Serving Papers (Service of Process)

It is very important that you serve papers correctly!
If you do not follow the rules, the court may dismiss your case.

What is Service?

Serving papers - also called service of process - means delivering a copy of the papers you filed with the court to start a case to the person(s) on the other side. Court rules require that the defendant or respondent be notified about the case, get copies of all the papers you file, and be given time to respond.

Utah Rules of Civil Procedure (URCP) 4 governs service of process when starting a case. There are two ways a lawsuit can begin:

  • The plaintiff or petitioner files a Complaint (or Petition) and Summons with the court. The Complaint and Summons must be served on the opposing party within 120 days of filing.
  • The plaintiff or petitioner serves the Complaint (or Petition) and Summons on the opposing party. In that case, the Complaint and Summons must be filed with the court within 10 days of service.

Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 5 governs service of papers after the case has been started. See the Service of Other Papers section for more information about Rule 5 service.


Proof of Service Required

A Proof of Service document must be attached to all papers filed with the court. Whether you handled service yourself, or had a Sheriff, constable or a private process server serve the documents, you are responsible for ensuring that a proof of service is filed with the court. The court will not read your documents or act on your case until you have shown that you served all parties by filing the proof of service.

The proof of service tells the court when and how the parties were served, and the names and addresses of those served. The person who served the document must complete the Proof of Service document. If the Sheriff, constable or private process server serves a document, s/he will file proof of service with the court.

Mail a copy of the completed Proof of Service form, along with a Certificate of Service form, to the other party (or lawyer if the other party has a lawyer). Then file the original Proof of Service and Certificate of Service with the court. Both of these forms are available in the Forms section of this page.


Special Requirements

Some case types have special service requirements. If you use the court's Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP), it will provide information about special service requirements specific to the case type.

Proceedings where contempt of court or a warrant is a possible sanction generally require that the party is personally served. Examples include an Order to Show Cause proceeding, Supplemental Orders and civil bench warrants.

Look under Service of Process in the Utah Code for references to relevant Utah Code sections governing service, including service on businesses and people in the military, and service in adoption, guardianship, and forcible entry and detainer (landlord tenant) cases.


Who Can Serve What?

These people can serve all process issued by Utah courts:

  • Peace officers
  • Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs
  • Constables and constables' deputies
  • State-employed investigators who are authorized to serve process

Note: Law enforcement officers charge to serve process. Fees vary depending on the type of document(s) to be served.

Licensed Private Investigators may serve all forms of process in a civil proceeding, including bench warrants, although they cannot arrest anyone pursuant to bench warrant.

With some restrictions, any person over 18 who is not a party to the action or a party's attorney can serve:

  • Complaints and Petitions
  • Summonses
  • Subpoenas
  • Small Claims Affidavits and Summonses

Anyone convicted of a felony sex offense as defined by Utah Code section 77-41-102(16), or who is a respondent in a protective order under Utah Code section 78B-7 may not serve any forms of process.

Note: The person serving the papers must complete a Certificate of Service or Proof of Service form that describes how and when service was performed. These forms are available in the Forms section of this page.

You can find private process servers in the Yellow Pages under Process Servers.

Utah Code §78B-8-302


Serving the Complaint

Service may be personal or by mail. Alternative service (sometimes called publication) is allowed in some situations.

Personal Service


URCP 4(d)(1)

In personal service, documents are given personally to the respondent. Documents can be served by a sheriff, a constable, a U.S. Marshal, or any person over 18 who is not a party to the lawsuit, or is not an attorney in the lawsuit. You cannot serve the documents in your own case.

If the respondent cannot be found to be served personally, the documents can be given to an adult who resides in the respondent's home. If the respondent is a company, the documents can be given to the company's manager or the person in charge of the office.

Service by Mail


URCP 4(d)(2)

You can mail the documents to the other party using a commercial courier service (such as FedEx or UPS) or U.S. Postal Service registered or certified mail with return receipt, as long as the respondent is required to sign for the delivery. Only the respondent can sign for the delivery. If anyone else signs, the papers are not considered to be served.

Waiver of Service


URCP 4(f)(1)

You can ask the respondent to waive service requirements. Waiving service means the respondent signs a document agreeing to accept papers without formal service. The request to waive service must be given or mailed to the respondent and include a copy of the complaint or petition. Anyone may give or mail the Waiver of Service document to the respondent.

The advantage to respondents for signing the Waiver of Service is that they get additional time to respond. A respondent who refuses the request will have to pay the petitioner's costs for formal service. If the respondent signs a Waiver of Service, the petitioner must file the original with the court.

Alternative Service

URCP 4(d)(4)

If you cannot find the person to be served after using reasonable diligence, or if you can show the court that the person is avoiding service, you can ask permission to serve the complaint and summons (or other document required to be served under URCP 4) by some other means.

You will need to file a motion asking permission to use this kind of service and a statement describing your attempts to find and serve the person.

Whether your attempts to find and serve the person satisfy the "reasonable diligence" standard is a decision only the judge can make. The more thorough you are in your research and other efforts, the more likely the judge will grant your motion. For more information about how to find someone, see our webpage on Finding People for Service of Process.

The alternative means chosen has to be the method most likely to give actual notice of the document being served. Serving someone by publishing the summons in a newspaper has been for many years the most common means of alternative service. However, the courts are more frequently using electronic communications and social media to publish the complaint and summons or to notify the person being served that the documents have been published.

Even though you cannot find the person to be served, you may know where they accept communications: email; mail to a friend or relative; a social network, such as Facebook; a text number or phone number; or a Twitter name. With the court's permission, you might be able to send the complaint and summons directly to the person by mail, email or social media. Or the court might allow you to publish the complaint and summons on the Utah Press Association's Legal Notices (utahlegals.com) webpage, or in a newspaper and notify the person that the documents are there.

Because you are a party to the case, the court might order that a third person serve the documents and file proof of service on your behalf. For alternative service, this might mean the third person would mail or email the documents on your behalf, post the documents to a Facebook account, arrange for publication, or notify the person by phone or text that the documents have been published.

In a regular civil action any person over the age of 18 who is not a party to the case, nor an attorney to a party in the case, may serve the complaint and summons. Sheriff's deputies, constables and private investigators, although they charge a fee, are professional process servers who will correctly serve the documents and complete the proof of service requirements.

There are several means of alternative service. The court might order you to use more than one. You must use the means most likely to give actual notice of the document you are trying to serve. If the court approves your Motion, take the steps necessary (including arranging for a third person, if necessary) to complete service as ordered and file proof of service.

Forms needed to ask the court for permission to serve by alternative means
  • Checklist - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Motion for Alternative Service - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Statement Supporting Motion for Alternative Service - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Order on Motion for Alternative Service - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Summons for Publication - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word
  • Proof of Service by Alternative Means - PDF Document PDF | Word Document Word

Service in States Other Than Utah

Someone outside Utah can be served in the same way as someone in Utah, following URCP 4.


Service in Foreign Countries


URCP 4(d)(3)

Serving someone outside the United States can be difficult. You may wish to contact an attorney for help.

Civil Rule 4 says that someone outside the United States can be served by "any internationally agreed means reasonably calculated to give notice, such as ... the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents."

  • If there is no internationally agreed means, URCP 4(d)(3)(B) describes other acceptable methods.
  • All documents must be translated into the official language of the foreign country, and must be served along with the English version.

The Hague Convention generally provides for service of process through a request submitted on form USM-94, U.S. Marshals Service (usmarshals.gov). The Convention also permits service of process by international registered mail.

Countries may object to service by international registered mail, and many have. Service by registered mail should not be used in these countries.

  • Argentina
  • Bulgaria
  • China
  • Czech Republic
  • Egypt
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Lithuania
  • Mexico
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Russian Federation
  • San Marino
  • Slovak Republic
  • Sri Lanka
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • Venezuela

More information about service of process abroad is also available on the Department of State website (travel.state.gov). The full text of the Convention (hcch.net) is also available on that website.

Information about ways service can be accomplished in Mexico (travel.state.gov) is available on the Department of State website.


Serving Someone on Active Military Duty

Serving someone on active military duty, especially if they are not in the United States, can be difficult. Consider contacting an attorney for help.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows those on active military duty to postpone or suspend certain civil judicial proceedings. 50 U.S.C. App. §501 - §596. The SCRA also provides protection in the areas of financial management such as rental agreements, security deposits, eviction, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgages, and income tax payments.

Some case types require verification that you have checked to see whether the opposing party in your case is on active military duty. Use the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act website at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/scra/ (dmdc.osd.mil) to determine if someone is on active military duty.


Service of Other Papers

Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 5 governs service of papers after the case has been started. Everything filed in the case and every order or judgment of the court must be served on all parties to the case.

Generally speaking, the requirements for serving these papers are more relaxed than for the initial pleadings.

These papers can be served by:

  • Email (only if the other party has agreed)
  • Fax (only if the other party has agreed)
  • Mail to the last known address
  • Handing it to the person
  • Leaving it at the person's office with a person in charge or in a receptacle meant for deliveries
  • Leaving it at the person's home with a person of suitable age and discretion who lives there

Service by mail, email or fax is complete when sent.

There are some situations in which you may want to follow the requirements for serving someone according to URCP 4, even though you are allowed to follow URCP 5.

For example, you may serve the judgment debtor with a notice to attend a hearing to identify property by mail or by one of the other service methods authorized by URCP 5. However, if the debtor does not attend the hearing and you want to ask the court to issue an arrest warrant to force attendance, you must have first served the notice according to the personal service requirements of URCP 4.

Note: The person serving the papers must complete a Certificate of Service or Proof of Service form that describes how and when service was performed. These forms are available in the Forms section of this page.


Finding People for Service of Process


Forms


Related Information


Page Last Modified: 12/2/2014
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