In the complex world of legal proceedings, there are various unsung heroes who play pivotal roles in ensuring that justice is served. Among these individuals is the process server. You may have heard the term but wondered, “What does a process server do?” In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the role and responsibilities of a process server, their importance in legal proceedings, the legal requirements for serving documents, how they locate individuals for service, and the path to becoming a process server.

The Duties of a Process Server

Process servers are professionals entrusted with a crucial task: delivering legal documents to individuals involved in a legal case. These documents can include court summons, complaints, subpoenas, restraining orders, and various other legal notices. The primary duties of a process server include:

  1. Serving Legal Documents
    The core responsibility of a process server is to deliver legal documents to the intended recipients. This task involves personally handing over the documents or leaving them in a legally acceptable manner at the recipient’s residence or place of business.

    Serving documents in a legally compliant and professional manner is paramount to the process server’s role. They ensure that the recipient is aware of the legal proceedings initiated against them.
  2. Ensuring Proper Delivery
    Process servers must adhere to strict rules and guidelines for proper document delivery. They verify the identity of the recipient to ensure that the correct person receives the documents. This helps prevent cases of mistaken identity or unauthorized document acceptance.

    Additionally, process servers are often required to provide an affidavit of service, a legally binding document that confirms the details of the service, including the date, time, location, and recipient’s identity.
  3. Maintaining Accurate Records
    Accuracy and attention to detail are vital qualities for process servers. They meticulously document all service attempts, including any unsuccessful attempts to serve the documents. These records are crucial in legal proceedings to demonstrate that due diligence was exercised in serving the documents.

Importance in Legal Proceedings

Process servers play a fundamental role in the legal system, and their work is essential for several reasons:

Ensuring Due Process

Due process is a fundamental principle in law that guarantees individuals their legal rights. It includes the right to be informed of legal actions taken against them. Process servers are instrumental in ensuring due process by serving legal documents to parties involved in legal disputes, thereby affording them an opportunity to respond and defend their rights.

Maintaining Fair Trials

Process servers contribute to the integrity of legal proceedings by delivering documents related to court hearings, trials, and other legal actions. Their role ensures that all parties are aware of the legal proceedings and have an equal opportunity to participate in a fair trial.

Protecting Individuals’ Rights

Serving legal documents in a proper and timely manner helps protect the rights of individuals involved in legal cases. This includes notifying individuals of court dates, hearings, and any actions taken against them, allowing them to seek legal counsel and present their side of the story.

Legal Requirements for Serving Documents

The process of serving legal documents is subject to specific legal regulations and requirements that must be strictly adhered to. These requirements vary by jurisdiction but generally include the following:

Personal Service

In many cases, documents must be personally served to the recipient, meaning that they are handed directly to the individual. This ensures that the recipient is fully aware of the legal proceedings against them.

Timely Service

Legal documents must be served within a specified timeframe, as defined by local laws and court rules. Failure to serve documents within the prescribed period can have legal consequences, including case dismissal or delays.

Service Affidavit

After serving the documents, process servers typically provide an affidavit of service. This document, signed under penalty of perjury, includes details of the service, such as the date, time, location, and the identity of the recipient.

Service to the Correct Address

Process servers must ensure that documents are served to the correct address and the intended recipient. Verification of the recipient’s identity is also a critical aspect of proper service.

How Process Servers Locate Individuals

Locating individuals for service is often a challenging aspect of a process server’s job. To successfully serve documents, they may employ various techniques, including:

  1. Skip Tracing
    Skip tracing is the process of locating individuals who have moved or changed their contact information. Process servers may use databases, public records, and investigative techniques to track down the recipient’s current address and contact details.
  2. Surveillance
    In cases where the recipient is actively avoiding service, process servers may conduct surveillance to determine the individual’s daily routines and whereabouts.
  3. Communication with Attorney
    Attorneys involved in the case can provide valuable information about the recipient’s whereabouts or the best way to serve the documents.
  4. Social Media and Online Searches
    Process servers may use social media and online resources to gather information about the recipient’s location and activities.

Becoming a Process Server

Becoming a process server is a career path that requires a specific set of skills and qualifications. While requirements can vary by jurisdiction, the following steps generally outline the path to becoming a process server:

Research Local Requirements

Begin by researching the specific requirements for process servers in your jurisdiction. These may include educational qualifications, background checks, and licensing.

Education and Training

Some jurisdictions require completion of training programs or courses related to process serving. These programs cover legal procedures, ethics, and practical aspects of the job.


In many areas, process servers are required to obtain a license or registration to practice legally. This often involves passing an exam and meeting other state-specific requirements.


Building connections within the legal community and with attorneys can be valuable for finding job opportunities and gaining experience.

Maintain Compliance

Once licensed, process servers must adhere to all relevant laws and regulations, including continuing education requirements, to remain in compliance with state and local laws.

Process Servers Are Vital To The Legal Process

Process servers may not always be in the spotlight, but their role is indispensable in the legal system. They ensure that the wheels of justice turn smoothly by serving legal documents, preserving due process, and upholding individuals’ rights. The next time you ask, “What does a process server do?” remember that they are the unsung heroes who help maintain the integrity of our legal system.

In serving documents, process servers adhere to strict legal requirements, maintain accurate records, and employ various techniques to locate individuals. Whether you’re considering a career as a process server or simply seeking a better understanding of the legal process, their role is a vital one that keeps the legal system functioning effectively and fairly.

About Unified Judicial

Unified Judicial Services is a professional Process Service Agency based in New York City and licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
The company is led and managed by a long-serving member of the legal community with extensive experience in the field.

With our commitment to excellence and acute professionalism, we do our best to provide our clients with truly dependable, affordable, and timely service. Unified Judicial Services has provided consolidated insight to the legal community for many years. We are reinforced, authorized, and guaranteed!

Please contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you.