Afsana Chowdhury | November 25, 2023 | Virginia Law
When a civil case is filed, such as for divorce or child custody, certain legal safeguards are in place to ensure that the other party’s rights are protected. One important safeguard is ensuring that the defendant has been properly notified of the case. This prevents someone from losing assets, custody of their children, or other legal rights without being given a chance to defend them.
Here is what you need to know about what process servers are allowed to do to serve papers in Virginia.
General Requirements For Legal Service in Virginia
A sheriff or private process server can serve legal paperwork in the state. If the sheriff agrees, an investigator for a law firm can complete legal service. Additionally, any person who is at least 18 and not a party to the lawsuit can serve legal paperwork.
An exception to these rules is if a case involves child custody or visitation and a summons is issued for a teacher or other school employee, and that person is not a party to the proceeding. In that case, the sheriff or a deputy of the sheriff must complete service if it is to be completed on school property.
The person completing service is required to submit a certificate of service to the court to indicate the manner in which service was provided, who completed service, and the date service was completed.
How Do Process Servers Usually Serve Papers in Virginia?
Most process service is completed by in-person delivery of legal documents. This is the preferred method of serving documents. Any other method of service is called “substituted service.”
Alternative Methods For Serving Process in Virginia
It is not always possible or preferable to provide personal service on someone. Virginia allows a number of alternatives to serve someone. Substituted service can include the following options, in order of preference:
Delivering the Documents To Someone Else in the Household
If a person to be served isn’t at their usual residence, the process server can deliver a copy of the legal documents and give information about them to anyone else in the household who is a member of the person’s family. They must be aged 16 or older.
Mounting a Copy on the Defendant’s Door
If personal service on the person or their family member cannot be accomplished, the process server can post a copy of the documents at the front door or the main entrance where the person to be served lives. The posting must be made at least ten days before a default judgment could be entered. The party or their attorney must also mail a copy of the legal documents to the defendant and file proof with the court that they have done so.
If the defendant cannot be located and other methods of service have failed, it may be possible to serve the defendant by publication.
What Happens After Service of Process?
If you are the person who has served the other party, service begins the clock for the other party to respond. If the other party does not respond within the time limit described in the summons, the court can enter a default judgment against the defendant, and you can receive the relief you requested.
If you have recently been served with legal paperwork, you might wish to contact an attorney for legal advice and guidance. You only have a small window of time to provide a response to protect your rights.
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