What a Process Server Really Does
Serving process is a job that is surrounded by many misconceptions. Usually Process servers taken up by private investigator firms, process serving is a function that operates privately, independent of the courts, to deliver court materials and legal documents by an impartial third party. Common use is to deliver materials and contracts to unwilling parties, or to directly subpoena defendants with court summons.
Processes are court documents or legal documents that can range from summons to complaints. A process server is used to provide court verification that a document was received by a party involved with the case.
For a quick example, image you are a tenant who is taking your landlord to court for failing to fix some items in your house, as per the lease agreement. The landlord is refusing to answer your calls and you have decided to take that landlord to court for either money back from your rent, or to force the landlord to make the repairs. Your lawyer would hire a process server to track down your landlord and deliver the court summons to them, legally mandating their presence in court on the appointed date. The process server does not work for you and your lawyer though.
The fact that they are a third part is essential to a process server’s job. People have the misconception that the process server works in the favor of the plaintiff, but a certified process server must have sworn an affidavit on a case that they are serving to say that they are totally impartial upon serving of the papers. They can have no connection to either the plaintiff or the defendant, insofar as they are hired by the plaintiff’s lawyer to serve the papers and ensure a court date.
Each state has their own set of regulations for how a process server can legally consider the documents served. In the state of Virginia, processes can be delivered in person for the most effective serving. However, they have several other tactics that they may use to serve the documents. If another party answers the door of the defendant’s residence, they may leave the documents with that individual to then give to the defendant IF that individual is a family member of the defendant, is at least 16 years old, is not a guest in the house but a permanent resident, and is told the circumstances of the documents. If all else fails they can simply attach the process to the front door of the residence, and only the front door. If the defendant has been deemed to have left the state or abandoned the home at which they are legally living, there are other ways to effectively consider the process to be served as well as well.