relevant documents relating to that case before they can proceed.
Some may be preliminary documents outlining the case to the Respondents/Defendants, whilst others have more of an impact, such as various forms of Orders made by the court that may have a serious impact on those involved.
For example, where a person such as a spouse or child may be at risk of violence from a partner or parent, documents may have to be served on that person prohibiting them from any acts of violence, harassment, threatening behaviour or abuse. They may even be ordered to leave the matrimonial home immediately. If they disobey that Order they can be arrested and imprisoned.
Other Orders may demand an attendance in Court and/or produce relevant documents within a certain period of time. Freezing Orders and Search & Seize Orders can also be obtained in relation to assets.
Process serving is a service that is usually offered by private investigators/private detectives/enquiry agents. The reason that specialists are usually needed is because process serving can be extremely difficult and often involves a degree of danger. For example, “trace enquiries” may have to be carried out prior to serving an individual as their whereabouts are often not known. At the point of service certain details of the documents need to be explained to the recipients and often, where there are “penal clauses” involved, it is necessary to explain the consequences of disobeying such clauses. Also, copies usually need to be served on the local police covering the address of the person to be protected by the Order. In cases where people are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there can be violence involved and indeed sometimes it is necessary to have police officers present at the service.
For the reasons given above, it is strongly advised that people do not attempt process serving themselves as they can put themselves at risk but also, as there are numerous court directions in place for the service of different types of documents, the procedure can be quite complex. Also, after service, a legal document i.e. an Affidavit or a Statement of Truth, which is more common nowadays, has to be drawn up and lodged with the court.