Service of process is incredibly important because it ensures that a plaintiff is aware and informed that a defendant is bringing a legal case to court. Once served, it establishes that a court has jurisdiction over the defendant. But, as any process server will tell you, some defendants are very difficult to serve because of various circumstances or because they are willfully trying to evade process service. Either way, when a process server has made multiple attempts and cannot personally reach a defendant to serve them, they can petition the court to ask it to allow “substituted service.”

When a court allows substituted service, it is legally approved that a defendant can be indirectly served by a family member, friend, management-level employee at a defendant’s place of work, by traditional mail, or by publishing a public notice in the local newspaper, rather than a process server. The person chosen for substitute service must be able to identify the defendant by physical appearance (height, weight, other identifying physical features).

In addition to the hurdle of having to get it approved by the court, substituted service is not an ideal service method because it can delay proceedings or run into problems that hinder a case. For this reason, it is imperative that you hire an experienced, persistent, and knowledgeable process server that is creative and thorough in their pursuit of process serving.