Alternative service of process is the delivery of legal documents to defendants using non-standard methods of service. It is an option for delivery once the direct delivery of documents proves difficult in normal circumstances. The process of getting an approval for alternative service takes time and effort. ABC Legal provides legal professionals with an easier path. Especially those professionals dealing with collections cases.
ABC Legal offers alternative service automation to customers with select case types in several states including Texas. The process combines high standards for procedures, deep knowledge of court systems, and innovative applications of technology. That combination creates a hands-off process that takes cases from being non-served, back to court, and out for alternative service faster than previously possible.
How Alternative Service Automation Works
The process kicks off during every qualifying review of non-service in Texas and ends with perfected service of process for a given address.* Originally designed to meet some of the meticulous requirements needed to pursue collections cases, this process is in place across the state for citations and petitions. The following is an outline of a job’s journey from its submission from the customer to its return after completed service.
Regulated Service of Process Attempts
Initially, ABC Legal or the plaintiff files the citation and petition with a court. Once the filing is complete, a process server or otherwise qualified individual must deliver the documents to the defendant. At ABC Legal, process servers receive and record their jobs using our proprietary app. The app gauges attempts against the requirements of the state, court, case type, and ABC Legal’s high standards of due diligence for service of process. Process servers collect information at each attempt to confirm its validity. They continue to make attempts until meeting diligence and confirming residency if possible.
Reviewed Per Court and Company Standards
Once the logged service attempts meet requirements, the process server designates the job as a “non-serve.” At that point, the job enters a queue for review by ABC Legal’s licensed Investigations team. During the “Review of Non-Service,” the Investigations team reviews all information. The review ensures that the information collected presents a case sufficient for the standards at each court. If the team catches something that won’t hold up in a particular court (or for a particular judge) the job is sent back to the server for additional qualifying attempts. When the attempts meet standards, the job gets pushed forward. The system then generates a motion and order packet.
The Motion and Order - Automated
In Texas, the motion and order packet fulfills the requirements outlined in Rule 106 and Rule 501 in the Texas Rules for Civil Procedure (TRCP). Within the packet are several documents, a motion (if needed), an order, supporting exhibits, and a declaration of service.
Professionals at ABC Legal familiar with the legal requirements in Texas develop and refine these processes to ensure compliance. The systems pull in the original case information, details and descriptions collected by process servers, findings from the investigation, and the results of ABC Legal’s database algorithm to populate the motion, order, declaration, and exhibits. It’s all done automatically, without the plaintiff attorney needing to step in or provide documents.
For cases in courts where a motion is required, ABC Legal will create all of the paperwork – the customer only needs to provide a signature. In cases where authorized by the client, ABC Legal automates their approval and e-signature. Customers that do not grant that authorization must sign and approve the documents. In those cases, the documents go out for a formal signature and approval on the Customer Web Platform.
ABC Legal generates the documents necessary for the order and supporting exhibits as well. The order, once approved by a judge, grants permission for alternative service of process. Exhibit documents support the motion and order. They contain the results of the investigation into the defendant’s residence and the service attempts.
The declaration or return of service comes from the process server. The declaration follows the “sworn statement” requirements as outlined in the TRCP. It formally attests to a process server’s full and proper attempts at personal service of the documents to the defendant in the case.
To Court & Back
Once all of the documents are in order, the packet goes to court. The court receives the documents, approves and signs the order, and returns it to ABC Legal. Once the documents return, ABC Legal’s Fulfillment team reviews everything for accuracy. They push it out to a process server - often the same server who started the case.
Out For Service - Faster Than Previously Possible
The process server makes another attempt, with the order from the judge and all necessary documentation in hand. They follow ABC Legal’s standards for diligence and get the legal documents to the defendant. First, they try for personal service but finish the service with the order as specified by the judge - substitute service, service by posting, and/or service by mail.
The process server uses the app to record the perfected service. The app generates a proper return of service, as outlined in the TRCP. Process servers sign the documents and ABC Legal files them with the court. Push notifications alert the attorney involved to all status updates on the case as they happen.
Hands-Off Alternative Service
Once the document reaches non-service, automation kicks in to get alternative service moving. The system builds the documents far faster and with far greater accuracy than a human could alone. It takes the thoughtful input internal teams and process servers provide and reformats it into court-approvable documentation with a few clicks. It's no touch and no stress. It’s alternative service, cradle to grave, with minimal effort on the part of the paralegal or attorney requesting service of process.
Continual review of the process to ensure compliance and find avenues to innovate further is a part of the day-to-day at ABC Legal. It’s all about increasing speed and efficiency to give customers the best possible experience.
Request a demo to learn more about this process and everything ABC Legal can do to improve the service of process. Interested in learning 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 to stay on top of court filing and service of process.
*Due to the nature of the applicable cases and investigations, these are part of our legal professional service offerings. There are a few exceptions. ABC Legal does not move for alternative service for citation and petitions when documents are served to or at a business. These cases require a greater level of attorney involvement and are not suitable for the automated process at this time.
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.