Between the Lines: Simplifying Alternative Service in Texas, Part I
Alternative service of process is the use of non-traditional methods to deliver legal documents to defendants. Legal professionals often turn to alternative service to keep their case timelines on track. In states with strict regulations around who and how service occurs, such as Texas, this can be tedious.
This week, we’ll take a look at the process for alternative service in Texas. ABC Legal’s service of process starts with high standards to ensure compliance. Should the need for a motion and order for alternative service arise, all service attempts build towards a foundation preparing for alternative service.
Service of Process in the Lonestar State
In Texas, personal service is the standard for the service of citations and petitions. Personal service is the physical delivery of documents to a person named in a lawsuit. It is the most direct method of providing due process to defendants listed on a citation and petition. The directness is difficult when defendants have irregular hours or avoid service outright. If the defendant isn’t home or doesn’t respond, the process server, or another individual qualified to deliver legal documents, cannot make the delivery. When this situation arises, the plaintiff must file for alternative service.
Texas Courts’ Process for Alternative Service
To make alternative service an option, the plaintiff needs a judge’s approval to sub-serve, serve by mail or post the serve. Defined in Rules 106 and 501 in the Texas Rules for Civil Procedure, the requirements for these motions and orders take time and effort. In addition to the paperwork for the motion and order, the process requires documentation proving defendant residency (or why they cannot be located) and validating the previous service attempts. Court-level requirements may include investigations and statements about previous service attempts.
After submitting the paperwork, attorneys must wait for a judge’s approval. The judge specifies how documents must be served. A qualified individual or process server must adhere to those requirements to serve the documents. Only then can they perfect service and provide a final return of service.
Finding Pathways Toward Efficiency
Motions and orders for alternative service have a lengthy process that stack on top of the service of process timeline. The tasks required for the motion and order add repetitive documentation and follow-up with investigations teams and process servers to an attorney’s busy schedule.
In Texas, ABC Legal has procedures to streamline service of process and automate motions and orders for alternative service. The process meets stringent requirements for collections cases and is available for legal professionals. These procedures allow teams to quickly move from a non-serve to alternative service and the final return of service with little to no input from the attorney involved. It all starts with ensuring that process servers perform diligent service from the beginning.
Starting Service of Process Off Right
A process server must deliver citations and petitions to a defendant. At ABC Legal, process servers receive and record their jobs using our proprietary app. The app has built-in parameters that align with the requirements of the state, court, case type, and ABC Legal’s golden standards of due diligence for service of process.
In Texas, ABC Legal requires process servers to have completed a minimum of four diligent attempts all on different days – at least one of which must be on Saturday, one before 11 AM, one after 6 PM. The app checks the process server attempts against these rules before allowing them to claim they cannot serve a defendant. Since the app uses GPS location information and records data input in real time, it’s evident when process servers are properly adhering to local requirements. With several large-volume clients in Texas, ABC Legal has detailed knowledge of the different courts and judges throughout the state, as well as their respective requirements.
To support the alternative service process and different state requirements, ABC Legal sets high diligence standards for recording information about each attempt. ABC Legal calls on its process servers to do their best to find indicators of residency while in the field to help strengthen and validate service or non-service.
During service of process, process servers seek information such as verbal confirmation from a neighbor, coresident, or leasing office, packages left visibly on the porch with names and addresses, or evidence regarding vehicles on the property. ABC Legal’s process servers look for these indicators - and record if any are present at the time of the serve. The app also checks this information while evaluating the non-service requirements.
These standards combined with digital evaluation and the support of a licensed investigations team ensures that attempts are valid and will pass scrutiny in front of the judge approving alternative service. This creates a launching point for a series of automated steps that get a case from a non-serve in front of a judge, out for alternative service, and back with a return of service fast. The process is not only quick but efficient requiring little input from the attorney or plaintiff. Find out how it works next week on Between the Lines.
If you can't wait for next week, consider requesting a demo and mention that you want to learn about alternative service automation in Texas. For more legal industry best practices, helpful tips, and breakdowns on the latest in legal tech, subscribe to the ABC Legal Blog or follow us on social media.
About ABC Legal
With more than 2,000 process servers across the U.S. and 75 countries, ABC Legal is the nation’s leading service of process and court filing provider, as well as the Acting Central Authority to the U.S. Department of Justice. Our digital approach saves valuable time and resources, and our cloud-based solutions are compatible for use on desktop, browser, and smartphones. Docketly — an ABC Legal subsidiary — provides appearance counsel on a digital, custom-built platform that smoothly integrates with our applications and services. Learn more at www.abclegal.com.