At the start of many lawsuits is a step known as the service of process—it's the basic procedure by which you give appropriate notice to the other party about the pending legal action. That preserves their right to respond and allows the court to assert jurisdiction over the person and case. If service of process doesn't happen, it can delay or halt a lawsuit. That means that some people will go to rather significant lengths to avoid being served with those papers. If you're trying to serve papers on someone that doesn't want to be served, what are your options?
1.) Public Notice
Depending on the circumstances, the court may allow you to serve notice of the pending legal action by posting a notice in public areas. For example, a spouse that's reluctant to divorce may try to avoid being served process. In Ohio, you can deal with the situation by placing a notice in the courthouse where domestic cases are heard and two other public places, such as the license bureau and post office. Since you only have to pay for copies, this method is the least expensive, but you have to allow the notice to hang for whatever time period required by the statute and that will slow down your case. It also isn't necessarily an option in all kinds of cases.
2.) Sheriff's Office
Deputies and sheriffs are able to serve process papers as well, usually for a fairly reasonable fee. For example, the $40 charged by the Broward County, Florida sheriff is typical of the fee for serving a subpoena or summons in that state. While a sheriff or deputy certainly conveys a sense of authority, that can actually be a problem if the target of your action is trying to avoid being served. A uniformed officer is generally easy to spot on the approach, which gives people the opportunity to slip away if they can.
In addition, service by deputy or sheriff may not be the most efficient or quickest method of service. Studies indicate that customer satisfaction in this area with deputies is only 2.55 (out of a possible 5). Private process servers, by comparison, generally rate a 4.28. The likelihood for the difference is that private process servers do the work for their living—so they have more incentive to provide good service.
3. Private Servers
Hiring a private process server is likely the most expensive option, but not by much. The difference in cost between a private server and a deputy or sheriff averages only a little more than $14 per service. In return for the extra cost, you generally get the fastest and most successful service.
Private process servers are successful 92% of the time (compared to 74% of the time for sheriffs). Some of the people who do the job suspect that their ability to basically blend in with everyone else helps them essentially get to their target more easily. Someone who is on alert and would run at the sight of a uniform won't necessarily be expecting an ordinary individual to hand them court papers.
If you need to serve process on someone in order to move ahead in a court case, consider contacting a private process server like Cooper Process Service LLC to help.