For your information, we’ve provided a glossary of words commonly used in the process serving industry.

A

Abscond

To leave a jurisdiction and avoid being served with legal papers or getting arrested.

Abuse of Process

The misuse of the legal process by illegal or malicious means. Examples include serving a complaint that has not been filed for the purpose of intimidation, or filing a false declaration of service.

Accept

To receive something with approval and the intention to keep it. This use often arises on the question of accepting a payment which is late or not complete, or accepting the service/delivery of legal papers.

Acceptance of Service

A defendant or an individual’s attorney can accept a complaint or other petition without a sheriff or process server showing up at the door. Acceptance of Service must be in writing, or there is no proof that the service took place. Most jurisdictions require a form entitled Receipt and Acknowledgment of Acceptance of Service.

Actual Eviction

When a tenant is wrongfully removed from their premises, which usually occurs by a landlord, and is not written in the terms of the lease, it is a violation that wrongfully deprives a tenant of the possession of premises.

Affidavit of Service

Any written document in which the signer swears under oath before a notary public or someone authorized to take oaths that the statements in the document are true.

Agent for Acceptance of Service

A defendant or their attorney can accept a complaint or other petition without having the sheriff or process server show up at the door. The acceptance of service must be in writing or there is no proof that it happened. Most jurisdictions require a “Receipt and Acknowledgment of Acceptance of Service.”

Asset Searches

An asset is an item or property with monetary value, including objects with sentimental value. Assets are shown in balance sheets, inventories, probate estates, and in divorces. There are several types of assets including accounts receivable, fixed assets, basic equipment, structures, and intangibles.

B

Background Investigation

Conducting a background investigation and background check is critical to a successful investigation. A thorough background investigation can make or break a case. Background Checks find information on an individual, a business, or the history of something/someone.

Bench Warrant

An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.

C

Civil Process Server

A Civil Process Server is used to file a Civil Lawsuit or Divorce in a court of law, on behalf of a law firm, attorney, corporation, business, or individual. A Civil Process Server serves notification that a case has been filed; the notification provides instructions on how to proceed. Civil Process Servers also serve Subpoenas, Summons, Complaints and much more.

Complaint

The first document filed with the County Clerk by a person or entity claiming legal rights against an individual or company. The party filing the complaint is usually called the plaintiff (s) and the party the claim is filed against is called the defendant (s).

Constructive

Treating a situation as if it were true, also called legal fiction. For example, if I give someone my bank account number and ask them to make a deposit for me and they withdraw my funds, that individual has Constructive Possession.

Constructive Eviction

When a landlord foregoes legal eviction and takes steps to keep tenants from living in their unit. Examples of Constructive Eviction include changing the locks, turning off the water, blocking the driveway, yelling at the tenant, or nailing the door shut. Please see Actual Eviction and Eviction for more information.

Constructive Notice

This refers to a false notice, personally delivered.

Contempt of Court

Defying a court authority can place you in Contempt of Court. This includes cursing at a judge, exercising violence against an officer of the court, or not adhering to a Court Order. Those in receipt of a Contempt of Court citation can be charged with a fine, or a short stay in jail.

Court Order

A court order is a decision made by a judge, court referee, commissioner or magistrate that demands or directs someone to do something.

Court Services

There are several Courts in the United States, Family Court, Criminal Court, Appellate Court, Court of Appeals, Supreme Court, etc. Each Court is governed by state and local laws and hears cases respectively.

D

Defendant

The party or parties being sued in a civil lawsuit, or the individual being charged with a crime in a criminal prosecution. In a divorce, a defendant is referred to as a respondent.

Diligence

Diligence is a satisfactory amount of attention to a matter; a fair attempt. An example of diligence is a process server’s due diligence in locating and serving someone legal papers.

Dissolution of Marriage

See: Divorce

Divorce

The termination of a marriage by legal action, requiring a petition or complaint for divorce, or dissolution in some states, including California, by one party. Some states still require at least a minimal showing of fault, but no-fault divorce is now the rule in which “incompatibility” is sufficient to grant a divorce. The substantive issues in divorces are division of property, child custody and support, alimony/ spousal support, child visitation, and attorney’s fees. Only state courts have jurisdiction over divorces, so the petitioning or complaining party can must file in the state in which he/she is and has been a resident for a period of time (as little as six weeks in Nevada). In most states, the period from original filing for divorce, serving the petition on the other party, and final judgment or decree, takes several months to allow for a chance to reconcile.

Document Filing and Retrieval

This refers to the preparation and filing of legal documents. Commonly filed and retrieved documents include corporate documentation, certificates of Good Standing, Foreign and Domestic Certificates, Certificates Evidencing Filing, Certificates Evidencing Dissolution, certified copies, corporate verification, assumed business names, and franchise tax searches.

Due Process of Law

Due Process is the principle of fairness in all legal matters. Legal procedures set statutes and court practice, including notice of rights, which must be followed without prejudice. Due Process safeguards private and public rights against unfairness.

Due Process

Due Process refers to the right of fundamental procedural legal safeguards for every citizen. Due Process is the right to be given notice and to be heard.

E

Eviction

The lawful removal of a tenant from occupancy of a property. Eviction is also called Actual Eviction and Constructive Eviction.

Expert witness

A witness with specific knowledge; a specialist called to testify and corroborate or debunk facts surrounding a legal case in question.

I

Insurance Fraud Investigation

Insurance fraud refers to deceiving an insurance company or agent to collect money which the party is not entitled to receive. Insurers and agents can also defraud consumers. Insurance fraud most often occurs when an individual stages an accident, injury, theft, arson or other loss to collect money illegally from insurance companies.

O

Order to Show Cause

A court order that requires a person to appear in court on a specific date and time. If failure to appear occurs, the court will take action. Action can include punishment for being in Contempt of Court, or issuing a Bench Warrant for that individual’s immediate arrest.

P

Personal Service

Personal service refers to the receipt of legal papers from a Process Server.

Petition

A petition is a formal request directed at an individual for something in writing.

Petition for Divorce

A petition or complaint for divorce or dissolution refers to a request for legal termination of a marriage. Some states require a minimal showing of fault. There are also no-fault states, in which incompatibility is enough evidence to grant a divorce. The primary issues in divorces are division of property, child custody and support, and spousal support.

Plaintiff

A plaintiff is the party that initiates a lawsuit. This is done by filing a complaint with the clerk of the court against the defendant(s), demanding reparations.

Priority Service

Priority Service refers to the initial attempt to Process Serve a party, made upon requesting Legal Process Service. Traditionally, there are a minimum number of attempts included within Regular Service, usually 2-4 attempts. Charges for service can increase if the party being served requires more attempts.

Private Investigation Service

A private investigation service is hired by a law firm, lawyer, corporation, or individual to obtain court records, government agency filings, vital statistics, property ownerships, vehicle and vessel records, photographs, witness statements and more. Many services specialize in various court cases, and are typically employed by law firms or lawyers. Private investigators can prepare criminal defenses, locate witnesses, serve legal documents, interview police and prospective witnesses, and gather and review evidence.

Private Process Server

A private process server is referred to as an officer or a sheriff. The server enters a public area of business to serve process in compliance with local and state laws, and into a private place of business where there is an expectation of privacy to serve process. Any individual or individuals who try to resist the process of service, or obstruct justice can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Process Server and Process Server Agent

A legal process server delivers judicial paper work or files it with a court on behalf of law firms, individuals, corporations, and organizations in accordance to the law. Typical process service includes attempts to serve the party and notarized proof of service upon completing the legal process of service. Documents served include subpoenas, summons, and evictions.

Proof of Service

A form filed with the court proving a date that legal documents were formally served to a party regarding a court action.

Public Records Search

A public records search allows an individual or private investigator to access public record databases on the internet or offline. Common public records research includes finding business information, corporate filings, property records, unclaimed property, professional licenses, offenders, inmates, criminal and civil court filings.

R

Regular Service

Regular Process Service is when the initial attempt to Process Serve the party is made within 48 to 72 hours. Traditionally, there are a minimum amount of attempts included within Regular Service. This varies from 2-4 times. Charges can increase if the party being served requires more attempts.

Return of Service

Written confirmation under oath by a process server declaring that there was service of legal documents, such as a summons and complaint. See also: service, service of process.

Rush Service

Rush Process Service is when the initial attempt to Process Serve the party is made within 24 hours. Traditionally, there are a minimum number of attempts included within Regular Service. This varies from 2-4 times. Charges can increase if the party being served requires more attempts.

S

Same Day Service

This refers to picking up and delivering documents to be process served on the same day.

Service by Fax

Delivery of legal documents served via fax, followed by a mailing of an original copy to the individual, or their attorney. Service by fax is recognized by the courts.

Service by Mail

Service by mail refers to mailing legal papers to the opposing party or their attorney, and filing the original with the clerk of the court with a declaration stating the legal papers were mailed and the individual they were mailed to.

Service by Publication

Service by publication means serving legal documents on a defendant by publishing the document in an advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation.

Service of Process

Service of process is a legal term used by a court of law to exercise its jurisdiction in legal proceedings, or actions brought against a party. Each jurisdiction is governed by its own local and state rules regarding service of process.

Skip Trace and Skip Tracing

Skip tracing refers to searching for information about someone. Common skip traces include debts, legal matters, repossessions, locating witnesses, missing persons and heirs, life insurance beneficiaries, locating people, locating property. It is also commonly used to locate friends, relatives, and loved ones; and it can be useful in divorce cases, past-due child support, bail jumpers, and locating convicted criminals.

Subpoena

A subpoena is an order of the court for a witness to appear and testify, or produce documents. Failure to appear is punished by contempt of court.

Substituted Service

Substituted service is the serving legal documents with an adult resident of the home of the individual being served, or a management level employee of a business where the individual works.

Summons

A document issued by the court when a lawsuit is filed. It states the name of both plaintiff and defendant, the title of the case, the file number and the contact information of each party, or their attorneys.

Surveillance

Surveillance is the continual observation of a person or group and verification of that person or group’s activity. Surveillance is used to investigate criminal activities, domestic disputes, adultery, and more. In most instances, it is important to hire an investigator so that the evidence collected resulting from the surveillance can be used in a court of law.