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How to Serve Someone Out of State: A Step-by-Step Guide

August 1, 2023

Wondering how to serve someone out of state? We’ve got you covered. Understanding the requirements for out of state services of process is easy! This article will cover everything you need to know from process server licensing requirements to alternative service methods and more.

First, a a brief introduction to the topics we’ll cover below.

Short Summary

  • Requirements for serving someone in another state and process server licensing.
  • Types of service: personal service, certified mail, regular first-class mail, substituted service, and service by publication.
  • Preparing complete & accurate documents, getting necessary permissions/approvals & submitting proof of service to ensure a successful outcome.

Requirements For Serving Someone Out Of State

Requirements For Serving Someone Out Of State

Serving someone out of state should be fast and easy, especially when you have an experienced nationwide process server to help. There are certain rules in place to ensure that the defendant’s rights are protected and that the service process is executed fairly and accurately.

Process Server Licensing

Each state has its own rules regarding process server licensing, with some states requiring process servers to be licensed, while others need registration or appointment. When dealing with out-of-state service, it’s crucial to check the specific licensing requirements for the state you’re working in.

This is because process servers may need approval from the sheriff’s office or submit proof of service in a particular way. Failing to comply with these requirements could lead to complications during the service process and potentially jeopardize your case.

Restrictions on Service

Depending on which state you require service in there may be some restrictions. Each state and county has its own rules when it comes to civil process service, and these regulations may require permission from a governing body or the sheriff’s office before serving the papers.

Additionally, some states don’t allow service on Sundays or holidays, while others may require witness fees when serving a subpoena for a deposition or testimony. To ensure a smooth service process, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with these restrictions and abide by them.

Alternative Service

In some cases, personal service may not be possible or practical (I.e. evading service). In these situations, alternative service methods such as service by publication, substitute service, posting service, or drop service can be employed.

However, it’s important to research the validity of these alternative service methods in the state where the papers will be served, as each state has its unique requirements and regulations. By understanding the available options, you can choose the most suitable service method for your specific situation and avoid wasting time and resources on ineffective attempts.

Choosing the Right Service Method

Now that we’ve discussed the requirements and potential restrictions for out-of-state service, let’s explore the different service methods available. Each method has its unique advantages and potential limitations, so it’s vital to choose the one that best suits your specific needs.

In the following subsections, we’ll take a closer look at the following service methods: personal service, certified mail, regular first-class mail, substituted service, and service by publication.

Personal Service (Hiring A Process Server)

Personal service by hiring an independent process server is the most reliable method to serve papers. Why? Because it ensures that the court papers are delivered directly to the defendant, leaving no room for doubt regarding the proper delivery and proof of service.

The process server will hand-deliver the legal documents to the defendant and inform them that the documents are court-related. Once the papers are served, the server will complete the proof of service form, which includes information about when, where, and how the papers were served, and file it with the court.

While personal service may be more time-consuming and potentially costlier than other methods, its reliability and validity in any situation make it a top choice for many cases.

Certified Mail

Certified mail is another option for serving court papers, offering an affordable and straightforward method for delivery. In this method, the court documents are sent to the defendant via certified mail, and a return receipt is requested to confirm the delivery.

However, it’s important to note that in most states, the defendant must sign for the letter for the service to be considered valid. This may present a barrier in situations where the defendant is unwilling to accept the mail or is unavailable to sign for it.

Before opting for certified mail, you’ll want to ensure that it’s a valid method of service in the state where the papers will be served.

Regular First-Class Mail

Regular First-Class Mail

In some states, serving papers via regular first-class mail is permitted. This method is similar to certified mail but without the requirement for a return receipt. To use this method, you’ll need to consult with the court clerk to ensure that it’s allowed in your specific case and location.

While this method may be more cost-effective and quicker than other options, it’s crucial to verify its validity before proceeding to avoid any potential complications.

Substituted Service

Substituted service comes into play when reasonable efforts to serve the defendant through personal service or other methods have failed. In this case, the court papers can be served on someone other than the intended recipient, such as a relative or coworker.

However, each state has its own specific rules regarding substituted service, and these rules may vary significantly from one state to another. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the requirements and restrictions for substituted service in the state where the papers will be served to ensure compliance with the law and understand the nuances of in state service.

Service by Publication

Service by publication is a last-resort option when all other attempts to locate and serve the opposing party have been unsuccessful. This method involves publishing the legal documents in a local newspaper and making a public announcement of the lawsuit. To use service by publication, you must first demonstrate to the court that you have made every effort to locate the opposing party, such as trying to find them at their last known residence or conducting a private investigation.

If the court approves your request for publication service, the legal documents must be published in a newspaper, and the service will be considered complete on the 28th day after the first publication. While this method can be time-consuming and costly, it may be the only option in cases where the opposing party’s whereabouts are unknown.

Hiring a Professional Process Server

Hiring a Professional Process Server

Finding and hiring professional process servers is essential for ensuring the reliable and efficient service of your legal documents. A professional process server is well-versed in the laws and regulations governing service in different states, allowing them to navigate the complexities of out-of-state service with ease.

To find a qualified process server, you can use online directories, ask for recommendations from friends or legal professionals, or consult with your county clerk. When selecting a process server, prioritize reliability and effectiveness over staying local, as an experienced server will be better equipped to handle the unique challenges of serving someone out of state.

Preparing Documents for Service

Before initiating the service process, it’s crucial to prepare your documents by providing complete and accurate information. This includes the defendant’s full legal name, last known address, and any additional details that may facilitate the service process.

Additionally, ensure that your original stamped documents are filed with the appropriate court and that you have obtained any necessary permissions or approvals for out-of-state service. By thoroughly preparing your documents, you can avoid potential delays or complications during the service process and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Proof of Service

Proof of Service

Once your legal documents have been served, obtaining proof of service is a critical step in the legal process. Proof of service is a form that must be filed with the court clerk after the service is completed, providing evidence that the papers have been delivered to the defendant. The person who served the papers, whether a process server or another individual, must sign the proof of service form, which includes details about when, where, and how the papers were served.

By submitting a completed proof of service, you can ensure that your case proceeds smoothly and that the court recognizes the validity of the service.

Dealing with Special Cases

In some instances, serving someone out of state may present unique challenges, such as serving someone with a post office box, serving someone in the military, or serving documents in another country. In these special cases, it’s crucial to work closely with a qualified process server and consult with legal professionals to ensure that your documents are served correctly and in compliance with the law.

By being prepared to handle special cases and seeking expert guidance, you can navigate the complexities of out-of-state service with confidence.


Serving someone out of state doesn’t have to be a complex and challenging process. With the right knowledge and resources at your disposal, you can successfully get it done. Understanding the requirements, restrictions, and various service methods is crucial for ensuring the proper delivery of your legal documents and protecting your interests in court. By hiring a professional process server and diligently preparing your documents for service, you can overcome the challenges of out-of-state service.

As you embark on this journey, remember that knowledge is power, and being well-informed will help you make the best decisions for your specific situation. Armed with the information in this blog post, you’re now equipped to tackle the challenges of serving someone out of state and confidently pursue a successful outcome in your legal dispute.

Contact On-Call Legal today for exceptional nationwide service of process, and rest easy knowing your legal needs are in expert hands. Remember, the right process server is just a call away!

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you can’t find the person you need to serve?

If you can’t find the person you need to serve, you can request permission from the court to serve them in an alternate manner.

How do I serve someone out of state in California?

To serve someone out of state in California, you must have an adult who is not a party to the case mail the papers and then file a Proof of Service. Service will be completed 10 days after the mailing date.

On-demand legal services with arranging services from eFiling to organizing and preparing your subpoena for records and/or personal appearance and much more.