Service. Service of Process. Process. Notice, actual & constructive. This is not the beginning to an obtuse legal poem, it’s the papers you get.( Or don’t get)
When were you served? How were you served? Who served you? All of these are questions that you will be asked up front by your attorney when discussing your legal situation. The timing of service, the manner in which you were served, what you were given and by who are ALL critically important.
Typically, you are required to be personally served with process. This means that an adult person, not a party or attorney to the action, should hand you the Petition seeking relief and a Summons issued by the Court. There could be other documents, multiple summonses, but the Petition (or Complaint) and a Summons should be there for proper service. There are also exceptions that allow service to be accomplished other than by personal service. A family member could accept, you or your attorney could waive service, and there are provisions for certified mail and publication service procedures. It can actually be a complex issue and just because you have papers in hand, it still may not be perfected service.
Pay close attention to the papers you are given, when you are given them and who gave them to you. Your legal life may depend upon it.
Matthew Thompson is a practicing attorney in Mississippi Chancery Courts and deals with service of process issues routinely.