What is Service of Process and Why is it Important?

Have you ever been to Court and had the following occur: the other party is not present and the Judge states that there is no service on the party and dismisses the proceedings? That is because the Judge needs proper service in order to take further action or enter a ruling.

Under the Code of Virginia (§8.01-296), service of process must be obtained before the Courts can legally take action. Service of process is the means by which the responding party or parties receives legal notification that they are the subject(s) of an active court proceeding. Additionally, service of process establishes a Judicial entities’ jurisdiction over that legal proceeding.

In Virginia, the service of process usually begins with a Court Clerk issuing a Summons or Subpoena to the party subject to the proceeding, with a copy of what has been filed with the Court attached. This Summons or Subpoena is then delivered to the party named therein by a Sheriff’s Deputy or other service of process agent. Once the Summons or Subpoena has been sent out for service, the Court is looking to receive a receipt of service.

There are two primary types of service: Personal Service and Posted or Substitute Service.

Personal Service

Personal service is the ideal form of service because it means that the responding party was directly notified of and/or presented with the documents from the Court in regards to the open proceeding. Whereas posted service, or substitute service as it is also called, occurs when the serving agent cannot make direct contact with the party named therein.

Posted Service

Posted service can be accomplished by leaving notice and/or documentation of the open court proceeding with a member of the responding party’s family, who is over the age of sixteen (16), or by leaving a copy of the Court issued service documents on the responding party’s front door, so long as the court proceedings is not within 10 days of the notice being left at the door. With receipt of either Personal or Posted service, the Court has the legal authority to move forward with the proceedings.

In some situations, neither personal nor posted service can be obtained, as both require a current and accurate address for the responding party. Fear not! The Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes a few other types of service as well that can be used in those circumstances. If you have questions about service of process, please feel free to contact our firm at 804-423-1382 or info@wmmlegal.com to schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of our experienced Virginia attorneys.


Source: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/8.01-296/