Is that person following me? Why am I being called up to the personnel office? You hope against hope that it is not a package from 1) the IRS, or 2) an attorney. The person may be a plain clothes process server you have never seen before or even a sheriff’s deputy or constable. What do you do? Run? Scream? Invoke the Castle Doctrine? No.
Breath. Take the papers. Be polite to that person, as they may later be a witness.
What to do When you get Legal Papers?
1) Take the papers.
2) Review the papers.
3) Make a copy.
4) Take them to an attorney.
“Okay. I took the papers. What next?” Call your lawyer. DO NOT IGNORE THE PAPERS! Do not put them in the car to be forgotten. Do not pile them up with your junk mail.
In most instances the moment you received those papers a potentially critical deadline began to run. That deadline can be from 2 days to 7 to 30 or 45 days, but nonetheless a clock is now ticking.
On numerous occasions I have had a potential client call and say that they have Court on Wednesday. I think, “well…today is Monday they can’t do that.” My next questions is when did you get the papers? “About 2 months ago” Yikes. Don’t do this.
Think of all the anxiety they have put themselves through with the weight of those legal papers on their mind. If you get papers take them to an attorney. Have them reviewed, know what they mean and how you need to respond to them.
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney. “Leave the drama, take the papers.” (apologies to the Godfather).
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.