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Serving the Other Side

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What is service of process?

Service of process is delivering a copy of a legal document to the person on the other side of your case. There are strict rules about how to serve different kinds of documents. It is very important to understand how to properly serve documents to the opposing party (or their lawyer if represented). Not doing it correctly can make your case grind to a halt.

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Why do I need to serve the opposing party?

Our legal system requires that every party in a court case:

It is a matter of fairness that both parties know what each other is filing with the court and has the chance to respond when the court rules allow.

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Do I have to serve the opposing party?

Yes. You almost always have to give the opposing party (or their lawyer if have one) a copy of EVERY document you file with the court.

There are very few exceptions. If you are asking for an ex parte protective order for domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault, you can file a petition with the court without serving the opposing party. However, if you are granted an ex parte protective order, the court will send the opposing party a copy of the order and notice of a hearing if one is set. If you file any other documents in a protective order case, the police or state troopers will serve the opposing party. You never have to serve them yourself.

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Who do I serve?

If the opposing party is: Serve: Special Notes
an adult representing themselves the opposing party  
an adult with a lawyer their lawyer Do NOT also send copies to the opposing party, just send to their lawyer.
A minor under age 18 both the minor AND their parent or legal guardian  
incompetent both the incompetent person AND
  • their guardian
  • a competent adult family member, or
  • the director of the institution if they are living in one
 
deceased the court-appointed personal representative for the estate, and name that person as the defendant on the complaint and summons For example, serve Mary Smith, Personal Representative of the Estate of John Smith, deceased.

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When do I serve the opposing party?

Serve the summons, complaint and all other required documents immediately after filing with the court. If you don't serve the opposing party within 120 days of filing, your case will be closed.

For all other documents, serve the opposing party either right before you file with the court or immediately after filing. Make sure the opposing party has notice of whatever you file in a timely manner so that they can respond.

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Where do I serve the opposing party?

If he or she is represented by a lawyer, serve all documents at the lawyer's office or to the lawyer's mailing address. Do not send copies to the opposing party if he or she is represented.

If the opposing party is representing themselves, serve at their home address.

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Are there special rules for serving different documents?

Yes. There are different requirements for serving the summons and complaint, for serving all other documents in the case, and for serving motions for expedited consideration.

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How do I serve the summons and complaint?

To serve the summons and complaint, you must either serve by:

  1. certified mail/restricted delivery/return receipt , or
  2. hiring a process server

You CANNOT serve the summons and complaint by hand delivery or first class US mail.

Certified Mail
Serving by certified mail is the less expensive option to serve the complaint, summons and other required documents to start your case. Make sure you also pay for restricted delivery and return receipt so that only the defendant signs for the mail and you get the green card sent back to you when the defendant gets the documents. You must save the green card to show you served the opposing party. You can read how to prepare the envelope and the certified mail postal forms in How to Serve a Summons, CIV 106 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo.

Process Server
Hiring a process server is more expensive (can cost up to $65 in Alaska) than certified mail but sometimes is a better option if the defendant refuses to sign for the certified mail. You can find a statewide list of authorized process servers on the Alaska Court Systems website. This list is revised periodically so make sure you use a current list. For process servers outside of Alaska, you need to look at telephone book Yellow Pages for the area where the opposing party lives, contact the local court in the area, or do Internet research.

It is up to you to choose a process server and arrange to pay for their services. If you hire a process server, you will fill out the form Service Instructions, CIV 615 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo and give to the process server along with the copies to be served. After the process server completes service, you will receive a Proof of Service form. If you are hiring a process service outside of Alaska, provide them with the Return of Service, SHC 193 Word | PDF which they will send back to you after the documents are served. Save the Proof of Service or Return of Service form to prove you served the defendant. You can read more about serving with a process server in How to Serve a Summons, CIV 106 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo.

Read more about special situations like serving someone in a foreign country, the military, or jail.

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How do I serve answers, motions, oppositions and other documents?

You can serve most documents in your case (except the summons and complaint) by first class US mail or hand delivery. This means you can serve answers, regular motions and oppositions by first class US mail or hand delivery. You can also serve by a process server, but this is unnecessary and a lot more expensive. If the opposing party has a domestic violence protective order against you, make sure you do not violate the order by serving with hand delivery. If you have questions about how to serve someone when there is a protective order in place, please call the Helpline.

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How do I serve someone if I filed by mail?

If you sent your complaint to the court by mail, you have to wait until the court mails you back a summons and the domestic relations procedural order. Once you get these documents, find your case number on the summons and write it on the complaint. Serve the defendant with:

There are special requirements to serve a complaint and summons.

If you are mailing other documents like answers, motions, oppositions to the court, you can serve the opposing party at the same time you mail the documents. Just make sure you fill out the certificate of service on the original filing that states when and how you served the other party.

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How do I serve expedited motions?

There are different service requirements if you are filing a Motion for Expedited Consideration along with a regular motion, asking the court to consider your motion on a faster time line because there is an emergency situation. Your Motion for Expedited Consideration must include information that you served the opposing party, stating:

The court may not grant the motion for expedited consideration before giving the opposing party a reasonable opportunity to respond, either in person, by telephone or in writing. So you usually need to find a way to let the opposing party know about the expedited motion - by hand delivery, fax, or calling.

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What if the opposing party is outside Alaska but in the United States?

The same rules for serving someone in Alaska apply. If you are starting a case, serve the defendant with the summons, complaint and other required documents by certified mail/return receipt/restricted delivery OR process server. To serve any other documents in the case (the answer, motions, oppositions, etc.), you can serve by first class US mail or hand delivery. You can also serve by a process server, but this is unnecessary and a lot more expensive.

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What if the opposing party is in a foreign country?

Serving your spouse in a foreign country has special requirements. Please read our information on how to serve someone in a foreign country.

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What if the opposing party is in the military?

If your spouse is in the military and on active duty, he or she is covered by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Public Law 108-189. Adobe Acrobat PDF logo This means that you cannot default an active duty soldier in a divorce or custody case for not answering a complaint.

Congress passed this law to protect military service members from worrying about civil court actions while they are on active duty. Service members may postpone or suspend certain civil obligations so they can devote full attention to duty. There are numerous protections and if this act might apply in your case, you are urged to contact your legal assistance office to learn more.

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What if the opposing party is in jail in Alaska?

If the defendant is in an Alaska prison, there is a special way to serve him or her depending on what you are filing.

To serve the summons, complaint and other documents:

The shift supervisor should deliver the documents to the defendant and fill out the Affidavit of Proof of Service at Jail Facility, CIV 140, and sign in front of a notary and send it back to you. Keep the Affidavit of Proof of Service to show you served the defendant.

To serve all other documents (the answer, motions, oppositions, etc.), send by first class US mail to the opposing party at the prison’s mailing address.

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What if the opposing party is in jail in Colorado?

The jail facility in Colorado that houses Alaskan inmates is the Hudson Correctional Facility.

To serve the summons, complaint and other required documents, mail to:

Hudson Correctional Facility, Attn: Pamela Lobato Garza, Executive Assistant to the Warden
3001 North Juniper St.
Hudson, CO 80642

The Shift Captain should deliver the documents to the defendant and fill out the signature lines in the Return of Service Affidavit, SHC 193 Word | PDF, and sign in front of a notary and send it back to you. Keep the Return of Service Affidavit to show you served the defendant.

To serve all other documents (the answer, motions, oppositions, etc.), send by first class US mail to the opposing party at at the prison’s mailing address.

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Is service different if I'm filing a motion to modify custody or support?

You serve the opposing party by first class US mail or hand delivery. But, if you are filing a motion to modify child custody and child support in court and the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) is collecting the support, you also need to also serve the Attorney General’s Office who are the attorneys for CSSD. Look at your CSSD case number to determine which office is handling your case:

Case No. Attorney General's Address
Case numbers that begin with a 1 go to:
Example: 1JU-05-8888
Attorney General’s Office
Collections and Support Section
Box 110300
Juneau , AK 99811
Case numbers that begin with a 2 or 4 go to:
Example: 2BE-05-8888 or 4FA-05-8888
Attorney General’s Office
Collections and Support Section
100 Cushman St., Ste. 400
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Case numbers that begin with a 3 go to:
Example: 3AN-05-8888
Attorney General’s Office
Collections and Support Section
1031 West Fourth Ave., Ste 200
Anchorage, AK 99501

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What if the opposing party moves during the case?

The Civil Rules require that you serve the opposing party at their last known address which is usually the address they put in the court file. It is very important to change your address in the court file if you move. Otherwise, the opposing party and the court may send documents to your old address and you won't know what is going on in your case. To let the court know you have moved or changed your telephone number, file a Notice of Change of Mailing Address/Telephone Number, TF 955 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo.

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What if I don't want the opposing party to know my address or phone number or where I live with our children?

You must provide the court and opposing party with an address where you will receive mail and a message phone to reach you if necessary in the case. You do not have to give the opposing party your actual address and phone number if you have safety concerns. You have to ask the court permission to keep your actual contact information confidential. There are different forms depending on what type of case you have.

Cases with child custody issues
If you have child custody issues in your case, you are required to file a Child Custody Jurisdiction Affidavit, DR-150 [Fill-in PDF] and provide the childrens' addresses for the last five years. If you don't want the opposing party to know the information in the Affidavit, you can file a Direction to Seal Affidavit, DR-151Adobe Acrobat PDF logo. You will have to serve the opposing party with the Direction to Seal Affidavit, but NOT the Child Custody Jurisdiction Affidavit. The judge will decide whether the Child Custody Jurisdiction Affidavit and the childrens' addresses are sealed from the opposing party and publics view. Remember don't put your actual contact information on the complaint, answer or any other documents you file if you don't want the opposing party to have it.

Cases without child custody issues
With your complaint or answer, you can file an ex parte motion with the court, asking to place your actual address and phone number in a confidential folder. don't serve the opposing party with the ex parte motion. Contact the Family Law Self-Help Center or an attorney for information about filing an ex parte motion. Remember don't put your actual contact information on the complaint, answer or any other documents you file if you don't want the opposing party to have it.

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Do I tell the court that I served the opposing party?

Yes. You must tell the judge in writing how and when you gave a copy to the other side. This is called a certificate of service (or a proof of service for the summons and complaint). The certificate of service can be found at the end of forms that you get from the Family Law Self-Help Center (view an example Adobe Acrobat PDF logo).

You can also use a separate certificate of service form, Certificate of Service, SHC-1620 Word | PDF, and file it with the court when you file the documents. View a sample certificate of service Adobe Acrobat PDF logo.

Make sure you fill out all of the information on the certificate of service. Write in:

you don't complete all of the information, the court may reject your filing and your case will not move forward until you file a certificate of service.

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What forms can I use to show I served someone?

There are 2 ways to provide a certificate of service.

1. Many forms have certificate of service sections at the end of them. You can fill this section out.

2. If the form or filing doesn’t include a certificate of service section, you can file a separate certificate of service form:

Make sure you fill out all of the information on the certificate of service. Write in:

If you don’t complete all of the information, the court may reject your filing and your case will not move forward until you file a certificate of service.

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What if I don't do a certificate of service?

If you don't file any certificate of service or file an incomplete certificate of service, the court clerk will likely reject the document. You'll receive a deficiency notice telling you to serve the opposing party and file a certificate of service. If the clerk accidentally accepts the document for filing but there is no certificate of service, the judge will not read your documents until you serve the other side. Not filing a certificate of service will slow your case down.

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What if I can't find the opposing party?

You must try hard to find the opposing party to serve the documents that start a case. This is called diligent inquiry. The judge will require you to do everything you can to find him or her to serve with your documents. If you are having trouble locating the opposing party, please read Tips on Locating People which gives many ideas on how to find someone. You will need to try most of these things before the court will allow your case to move forward.

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What if I really tried and still can't find the opposing party?

After you have completed your diligent inquiry and you still can't find the opposing party, you must file a motion with the court asking for permission to serve the opposing party by posting to the court’s legal notice website or by another method that you think will notify the opposing party about the case, and submit an affidavit to the court explaining how and where you looked.

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What if the opposing party won't accept service?

If you tried to serve the documents by certified mail/restricted delivery/return receipt AND hired a process server, but the opposing party avoided service, you can ask the court to do alternate service.

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Can I serve the opposing party if there is a domestic violence protective order against me?

Yes, but make sure you understand what restrictions are in the protective order so you don’t violate them. For example, if the protective order states that you can’t have physical contact with the opposing party or you are to stay a certain distance away, do not hand-deliver any documents to them. If you are worried that using the mail to serve a document will be a violation of the protective order, you can:

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Rev. 20 October 2014
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www.courts.alaska.gov
webmaster@akcourts.us

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