Service of Court Documents
How To Notify Parties About Your Court Case or Hearing
The judge will not hear your case unless you correctly notify the other party/parties.
Notice is an important part of your court case. Judicial Officers need to make sure that everyone involved in the case gets a chance to participate. For this reason, the judicial officer will not hear your case unless you give proper notice to all the parties.
“Service of process” or “service” is the way a person receives paperwork informing them that there is a court case involving them and what they need to do to participate in the case.
“Notice” means any other kind of communication about the case. Here, we will talk about notice that there will be a court hearing.
“Party” means each person(s), called petitioner and/or respondent, directly involved in the case. For example, in a divorce (dissolution) case, the respondent is your spouse.
How Do I Give Proper Service?
You are responsible for service of process if you are the petitioner in a new court case.
For scheduling a court hearing, the party filing the motion and scheduling the court hearing is responsible to provide notice to the other party/parties.
The other party/parties must be served.
The other party/parties must be given copies of all the paperwork you file with the court.
This must include:
- for example, a summons and petition for dissolution of marriage, and
- anything else that you filed with it
Show Cause Orders
- a motion and order
- and anything else that you filed with it
You cannot serve the other party yourself. However, it is your responsibility to arrange for service. People who can serve papers are referred to as “process servers” these people include:
- Your lawyer, if you have one;
- Law Enforcement
- A professional process server or legal messenger; or
- Any other adult who is not a party to the case
If you are paying a professional, they will probably charge you for each time they try to serve the papers, even if they do not succeed.
There are different ways to serve parties. These are the main ways that parties can be served:
Giving the papers to the person in their hand (this is the best way);
Giving the papers to an adult who lives in the same home where the person you need to serve lives. This type of service must happen at that home and you need to be able to show that these people actually live in that home.
A judicial officer may let you serve the person by mail or publication if you show that you tried hard to serve the person but could not. You need to complete the proper forms and then schedule a hearing to ask the judicial officer for alternative service.
The Judicial Officer will check to see if there has been service or notice given to the other party/parties. Therefore, to show proof of service, you will need the person who did the service or “process server” to fill out and sign a form called “Proof of Personal Service” This form is available in the Clerk’s Office or online at the Washington Court’s website FL 102.
The proof of service must list:
- The title of each document that has been served to the other party
- The person who was given the documents
- The date and time they were served
- The address where they were served (including city and state)
- How they were served
Once the return of service has been completed, you will need to file it in the court file.
How Do I Schedule a Hearing and Give Notice to the Other Party/Parties?
To schedule a hearing, you need to fill out and file a Notice of Hearing. This form notifies the court and the other party/parties that there will be a hearing. This form is available in the Clerk’s Office or online on the Clerk’s office website.
If you are scheduling the hearing you must fill out the certificate of service box on the second page of the Notice of Hearing. Do not schedule a hearing until you have also prepared and filed a motion and declaration and have attached any additional supportive evidence you want the court to consider for the hearing. A written motion is the way you tell the Judicial Officer what you want to happen. A declaration explains to the Judicial Officer why you should be granted what you asked for in the motion.
See the "Pink Sheet" for motion filing requirements. This informational sheet is also available at Court Administration.
You must give copies of everything you filed such as the:
- notice of hearing form
- motion and declaration
- supporting evidence
- anything else you filed with the court
Copies must go to the following:
- The court clerk (give them the originals);
- The opposing party or their attorney if they have one;
- Any other parties in the case, such as: the Guardian Ad Litem (if one was appointed), Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Division of Family Support (if they have an interest in your case).
- Copy to the Judge/Court Commissioner should go to Court Administration.
Notice must be given every time you schedule a hearing. You must give the court and the other party/parties time to prepare for the hearing.
Motions must be filed by noon six court days before the hearing you scheduled. If you mail the papers, mail them six court days, plus three additional days before the hearing.
File your original papers with the Clerk’s office.
For all other parties, you can arrange for:
- hand-delivered papers (personal delivery not required);
- fax or email them if the other party/parties said that was okay; or
- have another adult mail the papers to the person’s last known address