My job as a process server

By Del Hudson, Vilcol process server

I’m often asked ‘what is a process server?’ when I mention what I do as my job. 

Being a process server involves delivering court papers and other official notices to people named in legal cases. Very often, these people don’t want to be found so it can be tricky at times.

It’s rare to have a day that’s the same. One day a process server might make several trips to the same address, another day it’s just one trip out, with the remaining time spent behind a desk in the office compiling reports or locating recipients.

 

Process server delivering court papers

 

How we work: the 3-step process for UK process servers

Document and process servers are the people who serve court papers to specific individuals named in legal hearings like divorce or bankruptcy proceedings, court summons, writs, injunctions or family and children custody cases.

The process server’s role is a more convoluted than a straight-forward courier or postie. There are strict procedures in place for document and process servers because often the action we take when delivering court papers forms part of evidence in legal cases. 

  1. First, the process server needs to be able to establish that the person they are talking to is the intended recipient. 
  2. Next, people who serve court papers deliver a copy of the papers to the recipient after first showing them the original documents. 
  3. Then, the process server completes a certificate of service or affidavit, which is regarded by the court as the witness statement that proves delivery. 

I first heard about the role of the process server through Steve Rowlands, the owner of Vilcol, the process serving agency I work for.

 

Process server - legal document delivery

 

The rules for UK process servers 

There are some basic rules that we have to follow when serving court papers in the UK. Process servers can serve documents at any time of the day or night from Monday to Saturday.

It used to be that you couldn’t serve legal documents on a Sunday, a religious holiday or in a church, this latter rule being the reason why people have often sought refuge inside churches. 

In the past, the ban on process servers delivering court papers on a Sunday was regularly exploited by people trying to avoid being served. 

I’ve encountered situations where the recipient only returns to his family address on a Sunday. In such cases, the process serving agency who employs us can apply to the court to report what the defendant is doing. 

 

How many times do process servers attempt to serve documents?

Getting a process server to repeatedly return to a property if a person either isn’t there or refuses to answer is pointless. At Vilcol, process servers work on the premise of three attempts. 

Sometimes it’s obvious that a recipient is changing their habits in order to avoid service. For instance, they may stay with friends to avoid being served papers.

In these cases process servers or the agency they work for can apply to the courts for a substitute of service document that takes account of the number of times we’ve visited and been unable to serve because of an obstructive recipient. 

We then send a letter of appointment that states the time at which the process server will attend. If the individual still isn’t there at the appointed time, the papers will be put through the letterbox and the defendant must consider themselves served.

After the letter of appointment has been sent, we send a copy of the letter in the collection of paperwork to the court and this becomes part of the evidence used in court.

 

Training and skills required to work as a process server

Being a process server is not a job for the fainthearted; we’re often required to keep unsociable and long hours as well as diffuse tense situations when people get angry. 

Having a background in the police or military is commonplace among process servers. The training in these two areas is highly appropriate for being a process server. 

While the hours can be long and unsociable, most process servers are self-employed so they have the flexibility to choose the hours they work to fit around family or other responsibilities. 

If you get fidgety stuck behind a desk in a nine-to-five office job, being a process server is the perfect role. It gets you out and about and there’s plenty of variety involved. 

 

As well as a being a trusted process serving agency, Vilcol is a people tracing agency and provides a number of services like probate search, tenant traces, debtor tracing, international people tracing and private investigations.