What Is a Certificate of Service?

George Simons

December 01, 2021

Summary: Are you wondering how the service process works? What is a certificate of service and why is it needed? Find out the answers in this post.

When you file documents with the court, it's a requirement that you provide copies of the same documents to the other party involved in the case or their lawyer. To verify that you've done this, the court requires you to attach a certificate of service at the end of the documents you file with the court.

A certificate of service can be a simple statement that says, "I have provided a copy of this document to the plaintiff/defendant on this particular date." It has to be signed by the other party involved in the legal matter or by their attorney.

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Why is a certificate of service important?

When you file a document with the court, the other party in the case has to know that you've filed and responded to it accordingly. For instance, if you want to schedule a trial, you'll need to send a notice of hearing to the court and the other party involved in the trial.

Therefore, you'll need to attach a certificate of service with the notice of hearing to inform the court that you notified the other party about when and where the trial would take place. It's also possible to avoid all the paperwork involved when you use legal software like SoloSuit. This software compiles your answer and sends it to the court and plaintiff on your behalf.

Specific rules govern how you prepare and file documents with the court. These same rules apply when it comes to a certificate of service. For this reason, you'll need to adhere to the rules or risk losing the case due to improper service.

When you file a legal document via SoloSuit, an attorney reviews it to ensure it meets all the requirements for that specific case. This saves you time and money while giving you much-needed peace of mind.

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Is a certificate of service required before a case begins?

You need to provide the other party with a copy of the summons from the court and the original complaint that you filed in court before the case begins. Otherwise, they won't be considered part of the case because they had no chance to respond.

A certificate of service is proof that you served the other party in the right way. In addition, it promotes fairness and orderliness in court cases.

Is a certificate of service required when a case is ongoing?

When the case is ongoing, you need to serve the defendant with every motion you file to the court. You can do this by personally preparing copies of all documents and sending them to the defendant or using legal software like SoloSuit, and then filing the original documents with the court.

Remember that the court requires a certificate of service attached at the end of the original documents.

Steps for Filing a Certificate of Service

You can file a certificate of service in two steps:

Step one

Serve the other party or their attorney with copies of the documents you filed with the court, or let SoloSuit do it for you.

If a limited appearance attorney represents the other party, you'll need to ensure that both are served with copies of the documents you file with the court. But if the limited appearance attorney is no longer part of the case, you don't need to serve them.

Step two

After serving the other party or their attorney, you'll need to include the following in the certificate of service you present to the court clerk:

  • Indicate that the copies of what you filed were served to the other party.
  • Ensure you include their name and address in the certificate of service.
  • Indicate how you served the other party with copies of the document you filed. This can either be by mail, in-person, or any other acceptable method.
  • Indicate the date when you served the other party.
  • After filling out all parts of the certificate of service, sign it and submit it to the court clerk.

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Who can serve court papers?

If court papers aren't served the right way, the judge may have to suspend the case. Even if you include a certificate of service but the defendant wasn't served correctly, the case may be dismissed on the grounds of improper service.

For this reason, always ensure that you follow the correct procedure when serving the defendant. Here are a few basic rules to consider in the process:

  1. Don't serve court papers to a defendant yourself. Find someone at least 18 years of age and not involved in the case to serve the other party or use software like SoloSuit.
  2. The person who serves the other party should fill out the certificate of service form and indicate the documents given to the other parties.
  3. If need be, the person who served the other party may have to appear in court to tell the judge how they served the papers.
  4. A sheriff, marshal, or constable can serve the papers for you at a fee unless a judge waives the fee.
  5. If it's a case of alleged domestic violence, a peace officer may serve the court papers to the other party.

Exceptions where a certificate of service isn't needed

A certificate of service isn't always required to file papers in court. For instance, if you're filing an original pleading, you don't need to attach a certificate of service.

An original pleading document can be in the form of a counter-complaint, third-party complaint, or initial complaint.

When you file the original pleading, the court will have to respond first and prepare a summons. After receiving the summons document from the court, you can then serve the other party with a copy of the summons and the original pleading.

Another situation where you don't need to provide a certificate of service to the court is when the other party is in default for failure to appear in court.

For instance, suppose you serve a defendant with an initial complaint and a summons from the court indicating where and when they should appear in court, and they fail to do so. In such a case, you don't need to serve additional court papers to them.

A certificate of service proves that the plaintiff/defendant sent a copy of court documents to the opposing party or their attorney. Failing to attach a certificate of service could create costly legal issues and hinder the progress of a case.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James


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