The definition of the word “serve” in terms of the law is as follows: To deliver a legal document, especially a process or notice; to present a legal notice or subpoena to a person as required by law. The actual service of person isn’t nearly as glamorous as some of the TV shows or movies make it out to be- still, the issue of service, and whether it was done properly or improperly, can be a confusing one. Let’s look at one woman’s situation to help us gain a better understanding of the service of process, especially in family law matters.
She starts by telling us this: “I had my ex initially personally served with a motion to set aside our divorce judgment. After that all papers and related motions have been served on his attorney…”. Some of those related motions were need-based motions for attorney fees and costs, a motion to compel discovery, and things of that nature. The attorney whom she served with the motion papers remains her ex-husbands attorney of record through all of this. Her question: Was this service process correct? Or did her ex need to be personally served at the start of every separate motion?
Service on an attorney for a party, rather than on the party himself, is proper if the attorney has made an appearance for the party, either by filing a paper with the court on the party’s behalf, or stating in court that he represents the party. If she started serving his attorney after he or she filed a paper on behalf of her ex husband, or showed up in court for her ex-husband, service on the attorney was proper. If she started ‘serving’ the attorney with papers before he or she appeared for her ex-husband, service of those papers was improper. However, filing a response to an improperly served motion would generally be considered a waiver of the impropriety. It sounds as if it is too late for her ex-husband to complain about improper service, if there is any to be found.
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