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Understanding Service of Process

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

What is service of process?

Service of process is the official way to deliver court papers to someone and notify them of a lawsuit against them.  

 

 

 

Methods of Service

For service to be proper, it must be accomplished through one of the appropriate "Methods of Service":

  • Sheriff's Service: Sheriff's service is the "default" method. 
  • Acceptance or Waiver of Service: The person being served must agree to accept or waive formal service.
  • Long-Arm Service: Long-arm service is used when the person to be served lives outside of the state of Louisiana.
  • Private Process Service: This can be used when sheriff's service is unsuccessful or, in some cases, when service is needed very quickly. 
  • Appointing a Curator: This is used when the location of the person to be served is unknown or they are an an "absentee".
  • Incarcerated Persons: There is a special method of service for persons who are incarcerated. 
  • Military Service Members: Generally, ordinary methods of service do apply to military service members the same way they apply to civilians.  However, for deployed active duty military service members, additional steps may be required.

For more detailed information about how each method can be accomplished, navigate to the green "Methods of Service" tab at the top of the page. 

 

Types of Service

There are two types of service: personal service and domiciliary service.  The law requires personal service in some kinds of cases and allows domiciliary service in other kinds of cases. 

  • Personal service means the "proper officer" directly delivers the paperwork to the person to be served. Personal service can occur wherever the person can be found, including their home, work, or any other location where they are physically available, like a parking lot while they are walking to their car.  

 

  • Domiciliary service means the "proper officer" leaves the paperwork at the principal place of residence of the party to be served.
    • The party's "principal place of residence" is their place of dwelling or domicile when they have the intent to reside there.  The intent to reside can be shown by utility bills, receiving mail at an address, or listing an address on a voter registration or driver's license.  For most people, this is their "home" address.
    • The paperwork must be left with a person of suitable age and discretion residing at the principal place of residence of the party to be served. "A person of suitable age and discretion" could be a teenager or other competent adult.

 

Information Needed for Service

Information you may need to obtain in order to accomplish service of process, regardless of the type of service or method used, includes:

  • current or last known home address of the person to be served;
  • current or last known work address of the person to be served;
  • current telephone number of the person to be served; or
  • address of any other location where the person is likely to be physically present. 
  • If you know the specific times the person is usually present at their home or work address, you should provide that information.
  • For private process servers, it may be helpful to provide identifying physical characteristics (height, weight, eye color, visible tattoos, etc.). 

What Are the Methods of Service?

Ordinarily, a civil sheriff's deputy will serve this notice upon any party located in Louisiana.  For the sheriff to make service, the sheriff will need to physically locate the person (personal service) or deliver the papers to the person's home address (domiciliary service).  The filing party will need to provide the Clerk of Court with the necessary information for service, including: 

  • current or last known home address;

  • current or last known work address;
  • current telephone number; or
  • address of any other location where the person is likely to be physically present. 
  • If you know the specific times the person is usually present at their home or work address, you should provide that information.

 

The Clerk of Court will prepare a certified copy of the paper that was filed with the Court, called a "service copy".  The clerk will attach a citation to the "service copy" of the lawsuit. A citation is a paper that names the person being sued and provides important information about the lawsuit. The citation includes the time delay(s) to respond, the date and time of any hearing, and the title and location of the court. The Clerk of Court coordinates with the sheriff's office, which will accomplish service. 

 

There are costs and fees required for sheriff's service. These fees are separate from filing fees.

 

When the two parties are on good terms, especially in divorce and custody cases, it may be easier, quicker, cheaper, and less stressful for a party to accept or waive service.  This article, "Acceptance or Waiver of Service", explains this method of service and how to do it. 

When a party to the lawsuit lives out of state, service may most easily be accomplished by the "long-arm process".  This article, "Methods of Making Long-Arm Service" describes the process and explains the steps.

Private process service is only acceptable in limited circumstances. In situations where private process service is acceptable, you must ask the court to appoint private process server.  This article, "Private Process Service", explains the situations when you might need to do this and how to accomplish private-process service. 

If you are unable to locate the person, or if the person is an "absentee", you can ask the court to appoint an attorney, called a "curator", for purposes of service.  For more information on situations when this might be an option, and how to do it, read this article: "Absentee Defendants and Appointing a Curator".

For more information, read this article about service of process on persons who are incarcerated.

In general, the ordinary methods of service apply to military service members, including long-arm service by U.S. Certifiied mail.  For more information, read this article on how to accomplish service of process on active duty military members currently deployed.

FAQs About Service

Service is required in all civil actions, but citation and service are not necessary in summary proceedings and executory proceedings. If your case pertains to family law, you may be involved in summary proceedings. If your case involves seizure and sale of property to enforce a mortgage, it may be governed by the rules applicable to executory proceedings. 

 

Even in summary proceedings, a copy of the contradictory motion, rule to show cause, or other pleading filed by the plaintiff in the proceeding, and of any order of court assigning the date and hour of the trial has to be served on the defendant.

 

If you are unsure whether service is required in your case, you should request service or seek advice from an attorney. Failure to serve a party in cases when service is required renders the entire proceeding "absolutely null," as if it had never happened.

Yes. The filing party must request service of the citation on all named defendants within ninety (90) days of the date of filing commencing the case.

 

The Court counts 90 calendar days beginning on the day after the date of the filing of the petition for divorce. This count includes Saturdays and Sundays. If the last day of the 90 day period falls on a Saturday, you should request service by the Friday before. If the last day of the 90 day period falls on a Sunday, you can request service on the following Monday.

 

If service is not timely requested, the defendant can file something called a "declinatory exception of insufficiency of service of process". If the defendant files the declinatory exception, you may need to re-file the petition and potentially re-pay the filing fees. Make sure to timely request service.

 

If 90 days have not passed since the date of the filing of the petition, you can still timely request service! You can contact the clerk of court and say that you need to request service on the defendant in your case.

No. In addition to the filing fee paid to the Clerk of Court for filing the petition or other document, a separate payment is required to the civil sheriff's office for the cost of service. You should contact the Clerk of Court by phone before you go to the courthouse and ask what the cost of service will be.

No. After the original petition, unless a pleading needs to be served by the sheriff, all parties to the litigation must provide each other (by mail or fax), copies of pleadings that are being filed with the Clerk of Court. A certificate of service must be filed in the suit record that this has been done and this is usually done within the pleading that is being filed.

Last Review and Update: Oct 29, 2021
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