The Challenges of Serving Defendants without Location
How do you get service on a defendant if you don’t know where they are? I’m Tulsa Lawyer James Wirth, and that is the question that we’re dealing with here. We get a lot of calls from people, some people representing themselves pro se in simple matters, maybe even small claims matters.
They think they can do it on their own, but they run into some problems when it goes to getting service. Normally, if you’re trying to get service on someone in the state of Oklahoma, you could do so by certified mail when they sign that restricted delivery receipt. That is good service. Or you do it by a process server that actually physically hands it to them or hands it to somebody at the residence 14 and older.
But what if you don’t know where they’re residing? What if you don’t know where they can be found? You don’t know where they’re working? Don’t know where to send that certified letter? How do you get service then? Well, that’s where it becomes problematic, and a lot of people have problems. But anybody can be served.
Service by Publication
We don’t want a system set up where no court case can go filed simply because it’s impossible to get service. So we have something called service by publication. So that is the next step that you go to, but it is not automatic. You have to demonstrate to the court that you’ve done your due diligence to try to get service to the defendant by any other means possible before you go that route.
And that could mean that the court orders you to do certain other things before you get there, but certainly what you wanna do is perhaps a skip trace, maybe a private investigator. There are databases that you can search to see if you can find addresses for people to see how current those addresses are. Do certified mail there, and send a process server there.
When you get a process server, if they’re unable to get service, then you have them do an affidavit of non-service indicating that they made attempts, but were unsuccessful. You take all that information of all of your attempts, and you put that in a motion for approval to do service by publication. You get that filed with the court, set before the judge, and then see if the judge will grant that.
Obtaining Actual Notice and Default Judgement
Sometimes they want you to do some other things that aren’t a way to perfect service, but another way to give them actual notice as part of approving service by publication. So they may say, if you have an email address, send it by email, call them, text them, Facebook message them. Any way you can give them actual notice, and even though it’s not good service under the law, that shows that you’re doing your due diligence to make sure they have actual notice, and then the court will be more likely to grant service by publication. Once that’s granted, then you post the notice in a legal newspaper, and the statute has rules on how many times you post that over what period of time.
And then once that is done, after a certain amount of time, if there is no response filed, you can get a default judgment in that case, even though you don’t have service by other means, service by publication is service. So, long story short, every case should have a means of getting service on every defendant. You just have to go through the easy ways and then get to more difficult ways after you show due diligence in order to get that done.
Contact Us for Legal Advice
So if you’re having problems getting service done, you may want to have an attorney look at it. If so, you want to talk to an attorney privately and confidentially to get legal advice specific to your circumstances. To get that scheduled with someone at my office, you can go online to MakeLawEasy.com.