Serving a Summons

Serving a Summons

Last updated: April 2012

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Service of process is the formal name for giving a person (or a business) a summons to come to court. A "summons" is the official notice that you are suing someone and that they must go to court. You start a lawsuit by filing a complaint or petition for relief. A complaint or petition for relief is a document that says that the person you are filing a lawsuit against has done something wrong to you. After you file a complaint or petition for relief, you will fill out a summons. You will then have the summons served on the other party. If a summons is properly served on the other party, you must go to court to present your case. If the other party fails to go to court, you can automatically win the suit if you prove your case to the judge.Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.Why do I have to serve the person I am suing? You must give someone notice that you are suing them. This notice must give them the date of their first required court appearance. If you sue someone but you have not given them proper notice, they may be able to have the lawsuit dismissed because you did not give them proper notice of the lawsuit.In order to give proper notice, you must give the other party a summons. The process of bringing them into court with a summons is called "Service of Process."What are proper methods of service? You cannot serve the summons and complaint on the defendant yourself. You can arrange for service in one of four ways:Service by the Sheriff: Take the summons (one original, two copies, each having attached a copy of the complaint) to the sheriff to arrange for hand delivery to the defendant. Once the sheriff serves the defendant, the sheriff fills out a sworn statement on the back of the summons copy. Service by a Licensed Private Detective: Take the summons (one original, two copies, each having attached a copy of the complaint) to the licensed private detective to arrange for hand delivery to the defendant. Once the private detective serves the defendant, the private detective fills out a sworn statement on the back of the summons copy.Service by Certified Mail by the Circuit Clerk: If the defendant has a mailing address within the state of Illinois, you may serve the summons by certified mail, return receipt requested. Tell the clerk that you want to serve the defendant by certified mail. Only the clerk, not you, may mail the summons. Once the letter carrier delivers the summons and gets the receipt, the carrier sends the receipt to the clerk's office to show that it was delivered. Service by a Private Process Server: If you choose to have a private process server serve the summons, you must file an Ex-Parte Motion for Appointment of Special Process Server, with the court before the private process server serves the summons. A judge must issue an order appointing the server before service can be carried out. If the summons is served by a private process server, the private process server must complete a signed and notarized affidavit and attach it to the original of the summons. A sheriff or licensed process server can properly serve someone in the following ways: By giving the summons and complaint or petition for relief to the other party personally at their home or at another location; or By giving it to someone who lives with the other party who is at least 13 years old.There are separate rules for service of process on corporations and partnerships. Generally, the summons and complaint must be served on the registered agent for the corporation or partnership or on an officer of the corporation or partnership. There are also separate rules for service of process on the government and government agencies, depending on the type of lawsuit that you are filing. If you think you need to file your lawsuit against the government or a government agency, then you should talk to an attorney. Click on the "Find Legal Help" tab to find free legal help.Where can I find the forms I need for service? The forms you will need for service will be different depending upon what court you are in and what kind of case you have. Try searching this website for the kind of case you have. You should find materials with all of the forms that you will need, including a summons. If you cannot find forms on this website, ask your local circuit court clerk for help.What if the person I am suing does not respond to the summons? If the other party does not respond to the summons, they may not have received it. You may want to send an alias summons. An alias summons is a second summons. You may ask the circuit clerk to send an alias summons.Sometimes, the person you are suing has a second name. You may want to use an alias summons with that name listed.What happens if the sheriff cannot serve the person I am suing? Special Process Server: If the sheriff has tried to serve the other party but was not able to for some reason, you can have a "special process server" serve the defendant. If you choose to have a special process server serve the summons, you must file an Ex-Parte Motion for Appointment of Special Process Server, with the court before the private process server serves the summons. A judge must issue an order appointing the server before service can be carried out. If the summons is served by a private process server, the private process server must complete a signed and notarized affidavit and attach it to the original of the summons. Publication: Service by publication means that a notice is published for a period of time in a newspaper in the area where the lawsuit was filed. You would need to file an Affidavit for Service by Publication for permission to give service by publication. When you go to court on the date your motion is heard, you will need to show the judge that the sheriff or the special process server has tried to serve the other party without success. Note: You can not get every form of relief from the other party when you serve them by publication. For example, you can not get a judgment for money against someone when you serve them by publication. This means that in a divorce case, you would be able to get the divorce itself but you would not be able to get a judgment requiring the other side to pay child support. What if I cannot afford to serve someone? You may be able to get the fee for serving someone waived. You must meet certain income and property guidelines and file an Application and Order to Sue or Defend as an Indigent Person to have your court costs waived. To read more about how you can avoid court costs, see the "Related Articles" section of this Guide.What can I do if a summons was not served on me properly? If a summons and complaint or petition for relief were not served on you properly, you still may need to respond to the lawsuit before the first court date. If a summons and complaint or petition for relief were not served on you properly, then the other side may not be able to get the relief they are requesting from the judge. If you do not object to service of process on the first court date, then you may waive your right to object to the service of process even if it was not done correctly. The other side would be able to go forward with the lawsuit against you as if service of process had been done properly.

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