What to Do if You are Served with Legal Docs

You are about to play hide the pipe with your woman and the doorbell rings. A person hands you papers, asks you your name and splits. Whether the rent is overdue, your ex-wife wants more money or your neighbor is busting your chops over an easement dispute, knowing what to do if you are served with legal docs can mean the difference between a smart move and a major misstep. The legal system in any state is a hodgepodge of strict rules, time sensitive forms and many other twists and turns that could essentially turn your life into a whirlwind. Below are a few tips on how to deal with being served:

Rule #1: Be Polite but Don’t Bite

You should never answer the door if you do not recognize the person. You can stay silent until they go away or communicate through the door asking who it is. Never give your name or any other information. Instead, get as much info from them such as their card, what kind of delivery they have, etc. The more evasive they are the more reason not to open the door. Plus, if they see you, they can identify you later in a court trial.

The Waiter

The Waiter is the guy serving the papers (a process server) who will sometimes wait until you appear. They may have a picture of you. Either way, be polite and say you are sorry but you cannot help them. They may very well touch you with the documents and let them fall to the ground and/or take a picture of you. As long as they do not grab or impede you simply let them do their job and be on your way. Note: Once they are out of sight you may want to retrieve the documents so your personal info doesn’t blow up to your neighbor’s doorstep.

Know Your Rights

In most states you cannot be served papers on a national holiday; at hours between about 10pm and 7am, religious holidays (which you must observe) or on a Sunday. For individual service, attempts should be made once during business hours and twice during off hours (off hours must be on two separate days).

Due Diligence: Get the Scoop

It is always suggested to check with your local town or city clerk for the proper protocol regarding your state’s requirements pertaining to your particular case (i.e.: landlord/tenant; small claims, criminal, etc.). This way you will be able to decide if it is something easy enough to deal with yourself or if you may need legal representation. An attorney is the best defense but if you cannot afford one the court should be able to assign free legal counsel along with other info you may need to protect yourself.

These are a few tips on what to do if you are served legal documents. Remember, never get angry, do or say anything you will regret because a process server records everything a judge may potentially see.

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