Chloe Meltzer | December 02, 2022
Summary: Worried you're about to get served with a debt collection lawsuit? Learn all about the service of process in Texas.
As defined by the state of Texas, Service of process is “the formal delivery of a writ, summons, or other legal process or notice”. There are numerous Texas statutes that designate the Secretary of State as a process agent and are able to authorize the Secretary of State to accept service on behalf of another person.
Process servers in Texas are responsible for making sure that all of the required documents and citations have been delivered to the right persons. They must also file a “Return Of Citation' form to the local courts. This is considered proof of service.
If you have been sued for a debt in Texas you do need to be officially served with a lawsuit. This service is only considered officially complete once you receive the citation by hand delivery or another authorized means.
In Texas, it is legally required to effectively notify the other party that they have legal action taken against them. This provides the defendant enough time to prepare themselves for court. They also need to be able to secure legal representation and prepare their own defense.
Any neutral party that is over the age of 18 is legally allowed to perform service of process in the state of Texas. Typically though, a professional process server will be employed and they will have received formal training. This allows them to know the laws that dictate this practice and gives them the training to serve. Trained process servers also reduce the margin of error in serving the wrong person or breaking local laws. Otherwise, the serving process may be jeopardized.
When a process server actually serves you with papers, you are not required to sign them, but they may ask you to do this. They are also allowed to ask if you are the name of the person being sued. After you say yes, they will then hand you the documents.
They are required to tell you that what they are handing you is a lawsuit against you and that you are being served. This is the most common type of service for a credit card lawsuit, and you will often be given a type of receipt called a “courtesy copy”, sent through the mail. Despite this, if you did not receive the first service of process then it does not constitute proper service.
If the process server is not able to find you, then the creditor can be issued an order for substituted service under TRCP 106. To be granted this order, the server will need to convince the court that they have made multiple attempts to serve you without success. In this case, they will be allowed to leave the documents with anyone that is over the age of 16. This must be at your residence, attached to your front door, or on your doorstep.
Because of this part of the serving laws in Texas, many people wind up being considered “served” when they never received the lawsuit. It can even occur when the process server gives the lawsuit to the wrong person or leaves it on the door of your previous address. If this occurs, then the creditor will be awarded a default judgment. This means that you will need to go to court and prove that you were never legally served.
Service of process is a lawful stipulation that involves presenting someone with legal documents. It also requires that person to be notified that there is legal action being taken against them. This law protects defendants and allows them to learn all about their cases to properly defend themselves.
When it comes to the service of subsequent documents, it is a different situation. This process takes place when the defendant is identified as needing to be served, and then receives service of process. Subsequent documents are typically submitted to the court during the trial rather than beforehand. These are pieces of evidence that are used for either side (the plaintiff or defendant). In some cases, these documents won't even be used until the court proceedings are taking place.
Often, these documents won't even be retrieved until the court proceedings are already in session. They can be presented as evidence at any time, the only stipulation is that they must be submitted to the court before being used in a trial.
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Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? We're making guides on how to beat each one.
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