How to Avoid Being Served Court Papers or Notices

Three Parts:Doing your researchWhere only personal service is allowedIf sub-service is allowed

If you don't want to be served for whatever reason, this article may be able to help you. This article only applies in the United States.

Part 1
Doing your research

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    Research your State rules of civil procedure. Alternatively, research the Federal Rules of Civil Proce dure if a Federal matter. Do your homework so that you know what you're up against.
    • Whatever document you're supposed to receive, you might get lucky and the court may only require personal service (meaning you, and only you, can be served). Or, the server might be only required to post it to your door.
    • Most papers require only what those in the industry call sub-service. This means that whoever answers the door is presumed in charge of your residence and can be served on your behalf. Even if they're uncooperative, the server can serve then as a John/Jane Doe and put a description in his/her affidavit or Return of Service.
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    Keep in mind that you can be served at your place of employment. When sub-service is allowed, they can either serve the front desk person or someone in charge of the location.
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    Be aware that if service by posting on door is allowed, you cannot avoid being served. In a very few cases, this is valid service. Check the rules in your State.
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    Be aware that it can be illegal to lie to a law enforcement officer or to obstruct justice. Do so at your own risk.

Part 2
Where only personal service is allowed

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    Follow these steps if only personal service is allowed.
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    Don't answer your door to anybody. Also instruct family, roommates, and kids not to answer the door to strangers.
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    Instruct the roommates/family to tell the Process Server/Sheriff that the person they're after no longer lives there. This may stop them from coming back. They will usually then write it off as a "non-service" on their proof of service. Whatever you decide to tell them, make sure your stories are consistent.
    • If you have visitors, instruct them to call you while they're en route and call when they're at your door. If they're old school and don't have a cell phone or cell coverage is spotty or non-existent, tell them to knock a certain number of times.
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    Be aware of your surroundings. If you see a suspicious person/vehicle, do not even open your door.
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    Tell your workplace. When at work, instruct bosses, coworkers, and front desk personnel to tell anyone asking for you that you are unavailable and leave it at that. Also instruct them not to answer any questions but have them just tell the server that they don't know what your schedule is. Of course, this may affect your reputation at work, depending on your role, position and relationship to others at work. That's something you need to consider.

Part 3
If sub-service is allowed

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    Follow these steps if sub-service is allowed.
    • Follow all steps in the prior Part, with the following additions:
    • When at work, have everyone just tell the server that you no longer work there. This may not fly or you may not get the cooperation if you are being sued for something you did while working or at work. However, if it's a personal lawsuit, then this tactic may work, depending on where you work and what your role is.
    • Make sure that all members of your household watch their surroundings. Again, if someone suspicious is visible, do not approach. If possible, exit through another door. Instruct minors not to talk to any kind of stranger.


  • Some friends and family members may still turn you in because they think it's the right and responsible thing to do. They may also make mistakes or grow tired of having to live this way.
  • Some co workers or bosses may not help you out in this situation and may let the servers know where you'll be.
  • A process server has the same arrest authority as a private citizen. Don't let them try to convince you otherwise.
  • Speak to a qualified Attorney. However, keep in mind that attorneys are looking to be paid.
  • Vary your day-to-day routine. For example, instead of driving, take the bus to work if possible. Park in different areas every day. Don't tell everyone where you're headed.
  • Most process servers won't go out of their way to serve you like in the movies but some do, particularly new guys in the field looking to build a reputation.
  • Some process servers will lie and say they served you. Keep this in mind. In some cases, you can search civil cases online and if there is a excerpt that says service was completed, go to the courthouse and obtain a copy of the complaint.


  • In most cases, after the process server attempts service at your residence three to four times, the process server will then file an Affidavit of Non-Service and/or Proof of non-service and mark that they made three to four attempts. With this document, the Plaintiff/Petitioner/Attorney may then convince a judge to approve a motion for alternative service which includes "Service by Publication", which goes in a local newspaper. After you successfully dodge service and service by publication is allowed in your situation, then you need to check all local newspapers every day in the Classified or Legal Section. This is valid service even if you don't ever read the newspaper.
  • Some counties like Pennsylvania for example also have county rules of civil procedure in each county. For example, according to PA rules of civil procedure, a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) and be served both personally and can be sub-served either by the sheriff or process server. However, in Delaware County, PA, a PFA can only be served personally and only by a police officer or sheriff. County rules sometimes supersede State rules. Research thoroughly and carefully.
  • Speak to an attorney. By all means tell them what's going on. However, tell them that you're specifically interested in how service will work in your situation. Still also do your own research to ensure that the advice you receive is accurate.

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Categories: Pages Needing Attention | Legal Matters