If a Pleading Is Filed, a Petition Is Filed, It’s Got to Be Served on the Other Party If It’s a Civil Petition and Pleading
Video Transcribed: How to get legal service of process in Oklahoma and what do you do if you don’t know where they live? I’m Tulsa attorney James Wirth and we’re about to talk about getting proper service in Oklahoma. So any time a pleading is filed, a petition is filed, it’s got to be served on the other party if it’s a civil petition and pleading.
And then once it’s served, that starts the timeline by which, and the deadline by which, they need to file a response. If no response is filed, you can request the judge enter a default order, granting what you want without hearing from the other side. So to start all that off, to start that timeline, you have to have proper service. So how do you get service?
Oklahoma law specifies, and there’s a few different ways. So the first way is personal service and that is where the documents are actually handed to the person, but they’ve got to be handed by somebody who has the license and authority to do so. So that would be a Sheriff’s deputy, you can go down to the Sheriff’s office, pay $50.00 and you can have them go serve it on them personally.
You give them an address, they can go to the house, then go to their place of work, wherever they can be found, handed it to them, and then they file an affidavit of service. Rather than using the sheriff, you could use a licensed process server, same sort of thing, you give them the information of where to find the defendants, they serve the documents on them personally, they file an affidavit with the court noting the date of service, and that starts their timeline to respond. Normally it’s 20 days for a civil action, some specific civil actions are different though. So that’s the first way.
The second way is a little bit cheaper because for a process server they charge money. The Sheriff’s office charges $50.00, a cheaper way is by certified mail. So if you know the address for the residence, it has to be the residence of the defendants.
You can send a certified letter with the documents, and then you, the person doing service, would sign an affidavit that it was served. And you would include proof of service, meaning that green card that you get back because you’re going to request restricted delivery to make sure it’s delivered only to the person that you want and return receipt, so you get the card back in the mail or the similar type card online through tracking. And then you file that with the court to have proof of service.
In the case of either personal service or certified mail, where it’s at the residential address, if it’s served on someone at that address where they live, the defendant lives, that’s 15 or older, that still qualifies as good service.
So a process server goes to somebody’s house, somebody answers the door, that’s 15 or over, you give it to that person, that qualifies as legal service, same thing with certified mail as long as the return receipt is signed by somebody who lives at the same residence who’s 15 and older, that’s good service.
With certified mail, there’s one other thing that’s good service, and that is if it comes back refused. So if the mailman tries to deliver it to them, hand it to them and they refuse it, the mailman, postal person can put refused delivery on the green card and you get that back, you can file that in your affidavit as good service as well.
All right, so that’s the two ways to get there, but what if you don’t know where the party is? Sometimes we have people where they have no idea even what state the other side is.
Sometimes they know they’re in Mexico, they don’t know where they are in Mexico. So how do you get service then? A lot of people get tripped up, a lot of cases get stalled, particularly when they don’t have legal representation and they think they’re stuck.
Well, you’re virtually never stuck there’s always a way to get service. So what you have to do is put in your due diligence to try to get service through certified mail, or through a personal delivery, and through the process server or Sheriff’s deputy. And that usually is through skip tracing, asking around, doing the research, you have to try to track them down.
Ultimately, if you’re unable to track them down for service one of those two ways, you can file an affidavit of due diligence with the court requesting permission to do service by publication.
If the court finds that you did everything reasonable to try to track them down and you weren’t able to track them down, then the court will grant service by publication. And then you use a legal newspaper to publish notice once a week for three weeks, and then that is good service.
And you get an affidavit from the newspaper saying that they published it, you file that as good service, and then when that timeline is up, if no response of pleadings is filed, you can file for your default judgment at that point.
That’s how you get service in Oklahoma. That’s what you do if you can’t find the other party, if you’re in this specific circumstance, you need some help trying to locate somebody or to do a due diligence affidavit, you can talk to me about that. You could talk to another attorney about that, but if you want to talk to somebody in my office, you can go to makelaweasy.com.