Substituted Service

Substituted service is one of the ways to deliver legal papers that start a case. The papers are left with someone else to give to the defendant or respondent and copies are mailed. Substituted service can only be used when personal delivery is tried and the person is not there. But, only the right person can be substituted for the defendant or respondent.


The Right Person to Substitute

The law says that the person substituted for the defendant or respondent has to be a person of suitable age and discretion. This means that the person is responsible and likely to give the papers to the defendant or respondent. The person does not have to be an adult but should not be a small child. For example, substituting a responsible teenage babysitter may be o.k. Substituting someone who appears drunk or mentally impaired may not be o.k.


Where to Serve the Papers

Legal papers must be served in the right place. Civil cases and landlord-tenant cases have different rules.

In a civil case, like consumer debt cases, the papers can be left with someone responsible at the defendant’s home or place of work.

In a landlord-tenant case, like a nonpayment case, the papers can be left with someone responsible who lives or works at respondent’s home. The legal papers can’t be left at the respondent’s work. It is o.k. to serve respondent’s babysitter, but it’s not o.k. to serve a neighbor or doorman.

In any case, if after making at least two attempts to deliver the legal papers, the server can’t find the defendant, respondent or a responsible substitute, the server can use conspicuous place service and leave the papers. Read about the right way to use Conspicuous Service.



If service is done by substituted service the papers also have to be mailed to the defendant or respondent the right way. Read about additional Mailings.

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