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Frequently Asked Questions

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Basic Questions: (Process Service 101)

Q.  What is a process server?
A.  A process server is a person who specializes in the service of legal documents (also called legal process) upon people, businesses, organizations and government entities that are involved in legal actions.  He/she may do this as a private individual or as part of a process service company like State Court Services. 

A process server must understand the laws that govern when, where, to whom and how service can be made, the affidavits or proofs of service that must be completed and the records that must be kept.  A process server may also be required to appear in court to testify about the details of the service that he/she performed. 

Q.  Are process servers the only ones who can serve legal documents?
A.  No.  Depending on the court and the governing laws, legal process may also be served by a Sheriff, Constable, Court Officer,  US Marshal, or by certified mail sent by the court.  In addition, many states allow a legal documents to be served by a person of a certain minimum age (generally 18) who is not involved in the case.  Consult a local attorney or court about the laws that apply to your area.

Q.  Are there advantages to using a process server instead of a friend or relative?
A.  Yes.  Process Servers have experience with defendants who attempt to evade or outright refuse service or become confrontational when service is attempted, so your chances of completing service are usually better. 
 
Since process servers make their living by serving legal documents they understand the laws and that must be followed, the forms that must be filed and the records that must be kept.  Because of that, there's less chance that the court could set aside the service because a mistake was made. Finally, a process server is a neutral third party, so his/her credibility is less likely to be challenged in court than that of a friend or relative.  

Q
Are there advantages to using a process server instead of the sheriff?
A.  Some major differences between a sheriff's department and a private process server are:   
  • The primary responsibility of a sheriff's department is law enforcement - not process service.
  • Sheriff's department service is typically slower - often weeks - sometimes over a month.
  • Most sheriff's departments don't offer different service levels.
  • Sheriffs typically don't research or provide information about "not found's".
  • Most sheriff's departments don't allow online submissions or payments, or accept credit cards.
  • Sheriffs can serve only in a limited geographic area, so you may pay twice if the party has moved.
In a 2011 national survey of law firms, process servers scored higher for Speed, Customer Service, Legal Knowledge and Completion Percentage, while the sheriff's scored higher for Lower FeesOverall, 78% chose process servers as their preferred service providers.

Q.  Are there advantages to using a process server instead of certified mail?
A.  Certified mail is not a widely available option but some courts do offer it.  Often the cost of having the court serve your paper by certified mail is within a few dollars of the cost of a using a private process server.  If the defendant doesn't accept the certified letter the service may not be valid.  In that event you'd need to have the paper served personally at an additional cost.  Consult a local attorney or court about the laws and rules that apply to your area.

Q.  How does the cost of using a process server compare to the cost of using the sheriff?
A.  That depends upon the state and county in which service needs to be made.  On a national average, service by a process server costs slightly more than service by a sheriff.  As the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for".

---  End of Basic Questions ---


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General Questions:

Q.  What geographic area does State Court Services cover?
A.  Our primary coverage area includes Northern Virginia, the capital city of  Richmond and surrounding counties, Southern Maryland and the West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.  Additional detail is provided on the Service Area pages for each state.  Adjoining areas can be served for an additional fee.

State Court Services can also utilize our network of pre-screened affiliates to get your legal documents served almost anywhere in the country.

Q.  Why would I use a West Virginia process server for Virginia or Maryland papers?
A.  Although we have a West Virginia address we're not strictly a West Virginia process server.  We're physically located at the junction of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia.  From this central location even distant parts of our northern coverage area can be reached in about an hour.   We also have a server who's physically located in the Richmond area.

Q.  Our firm issues a lot of services in the DC beltway area.  Wouldn't we be better off using a process server from that locality
?
A.  Probably not, because State Court Services offers two distinct advantages.  The first is price.  It's not uncommon for some beltway area process servers charge up to $75 for regular service, and substantially more for priority or extended-hours service.  Compare those rates to ours.

The second is consistent area-wide service.  The high volume of work in the beltway area makes it cost effective for us to travel there.  Conversely, the lesser volume in the western counties of Virginia and Maryland may make it cost prohibitive for beltway area servers to travel here.  You could end up waiting for them to accumulate enough papers to justify a trip or paying a premium for expedited service.

Q.  Who can submit legal documents to you for service?
A.  We accept papers from law firms, attorneys, government agencies, businesses, other process servers and private individuals.

Q.  Do you accept legal documents from clients in other states?
A.  Yes.  We not only accept work from them, we make it easy for them to do business with us. We can accept papers electronically and offer several electronic payment options.

Q.  What procedure should out-of-state clients follow in order to submit work?
A.  Legal documents can be submitted directly from this site or they can be mailed, emailed, expressed or faxed.  Unless otherwise agreed we require payment of estimated service fees at the time the paper is submitted.  Any adjustments will be handled after service is complete. 

When submitting work please advise us of any state-specific service or paperwork requirements.  We have affidavits/proofs of service that meet the requirements of the courts in most states, but you may wish to include one if you have any doubt that your court will accept a standard form. 

Q.  What are your regular service hours?
A.  Monday through Friday 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM and Saturday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM.  We can also serve outside of our regular service window, although this may involve an additional charge.  If you have a need for after-hours service please call for a quote.

Q.  If I pay by credit or debit card how secure is my financial information?
A.  Extremely secure.  When you pay by credit or debit card you're seamlessly transferred from our site to the site of a major third-party processor, and then returned to our site when the transaction is completed.  We never have access to bank or credit card information. 

Q. Do I have to use your email form or can I just send email you a document for service?
A. We have a secure email form on our "Contact Us" page to prevent spambots and email address harvesters from copying our email address from our web page.  You can attach up to five documents to it  and we send a copy of your email to the email address that you provide.   If you really want to use your own email program instead, just give us a call and we'll give you our email address.

Q.  Can I attach multiple documents to a service request?
A.  Yes, you can routinely attach up to five documents to each service request.  If you need to send us more than that, just give us a call and we'll tell you how to do it.

Q.  Are there any requirements for the types of documents that can be faxed or emailed to you?
Attachments must be PDF or word processing documents that will print on 8.5 x 11 paper.  Word processing documents can be in either MS Word format (.doc) or Rich Text Format (.rtf).  Almost every word processor can create those formats.  Faxed documents must fit on an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper in order for us to print them.

If your court requires that documents served have an original court seal, original signature, or original stamp, you may not be able to send them by fax or email.  We recommend that you check with the court clerk's office.

Q. Can I fax a legal document to you?
A. Yes, provided that it's on 8.5 x 11 paper and the service copy doesn't require an original signature or notary seal. 

Q.  Can I email a legal paper to you?
A.  Yes, but there's really no need to because we offer a similar capability right on this site.  Registered clients can enter papers from the Login page and non-registered clients can submit papers from the Service Area page for the state in which the paper is to be served (MD, VA or WV), or from the email form on our "Contact Us" page.  If you prefer to use your own email system, please give us a call and we'll provide you with an email address.  We deliberately don't post it on the site in an effort to minimize abuse by spambots and email address harvesters.
 
Q. What hours can you accept express deliveries?
A. We can accept FedEx or UPS deliveries between 8:30 AM and 5:30 PM, Monday through Friday and from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM on Saturdays.

Q. What hours can you accept Priority Mail or Express Mail deliveries?
A. Any type of mail that's handled by the US Post office goes to our PO box, so as long as it fits in the box and doesn't require a signature we can get to it 24 hours a day.  If a signature is required or the item won't fit into a PO box we can claim it between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM when the counter at the post office is staffed.

Q. Do you routinely go to area courts to check for papers that need pickup?
A. No.  There are
more than fifty courts in our regular service area so it's not an efficient or cost-effective use of resources to visit each of them to check for papers.  If you have a paper that requires court pickup please call our toll free number.

Q. What's photo documentation?
A. The Commonwealth of Virginia allows certain types of papers to be posted (affixed to the door) of a defendant's residence as an alternate method of service. When we post a paper we photograph  it in place and retain a copy on our mail server as well.  If a defense of lack of service is raised the photo and our email can be presented in support of our affidavit of service.  There's no additional charge for this service.

Q. What's geotagged documentation?
A. Geotagging is a free service that we provide when we obtain personal or substituted service.  We use a GPS-like device to capture our exact geographic location and the time and date that we were there.  We store the information on multiple secure servers, so that if our service is ever challenged we can provide both the coordinates and a map showing that we were at the service location at the date and time stated in our affidavit.

Q. How quickly will information about a paper I send you appear in status inquiries?
A  If you're a registered client you'll you can request the ability to view the status of your service requests online 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Your job will appear as soon as we receive it and enter it into our system.   Service attempts, completions and status changes may updated directly from the field or may done in batch at the end of the business day.  Online status inquiry capability is not available to non-registered clients.

Q. The way we handle process service doesn't seem to be compatible with your operating model.  Can we still do business?
A. Of course!  We're a service oriented company and we want to make it as easy as possible for you to do business with us.  Tell us what the issues are and we'll be happy to discuss possible workarounds, interfaces or special accommodations. 

---  End of General Questions ---


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Service Related Questions:

Q.  In what cities and towns do you serve papers?
A.  Complete lists of the cities, towns and zip codes that comprise our regular coverage area can be found on our Service Area pages for MD, VA and WV.  We can also serve adjoining areas for an additional fee.  If you need service outside of our normal coverage area please call for an estimate of the charges.

Q.  What times of day will you serve papers?
A.  We can and will serve papers at any time of the day or night, but our regular service hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM and Saturday 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM.  If you have a need for after-hours service please call for a quote.

Q.  How quickly can I expect you to complete service?
A.  That depends on a number of variables including the level of service you select, the location and availability of the party to be served, our current workload, the type of service required and any special circumstances.  For standard service we'll attempt service within five business days (usually sooner)  but if you need faster turnaround we offer several levels of expedited service.  Please see our service fee schedules for more information.

Q.  Do you guarantee service within the time stated in your service levels?
A.  With process service there can be no guarantees.  Our service levels represent the priority we assign to your paper and the results that our best efforts typically produce, but there are factors beyond our control that could adversely affect service time.  These include bad addresses, gated communities, service evasion and employers that refuse us entry, to name only a few. 

Q.  Why do I need to call in advance for Same Day, Time and Mileage or Special Service requests?
A.  We don't make commitments that we aren't sure we can meet, so before accepting a time-critical service request we want to make certain that we can respond in a timely and effective manner.  Normally we can, but in some cases logistics or prior similar commitments may have an impact.  In these instances we'd need to discuss timing, options, and alternatives.   Also, for Time and Mileage and Special Service requests we need to understand your requirements and provide an estimate of charges for your approval.

Q.  How will I be notified that service has been completed?
A.  That's up to you.  We allow our registered clients to check service status online. Typically we'll send you an email the day of, or the day after service is completed, along with a copy of our  affidavit of service.  If requested we can call you, either from the office or the field, as soon as service is complete.

Q.  If an address is bad or if we only have a last known address, will you do a skip trace?
A.  Because we're 100% dedicated to process service,  we don't engage in other activities such as skip tracing.  Upon request, however, we can run one or more computerized database searches, which quite often turn up current addresses,  For more details feel free to call.

Q.  What do you do if you attempt service and learn that the person to be served has moved?
A.  Typically we'll document whatever information we can learn at the time, and provide that information to you.  If you then want us to perform one or more database searches or attempt service at one or more different addresses we can provide those services.

Q.  Can you assist us if the party to be served moves beyond your primary coverage area?
A.  Yes.  We may be able to serve the paper for an additional charge (which might still be less than what other process servers charge) or service can be handled through one of our pre-screened affiliates.

Q. What if the party moved to a state other than VA, MD or VW?
A.  We have working relationships with process servers around the country so chances are good that one of them covers the area where you need service. 

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Financial Questions:

Q.  Why do you have different rates for Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia?
A.  Each state makes its own rules relative to process service and they vary considerably, as do some of the court procedures.  Our service fees reflect the degree of effort and the associated costs of serving in each state and are typically less than what most of our competitors charge.

Q.  Why do you have different rates for papers from courts outside the state in which the paper is to be served?
  • The majority of out of state papers are from attorneys or individuals who aren't likely to need our services again, but we incur the same setup costs that we do for local clients who will use our services on an ongoing basis. 
  • All states have more stringent service requirements than Virginia, and most states have more stringent requirements than Maryland or West Virginia, so service is likely to be more difficult.
  • Over 50% of the papers received from out of state clients have required some type of special handling, long distance calls or faxes, or there has been a problem with the address provided.  
Q.  Do I have to pay time and mileage charges in addition to service fees?
A.  No.  The fees associated with the level of service you choose are all that you pay unless the service address is outside of our regular service area or in a designated surcharge area.  Time and mileage is a separate class of service normally reserved for time-critical situations when a process server needs to stay dedicated to an assignment until service is either completed or abandoned.

Q.  What do you charge for service of multiple papers to the same party or to different parties at the same address?
  • If the documents are for a single party, part of the same action, can be served at the same place and time and require only a single affidavit/proof of service, there is no additional charge.
  • If each document requires a separate affidavit/proof of service we charge the regular fee for the first document and a flat $20 affidavit fee for each additional document, regardless of the service level requested. 
  • If the papers cannot be served at the same time and place regular fees apply.
  • Multiple actions against the same party follow the same rules.
  • Actions against multiple parties at the same address are treated as separate services and regular fees apply unless special pricing is negotiated in advance.
Q.  Why do I have to pay in advance for service?
A. In order to keep our costs as low as possible we typically request advance payment, and we offer several quick and easy payment options.  We realize, however, that some clients may not be set up to pay for each paper individually or to pay for service electronically.  Post-service invoicing and other accommodations are available to registered clients upon request and may be made available to non-registered clients with prior approval.

Q.  Do I have to pay more if I send you a paper through a different web site?
A.  Possibly.  There are a number of process forwarding services, many of which have their own rate structure.  If you deal with us directly you'll pay our published or quoted fees.  If you submit work through a third-party forwarder, their rates and requirements will apply. 

This does not apply to process server locator sites or directories like ServeNow, PrivateProcess.com or ProcessServer.com  We pay a fee to list with them and they have no control over what we charge, even if you forward your paper through their web site.

Q.  Do you offer volume discounts?
A.  Although our rates are among the lowest in our coverage area we're willing to negotiate special pricing with clients who can offer a substantial and sustained volume of work.

Q.  What forms of payment do you accept?
A.  We accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, PayPal, debit cards, certified or treasurer's checks and money orders.  Registered clients and all attorneys can also pay by check.

Q.  Can I give you a credit card number by phone or email?
A.  No.  Our system was designed to protect both you and us against fraud, so it has no way to directly accept credit cards.  We specialize in process service and we leave credit card processing to the professionals who specialize in that area.  We'd also like to remind you that emails can sometimes be intercepted from the Internet so it's never a good idea for you to include sensitive information like credit card or bank numbers.

Q.  Will you have access to my bank or credit card information if I pay by debit or credit card?
A.  Absolutely not.  Since all electronic payments are handled through a secure third-party processing center we never have access to sensitive information.

Q.  If I send you a paper for service how much would I need to prepay?
A.  For in-state services we require payment of our typical fees for the service level you select.  This is the center column on our fee schedules.  For Same Day, Time and Mileage, special requests or out of state papers please call in advance so we can provide you with an estimate. Any adjustments will be handled after completion or abandonment of service.

Q.  Can I withdraw a paper without being charged?
A.  Yes, as long as it's done before the first attempt at service.  If we've attempted service regular fees apply because we've already incurred substantial costs.  Also, please keep in mind that the defendant probably contacted or paid you as a direct result of our service attempt.

Q.  Will I be charged if I provide you with a bad address for service?
A.  Yes.  The costs associated with processing a paper and traveling to the address you provided are the same for a bad address as they are for a valid address.  

Q.  If you return a paper because the address was wrong and we later find a correct address will we be charged for service a second time?
A.  That depends on the timing of events.  We consider a service attempt complete when we've processed a paper, made a service attempt to a bad address, were unable to obtain a valid address, and returned the paper.  At your request we'll hold a paper for up to a week before returning it in order to allow you time to determine the correct address.  If you can, we'll attempt service there at a 50% discount.  If we return the paper and you later request service at a new address we consider that to be a separate service request and charge accordingly.

Q.  Will I be charged if a defendant agrees to accept service through an attorney?
A.  Again, that depends on the specifics.  If you want us to serve the attorney, there will of course be a charge.  If you want to serve the attorney by mail and notify us prior to our first service attempt. you won't be charged.  If you notify us after our first attempt our regular fees will apply.  Please keep in mind that if we attempted service, the agreement to accept service through an attorney was likely the result of that attempt.

Q.  Do you charge extra if the party to be served has moved or might be found at different addresses (e.g. at home or at work)?
A.  If the alternate address is within our coverage area we'll attempt service there at our published rates.  If the alternate address is outside of our regular service area additional fees will be required, so we'll contact you for a decision before proceeding.  This does not apply to papers with multiple possible addresses (e.g. "Mr Jones may live here, or there, or be staying with relatives somewhere else.)  Those types of situations require a special quote.

Q.  If a party might be served in either of two states, which state's fees will apply?
A.  The higher fee will apply because of the difficulties associated with these types of situations.

Q.  What do you charge for service outside of your regular coverage area?
A.  We charge our published service fee plus our time and mileage from the time and place at which we leave our regular service area to the time and place at which we return to it.

Q.  Exactly how do you calculate time and mileage?
A.  Time and mileage are charged only when the service address is outside of our regular coverage area (please see previous question) or when the client selects it as an alternate billing method.  Time represents clock time rounded up or down to the nearest 10 minute increment, and mileage is the actual mileage rounded up or down to the nearest mile.

Q.  Will I be charged both "Time and Mileage" and "Per Attempt" fees for a Same Day Service request?
A.  No.  We offer two different fee structures in order to accommodate two very different types of Same Day Service situations.  If service likely won't be a problem but you need immediate delivery (e.g. a friendly witness or a financial institution) "Per Attempt" would probably be the better choice.  Situations where "Time and Mileage" would likely be the better option include:
  • The party to be served is evading service
  • The party to be served has an irregular or unpredictable schedule
  • The party to be served might be at any of several locations
  • You require service to be made at a specific time and place
  • You need us to stay dedicated to the service attempt until service is completed or abandoned
Q.  Why do some of the items on your fee schedule require us to call for a quote?
A.  No single fee schedule could possibly anticipate the wide variety of special requirements that may occur from time to time.  Just tell us what you need and we'll try to arrive at a mutually agreeable fee.

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Registration Questions:

Q.  What's registration?
A.  Registration is the process by which we collect the information we need to set you up in our customer files and online status reporting systems.

Q.  Who should register with State Court Services?
A.  Any attorney, law firm, government agency or business with an ongoing need for process service within our coverage area should consider registering with us.
 
Q.  Is there a minimum number of papers that registered clients are expected to submit?
Absolutely not!  There's no obligation to send us even one paper.  Registration simply allows us to respond immediately if you do submit papers and provides you with the additional functionality that's available to registered clients.

Q.  Are there any advantages to registering?
A.  Definitely!  They include storage of your static information, and 24-hour online access the status of your papers, to name only a few.  For a complete list of what's available to registered clients please see our
Register page.

Q.  How long does it take to register?
A.  On average it takes less than two minutes to complete the form.  Once your form is received it typically takes less than one business days to load your static information, set you up in our accounting, and status reporting systems and establish password security.  If you need the process expedited please call us and we'll do our best to accommodate your request.  In the meantime you can still submit papers directly from the Service Area page for the state in which you need the paper served (MD, VA or WV) or from the email form on our Contact Us  page.
 
Q.  We're a law firm with several attorneys.  Do we register as a firm or does each attorney need to register individually?
A.  Typically each attorney should register individually, but we can register multiple attorneys for you instead of having each attorney fill out a separate registration form.  The reason is that we assign each attorney a separate client ID and password so that he or she can log on and view the status of his or her own service requests. 

Q.  Does a business or government agency with in-house attorneys register as a client or does each attorney register individually?
A.  As with a law firm, each attorney should register individually, but we can handle the registration of multiple attorneys for you.

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How do I...? Questions

How do I become a registered client?
Just click on the "Register" menu option and fill out the form.  It usually takes less than one business day for us to create a client record, set you up in our accounting and status reporting systems, and establish a secure login for you.  You'll be notified as soon as the process is complete.  If you need faster turnaround give us a call and we'll do our best to accommodate you.

How do I send you papers for service?
If you're a registered client the easiest and fastest way is to enter the paper directly into our system.   If you're not a registered client the easiest and fastest way is to submit the paper and pay our fees directly from the Service Fees page for the state in which you need service .  You can also mail, express, fax or deliver papers to us, or if necessary, we can arrange to pick them up from you or from a court in our service area. 

How do I submit papers electronically from this site?
If you're a registered client just log in to our system, provide the required information and attach your document.  You can also use your own email editor if you prefer.

If you're not a registered client
you can go to the Service Area page for the state in which you need the paper served (MD, VA or WV).  Pick the type of service you want, complete the transmittal form, and if possible attach the paper you want served.  When you submit the form you'll be presented with the information you need to pay for service and receive a printed receipt via email.  You can also use the email form on our "Contact Us" page to send us a secure email with attachments.

How do I determine the amount to prepay for special services?
Give us a call.  We'll estimate the charges and optionally send you an invoice that can either be paid electronically or printed out to send with your remittance if you're mailing or expressing the papers.

How do I electronically prepay a paper that I want to mail or express to you?
One way is to follow the same process that you would follow if you were submitting a paper from this site.  Select the transmittal method that you want to use and ignore the "Browse" button.  Print a copy of the form to send with your paper and then click "Submit".  This creates a record of the date and time of prepayment and alerts us to expect your paper.   .

How do I electronically prepay a paper that I want to fax to you?
One way is to follow the same process that you would follow if you were submitting a paper from this site. Select "Paper is being faxed" as the transmittal method and ignore the "Browse" button.  Print a copy of the form to use as a fax cover sheet and then click "Submit".  Fax the paper to the number on our "Contact us" page.  You can also pay by simply clicking the "Pay" button on the right side of the top menu and providing the required information

How do I get a refund if I advanced more than the actual cost of service?
We try not to overestimate charges so that usually doesn't happen, but if it does we'll handle it automatically when services has been completed.  If you paid electronically we'll issue a credit to the credit card or bank account from which payment was made.  If you paid by another means we'll send you a refund check.

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