The need to serve legal papers on a party, usually the respondent to a legal matter is a key part of the legal system. It is also a factor in limiting both the cost and timescales of the legal process.
Often this will be determined by the order of a court after a hearing but will also occur prior to a Court Hearing primarily to ensure the other party is aware of the action and is given an opportunity to prepare and attend and where applicable, adhere to the terms of an order made at court.
The Personal Service of Legal Documents
Many legal papers require personal service. This means that the documents are personally handed to the respondent. The legal case can then proceed because the party served is aware of it. Where the documents served include a court order it also ensures that, at the time of service, the order needs to be adhered to.
Sometimes personal service is not possible and in some cases not actually required. This may be due to imperfect information on the whereabouts of the party to be served. They may also adopt evasive tactics in order to avoid personal service. Experience has shown that there are a lot of serial offenders out there! There may also be budget issues for the client.
Other Service Options
In the event that personal service is not possible then there are several other options. The court will often need to sanction these service options after providing evidence of the unsuccessful attempts at personal service. There do not appear to be any hard and fast rules. Each case will tend to be treated on its merits and the discretion of the Judge.
This will usually be allowed where residence has been confirmed by others, but where the recipient has evaded personal service. Use can also be made of database sources such as the electoral roll and credit data. Addressed documents will need to be posted through the letterbox.
Third Party Service
The documents can be physically handed over to a close friend or family member. The person being handed the documents is then liable for ensuring the recipient gets them, so it is vital to check that the third party has regular contact with the recipient.
Social Media Service Options
This is a rare method of service, but it is likely to become more common. The courts have begun to embrace the changes in the way we communicate. In short, you may be able to post a notice of service through various social media networks. These include Facebook, Twitter or a platform such as WhatsApp if you know that the recipient will see it. Proof of the service will be needed in the form of a read receipt or reply. Other methods of service which are likely to feature in the future will be via text message, and email or even via drones.