A lawsuit begins by filing a Summons and Complaint with the civil court in your county. The creditor pays a filing fee, the court enters the case into the system, and the court system is officially involved.
The creditor now has a limited amount of time to serve you and anyone else who they may be suing. Service can be performed in a variety of ways, including:
Personal Service: Someone personally delivers a copy of the Summons and Complaint to you, then files an affidavit with the court detailing the date, time and location of delivery.
Substitute Service: If the process server tries at least 3 times to serve you personally but is unable to do so, they can deliver the Summons and Complaint with someone over the age of 18 at your home or work location. The server must also mail a copy of the documents by regular mail at the location where the documents were delivered, and file an affidavit with the court regarding service.
Service By Mail: California allows the server to mail the papers to you by regular mail to your home or mailing address. The server then fills out a Proof of Service and files it with the court. New York also allows service by mail, but it’s considered valid only if you sign an acknowledgement and return it to the creditor.
Service by Publication: If the creditor can’t find you and doesn’t have your home or work address, the court may grant permission to publish the Summons and Complaint in a newspaper in the area where you’re likely to be.