What Exactly Can a Process Server Do To Serve Papers?

Posted On December 15, 2023 Family Law

If you are involved in a divorce or child custody case, the time may come that you need to serve your ex or that you are served with legal papers yourself. Washington State has specific rules that must be followed when serving legal papers on someone involved in a court case. Here is what you need to know about this topic. 

Requirements To Be a Process Server in Washington 

Washington law states that to provide legal service for a fee in Washington, a person must:

  • Be a Washington resident
  • Be at least 18 years old 
  • Register as a process server with the county auditor where they reside or operate their business

These requirements do not apply to any of the following people who provide service of process in Washington:

  • A sheriff or other government employee who is acting in their course of employment
  • An attorney or employee of an attorney who does not serve process for a fee
  • A person who is court-appointed to serve the court’s process
  • A licensed private investigator
  • A person who does not receive money for serving process

Process servers should be aware and follow the rules that apply to service of process

Service of Process Rules

Washington law provides several options for legally serving someone, including:

Use Personal Service 

You can have a private process server or duly authorized government employee to complete personal service on your ex. This is one of the most common methods, and you must at least try to utilize personal service before you can use the methods mentioned below.

Serve by Mail or Publication 

You can ask the court for permission to serve your ex through mail or publication if personal service is not possible. This requires you first obtain permission from the court to do so. Service by mail goes to their last known address, while publication means publishing a legal notice in the newspaper. 

What a Process Server Can Do

Process servers fulfill an important duty by notifying parties involved in a lawsuit about a pending case. As such, they are given leeway and can generally (though there are exceptions depending on the circumstances):

  • Wait for a person to be served until a good opportunity arises
  • Serve a person at their workplace 
  • Serve the person in a public place
  • Mail the court papers if personal service is not possible (see above)

As long as the process server is not harassing or stalking the person to be served, they can usually get creative to provide service. However, as noted above, there are limits and exceptions to what a process server can do. 

What a Process Server Cannot Do

Process servers cannot break the law to complete service. This means they cannot go through the party’s mailbox, trespass, break and enter, or commit any other crime to complete the obligation. Additionally, they cannot lie about who they are.  These are just examples; there are other rules that process servers must adhere to, some of which are mentioned above. If you have any questions about service of process, contact the Twyford Law Office for assistance. 

Contact the Divorce Lawyers at Twyford Law Office To Get Legal Assistance Today

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm or reach out to Twyford Law Office online by visiting our contact us page. You can also visit your nearest law firm

Twyford Law Office Spokane Office
430 W Indiana Ave, Spokane, WA 99205.
(509) 327 0777  

Twyford Law Office Bellevue Office 
1408 140th Pl NE Suite 400, Bellevue, WA 98007 


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