Substituted Service

Posted on May 11th, 2011 by Centennial Law in Court Matters

“You can’t sue me (or, you can’t divorce me).  I’ll just disappear!”


There are many reasons why a person might like to start a new life and leave the old one behind.  Avoiding their legal obligations is one of those reasons.  An unhappy marriage is another.


For those who might find it necessary to start legal proceedings against the person who has disappeared, the absence of the other party presents an obstacle - which is not, however, insurmountable.  The obstacle lies in court rules which require that, in almost all cases, someone who starts a lawsuit must arrange for the necessary legal documents to be delivered in person to the defendant.  In legal jargon, delivery of the documents is called "service" of the documents.


So, what do you do if the defendant disappears?  The answer is that you arrange for what lawyers call "substituted service."  This procedure requires an extra application to the court.  In that application, you must attempt to prove to the court that you have no practical way of locating the defendant and must propose to the court some alternative way, other than personal service, of bringing the documents to the attention of the defendant.  Placing advertisements in a newspaper in the area where you have some reason to believe that the defendant may be living is a common method of "substituted service."  You will occasionally see these advertisements in the "Legals" section of a newspaper's classified ads.  Delivering documents to parents or siblings of the defendant is another method which is sometimes used.


There is an old saying that "you can run but you can't hide."  The saying may not be entirely true but, on the other hand, hiding will not necessarily prevent somebody from suing (or divorcing) you.



Article provided by Centennial Law Corp.

The specific facts of any real life situation can have many unforeseen legal implications. As a result, please note that the general information found in the above article should not be treated as legal advice.