Service of Process

This section is regarding serving a non-business defendant(s).  For information on how to serve a business, click here.

For any type of service, the person doing the service must complete and file a Proof of Service for each defendant served.  Once your server fills out and signs the Proof of Service, you must file it with the Court at least 5 days before your court date.

There are 3 different ways to serve someone:

(1) Personal Service

The Sheriff charges $30 to serve each defendant.  You must contact the Sheriff in the county in which the defendant is located.

Click here for Sheriff Service Instructions. Or contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Office:

North County 714-647-7000

South County 949-770-6011

Professional process servers charge a similar fee for service and may be found in any yellow pages. Anyone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the action may serve a defendant.

*Tell the server to:  Walk up to the person to be served and say, “These are court papers.” Give the person copies of all the court papers. If the person won’t take the papers, just leave them near the person. It doesn’t matter if the person tears them up or throws them away.

*You must serve your claim at least 15 days before the court date (or 20 days if the person, business, or public entity you’re serving is outside the county).

(2) Substituted Service

If the person you have to serve is not at home or work when your server goes there, your server can give the court papers to:

  • A competent adult (at least 18) living at the home with the person to be served, or
  • An adult who seems to be in charge where the person to be served usually works, or
  • Tell the person s/he’s leaving the court papers with to give them to the person you’re suing.
  • Write down the name of the person s/he gave the court papers to. If the person won’t give his/her name, your server must write down a physical description of the person who took the papers.
  • Mail another copy of the court papers by first-class mail to the person you’re suing at the same address where your server left the papers. 

*You must serve your claim at least 25 days before your court date (or 30 days if the person, business, or public entity you’re serving is outside the county).

(3)Service by Certified Mail by the Court Clerk

The defendant can be served by Certified Mail by the court clerk. File Form L-1091.
You must keep in mind that if the defendant chooses not to sign for the certified mail, then they were not served with the lawsuit.