Edward F. Younger
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Service Process


Service Process in Virginia

Service is making sure the other side gets a copy of the papers you are filing. If you are starting a case, your case cannot go forward until the other side is served. It is very important that you do service correctly. If you do not, then the court may dismiss your case. If you have an uncontested case, the other parent, or opposing party, may give you a notarized answer to file at the same that the time you file your complaint or petition and you will not have to do service. Alternatively, the defendant can sign a writing which when notarized and filed shows the acceptance of service by the defendant.

How Do I Serve a Complaint, Petition or Motion?

Process may be served by delivering a copy in writing to the party in person, by any person eighteen years of age or older whom is not a party or otherwise interested in the action. Posting on the door of defendant's last known place of residence may also be sufficient if the defendant has not abandoned the premises. A defendant in a divorce action may accept service by signing the proof of service before any officer authorized to administer oaths.

What if the Case is Uncontested?

If the case is uncontested, and the other side gives you a notarized answer to the complaint, which you file at the time you file your complaint, you do not have to have service of process. Service of process is accomplished by the filing of the notarized affidavit.

What are the Methods of Service?

Service can be made in one of several ways. You need to choose a method of service. Service can be made one of several ways:

by sheriff;
by private process; and
by certified mail, restricted delivery using a friend or relative or other adult.

YOU CANNOT SERVE THE OTHER SIDE YOURSELF. Whichever method you choose, to proof that the other side was served must be filed with the court. A person can be served at home, at work, or anywhere else the person happens to be. Posting on the door of defendant's last known place of residence is also effective service if the defendant has not abandoned the premises.

What is Service by Sheriff?
You can have the sheriff serve the other side. The sheriff will charge a fee of approximately $40.00. Ask the Clerk of the Court the amount of the fee when you file your papers and tell the clerk of the Court to send your papers to the sheriff. You will need to check with the clerk to see if the other side has been served, The sheriff will send the clerk a "return of service" to prove the sheriff has served the papers on the other side.

What is Service by Certified Mail?

This is a good method of service in certain situations. It does require that the other side accept the papers and personally sign the receipt (green card). The adult should take the papers to the Post Office and follow the instructions for mailing by certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested. If the other side receives the papers, the receipt (green card) will be returned to you with the other side's signature. Attach the receipt (green card) and a copy of the Complaint to the completed Affidavit, and file the Affidavit with the Clerk of Court as proof that the other side received the papers.

If the receipt (green card) is returned with the wrong signature or if the entire envelope comes back undelivered, you will have to make another attempt at service or see an attorney.

How Do I Serve an Answer?

You must mail a copy of the answer and a copy of everything you are filing to the other side. Fill in the certificate of service at the bottom of the Answer. Do not forget to file your answer with the Clerk of Court.

What Happens if Service is Not Made?

There may have to be several attempts to serve the other side by using different methods If several attempts to serve the other side have been unsuccessful you may have to consider serving the other side through alternative methods of service such as Posting or Publication.

What Happens if Service is Made?

The person served has 21 days to answer if he or she is served in Virginia.

Source: VA Bar Association

The information on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Please contact us to obtain legal advice pertaining to your situation.