Service of process is when legal documents -- such as summonses, complaints and subpoenas -- are delivered to an individual or organization involved in a legal proceeding. The service, or delivery, of these legal papers must be served by a person who is not a party to the legal case. The cost depends on the type of service, the difficulty of the service and if there is additional work, such as locating a person.
Service Rates And Mileage
Routine services, meaning the first service attempt is within a week after receipt of papers, varies depending on the type of case and region. Typically, rates are $20 to $100, with the nationwide average $45 to $75, according to ServeNow website. If the service is a "rush" service, meaning the papers must be served that day, the rates increase. Most process servers also charge a rate per mile traveled, for example .55 per mile. Like service rates, mileage rates vary.
Service of legal papers to some organizations is done through a registered agent, not to the organization itself. This registered agent might be a person or business. Process servers sometimes call these "drop" services because the papers are "dropped off." The charges for these services are typically less than for routine process services. If a process server is conducting multiple drop services to the same registered agent, he might charge a reduced or bulk rate.
Sometimes the person being served legal papers actively dodges the process server by, for example, not answering her door, having family members claim he doesn't live at that address or other avoidance tactics. Process servers often call these "difficult" services. Due to the additional effort, investigative techniques and time required to serve the person, the process server charges more. These additional rates are negotiated between the process server and client, and usually reflect private investigation rates for the region.
Although the routine service rate typically includes the cost of a notary, some process servers charge separately for that service -- an average cost for a notary is $10 to $25. If a client is unsure where the person to be served lives, the process server might skip trace (locate) the person for an additional hourly or flat fee. Some process servers will also file the proof of service -- also called return of service -- at the court for an additional fee.
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