“Service of process” is a necessary prerequisite to a lawsuit or a claim, including the initiation of family law actions such as divorce and petitions to modify existing child custody or child support arrangements.
You serve process on a defendant in a lawsuit when you have a neutral third party notify them of the proceedings against them. This is done by presenting them with a copy of the lawsuit complaint that you filed and a court summons that informs the defendant of their right to file an answer.
Who Serves Process?
In Florida, the sheriff of the county where the defendant resides or can be found is the person with primary authority to serve process. The sheriff can also appoint designated special process servers to serve process.
Florida state process servers must meet certain state law requirements, and the state must certify them. The state must also periodically recertify such people. The most important qualification is that the person who serves process should have no stake in the outcome of the case.
Appropriate Means of Service of Process
Florida law approves the following means of service of process under certain conditions, not all of which appear below.
Personal service means hand delivery in person. It is the most reliable form of service, because it is difficult for a defendant who receives personal service to claim that they lacked fair notice of the lawsuit. At the same time, is also the easiest form of service to evade.
Personal Service at Work
If the process server knows the identity of the defendant’s employer, they can serve the defendant at work under certain circumstances. They must notify the defendant’s employer in advance. They must allow the employer to designate a private area for service so that a plaintiff cannot use the prospect of embarrassment as leverage in a dispute.
Florida can fine a process server for $1,000 if they serve at work without notifying the employer in advance.
Defendants frequently attempt to evade personal service of process. If this happens, the process server may use an alternative means of service known as substituted service. There are many types of substitute service that could be appropriate depending on the facts of the case.
In the most common form, the process server comes to the defendant’s residence and leaves the papers with anyone living there who is at least 15 years old. They must explain what the papers are for so that the recipient will notify the defendant.
Service by Publication
Under certain circumstances where the process server has made many unsuccessful good faith attempts to serve process, Florida law allows a process server to serve the defendant by publishing a notice in a newspaper or other publication serving the place where the defendant lives. Florida law places many restrictions on this type of service.
Inappropriate Means of Service of Process
There are a multitude of inappropriate methods of service of process. A process server may not, for example, slip the papers into the mail slot of the defendant’s residence.
Likewise, they cannot leave the papers on the defendant’s front porch. One counter-intuitive rule is that the process server may not attempt personal service on a Sunday.
Talk to a Lawyer if You Have Any Doubts
You don’t want to mess this one up. If you are the party filing the lawsuit, failure to properly serve process on the defendant could result in you missing the statute of limitations deadline.
This, in turn, could result in the forfeiture of your claim. If you are on the receiving end, misunderstanding service of process could result in a default judgment against you. Schedule a consultation with an experienced family lawyer at your earliest convenience.
Contact the Orlando Family and Divorce Law Firm of Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC for Help Today
Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC
815 N Magnolia Ave Suite 100
Orlando, FL 32803