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Personal Service

Deliver Court Papers to the Other Party


Service is a formal way of giving copies of all court documents to all parties in a case. It is a very important step at all stages of lawsuit because it notifies the parties of the existence of a court case, and of all actions taken in the case.   A case cannot move forward until documents are served.

Although all documents may be personally served, certain types of papers require personal service, such as Orders to Show Cause, Temporary Restraining Orders, and Subpoenas. If you are starting a case, you will most likely need to have your Summons and Complaint served personally. Other types of documents may also require personal service. Be sure to check the codes to determine if personal service is required in your situation.

You cannot serve your own documents. Documents must be served by someone over 18 who is not a party to the case. Your papers may be served by a Sheriff, a registered process server, an attorney, or anyone else over the age of 18 who is not a party to the case. There are pros and cons to each, so you will need to choose the most appropriate option for your situation. When personal service is required, many parties will elect to hire a professional to serve their papers, to ensure proper personal service. 

After service, the server must complete a Proof of Service. The Proof of Service is a document that lets the court know that a party was served with court documents.  It is filled out by the server after the documents have been served. The proof of service is then filed with the court in most situations.


The Judicial Council forms commonly used in this procedure vary, depending on the documents served. Many documents have their own Proof of Service, often the final page of the form. If your documents do not have a specific Proof of Service, then you may use a general civil Proof of Personal Service form:

Click below to download this guide, with step-by-step instructions and sample forms:

  Personal Service Step by Step