Agents at Blackhawk Intelligence, aka process servers, have years of experience serving legal notices to companies and individuals. We adhere to strict rules surrounding the means of service. This guide details the work involved.

process server guide

What this guide aims to achieve

Serving legal documentation to individuals and companies often isn’t as simple as it sounds, as people could be evasive on purpose, requiring you to spend a great amount of time and money to locate them. Accordingly, it is wise to rely on experienced process servers or agents who know how to handle various legal documents covering family law, civil disputes, personal injury claims, to name but a few.

This guide is intended to shed light on the role of the process server in delivering sensitive documents to a person or company as part of an ongoing legal case and setting out some scenarios that make practical sense of the subject, including:

  • What process serving is and who’s involved
  • When and how to use a process server
  • What to do if you are served
  • What to look for when choosing a process server
  • Why Blackhawk Intelligence is a good choice

What is the act of process serving?

The official title is “Service Of Process” and is the act of hand-delivering documents to a defendant for their attention as part of court proceedings or as part of a dispute, which could be with an individual or an entity like a company. In England and Wales, ‘service of process’ falls under Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) which governs civil litigation in these two countries. Service of Process outside of this jurisdiction requires different provisions.

As the name suggests, the intention of process serving is to inform the recipient of action against them, as required by the court as part of its ‘due process’. The documents being severed can be wide-ranging depending on the case, such as civil divorce proceedings, notices of bankruptcy proceedings and statutory demands. The documents may, in some cases, originate from a court or form part of a ‘pre-action protocol’ that requires a claimant to inform a defendant (or respondent) of the action being taken against them.

Once the court documents have been served, our process server will produce a Certificate of Service or a Statement of Service advising which documents we have served, to whom we have served them on, and when, where and how we have served them.

Process serving emphasises the importance of documents delivered by agents. Often the act of being handed official documents is enough to make the recipients take the matter seriously.

Who are process servers

Process servers are professional agents who are neutral and impartial. Process servers are also patient and resourceful, as people who are due to receive legal notices can be evasive, with some even go to extraordinary lengths to conceal their identity or create a web of deceit. In these instances, process servers have to take on a more detective-like role.

Process servers have a fair share of other challenges too. Abuse and violence against process servers are not uncommon, but being professional, these agents can keep a cool head even in a difficult situation. In addition, with doorstep scammers becoming more common, our agents also make sure that they can identify themselves easily to the recipients.

At Blackhawk Intelligence, our process servers are trained and insured. We are also professional and persistent, with an ability to investigate and track down the intended recipient.

We help law firms, financial institutions, corporations, and private individuals to give notices to parties they are taking an action against. No job is too small, too large, or too difficult for us – we’re here to deliver.

When and how to use a process server?

There are many situations that could ultimately lead to ‘Service of Process’ and the hiring of a process server, as most disputes involving the courts or more complex litigation requires one party to inform the other of the nature of the action being taken against them – this could be in commercial or personal situations.

Some of the most common reasons to require Service of Process within England, Wales and Northern Ireland are as follows:

Statutory Demand Divorce Petition
Bankruptcy Petition Subpoena
Winding up Petition Witness Summons
Non-Molestation Order Applications
Prohibited Steps Order Possession Order
Child Arrangements Order Notice to Quit
Residence Order Claim Form
Occupation Order Witness Summons
Committal Notice N79A Suspended Committal Order
Licensing Notices N84 Interim Third Party Debt Order
Section 21 Notices and Break Notices N39 Order to Attend Court

Within England and Wales, ‘process’ can be served via the following methods:

  • Personal service – whereby a process server hand delivers the claim form to the defendant at their place of residence (or potentially other locations).
  • First-class post.
  • Delivering the documents to a specific place, such as a solicitor’s office or a company’s registered address.
  • Other mechanisms are possible, such as fax or email, but only if this has been explicitly agreed with the defendant prior to this.

It’s clear from this that a process server isn’t required in all cases, especially as in some cases the courts will send out certain notifications to the other parties involved, such as in the case of debt claims where the court will mail a “Notice of Issue” to the debtor.

The principal value of a process server is in ensuring important documents are served and a record of service is received, so it can be used later as proof if necessary. Courts may demand this and penalise you if you cannot show that you have followed the appropriate pre-action protocol governing your particular situation. Typically though, where you or your business is responsible for ensuring the defendant ‘officially’ receives legal documents, it’s advisable to use a professional process server. Of course, the presence of a process server also sends a strong message to the other party involved.

International Service of Process

When it comes to international service of process, our process servers are mindful of the regulatory environment which varies from one country to another.

However, around 90 countries, including European countries, are signatories to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents, more commonly known as the Hague Convention. This treaty, adopted in 1965, allows the service of legal documents between signature countries using consulates and diplomatic channels.

Serving legal documents across legal jurisdictions in different countries can be quite tricky. Even though each country under the Hague convention acknowledges the process and provides the legal framework for such transactions to take place, the domestic law of the jurisdiction concerned takes precedence over procedural rules, and so there is still a need for local knowledge. Local laws as to who is authorised to deliver legal documents also vary, as in some countries it may be illegal for an individual to effect personal service. Furthermore, the exact delivery method acceptable to different jurisdictions varies as well. For instance, countries such as Germany, China, Mexico, Norway, and Russia (at the time of writing) object to service by post. Indeed, in general, the forms of service acceptable in different countries varies, even to the extent of determining whether particular couriers, such as FedEx or DHL are deemed as acceptable postal services.

International services methods

There are several mechanisms that can be used to reach individuals that are subject to service and who are overseas under a different legal jurisdiction to that of England and Wales. Each has its own merits and complexities and it should become apparent that should this type of service of process be needed, it is wise to engage a reputable company like Blackhawk Intelligence, where our process servers have an excellent understanding of the international process serving requirements.

Diplomatic Channels
The use of consular officials to provide service is covered under article 8 of the Hague Convention and in Europe under Article 12 of the Regulation of service. However, many countries don’t agree to this or if they do, only if the serving individual is a national of that country.

Service by Post

As with diplomatic service, service by post is subject to local agreement and that all local country laws have been met and that the law of the service origin also allows for service by post (as in England and Wales).

Personal Service
When it comes to personal service, extreme care needs to be exercised here. Although a receiving country may allow for personal service, it amounts to only what it accepts under local domestic law. For example, in England and Wales, any individual over the age of 18 and who is prepared to make a sworn statement as to their actions can be a process server. In some countries, only a member of that country’s institution can effect ‘personal service’, such as the local police or a court-appointed bailiff.

Electronic Service
The acceptance of electronic service varies considerably from country to country. Not only does the country in which the service is to be made need to be a signatory to either the Hague or EU agreements, but it’s also likely a prerequisite if electronic service is acceptable, the physical address of the defendant must also be known.

The situation is further compounded by countries that although electronic service may be permitted, domestic law requires that the litigant has consented to such a form of service. Countries such as Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and France, for example, do not consent. In addition, they require a digital signature through a secure platform.

Even though this form of service is a complex affair, the use of electronic means to affect service can be useful if the defendant’s whereabouts are unknown.

Social Media

Perhaps surprisingly, although not unexpectedly, social media channels are now being used for service of process. Service by Facebook was allowed from 2008 in Australia and since then, Canada and New Zealand also agreed to this process. Twitter’s direct message capability has also been used in some instances. These social media platforms could be useful channels for services in more personal cases, such as divorce and other matrimonial cases, where the use of social media as a communication mechanism between parties is regular and common.

Where should documents be served

Ensuring that important court documents are delivered to the correct address is an essential part of service. The court will look for the claimant to prove they have made reasonable attempts to serve the documents, even if the defendant has tried to avoid being served. So, it’s important in the first instance to know the main locations of the intended recipients. The following can be used as a guide:

Individuals: Their usual or last known address. If they cannot be located at this address and reasonable attempts have been made to do so, the server may try to find them at their place of work and attempt service there instead.

Individuals being sued in the name of a business or partnership: Their usual or last known address or that of the principal or last known place of business.

A company registered or incorporated in England & Wales: The registered address, principal office, or any of the company’s place of business that is connected with the case or conducts its operations.

An LLP: The principal office or any place of business within England and Wales where it conducts its business and has a connection to the case.

What happens if you can’t serve the documents

If a defendant knows that a claim is being made against them, they may very well try to avoid the documents being served. Some people go to extreme lengths to avoid this from happening, even fleeing the country or pretending to be somebody else. It may also be possible that the defendant doesn’t have a permanent address.

different process serving optionsSimply avoiding the ‘service of process’ doesn’t mean the defendant will avoid the courts. However, it may make things difficult, as the claimant will have to show that they have exercised due diligence in attempting to serve the documents. This means it’s likely not enough to simply find that the defendant isn’t home to receive the documents, repeated attempts will need to be made and recorded to show that all reasonable efforts have been made to serve. If all attempts to deliver to a defendant’s regular location fail, a substitute service may be suitable but only as a last resort, as you will need to prove this as such and must also apply to the judge to use one. Substitute services include:

Service through a third-party:
If you are serving to a third party, it’s essential to know that they have regular contact with the defendant, as they become legally responsible for making sure the defendant receives the papers. This typically involves serving somebody else in the household such as a family member or even a neighbour. It’s also possible to serve documents to the defendant’s employer. There must be physical proof that the delivery has been made.

Newspaper service
Newspaper service is sometimes used in matrimonial cases. As long as this is acceptable to the court and it can again be proven that all due diligence has taken place prior to this, an advert can be placed in a newspaper local to where the defendant or their relatives live or lived.

Email & social media service
The use of email or social media to provide service is reliant on either first gaining the court’s approval to do so and by gaining explicit agreement with the defendant or their legal representative beforehand.

What timescales are involved in the service of process?

The process of executing service involves two documents: the claim form and the particulars of the claim.

The claim form must be served within four months of the date the claim was issued by the court. The particulars of the claim can be served 14 days after the claim form, but this must fall within the four-month period. However, these timescales can be extended by mutual consent.

Documents served before 16:30 on a working day are considered served that day. After 16:40, it’s considered as the next working day. For example, a legal notice served at 16:45 pm on a Friday evening is considered served on Monday.

What to look for in choosing a process server

The task of delivering important court documents is a great responsibility. Accordingly, it makes sense to engage a process serving company with a successful track record like here at Blackhawk Intelligence. Here are some basic points to consider when choosing a process server:

  • Track record and ability to demonstrate success.
  • If the process servers are insured and are registered members of relevant professional intuitions.
  • What capabilities do they have in tracking down defendants that are looking to avoid service?
  • Serving court papers often require personal service, meaning person-to-person contact. What ethical guidelines does the process server follow in ensuring the courtliest approach and that they are compliant with GDPR and basic human rights conventions?
  • Ensure that they produce accurate records that cover the service as these will need to be provided to the court.
  • Understand the fee structure.
  • Make sure they have professional indemnity insurance.

From claim to collection: why use Blackhawk Intelligence for process serving.

Blackhawk Intelligence has extensive experience in the service of process, not just nationally within England and Wales, but also in many international jurisdictions. We have acted for clients in countries throughout Europe and beyond, as far afield as Mauritius, the Middle East, Southeast, and Eastern Asia, along with Australia and New Zealand.

Our agents have a thorough understanding of local laws in relation to successfully serving court documents in the jurisdictions they serve.

In addition to this, Blackhawk Intelligence is a highly-skilled people tracing company due to the extended nature of our business activities, particularly with asset tracing, financial fraud investigations, and surveillance services. We are very skilled at finding people that don’t want to be found.

It’s one thing to successfully serve process on somebody and even get a court judgment against them, but eventually, you will need to actually collect on the claim and this is why Blackhawk Investigations should be your choice as a local or international process server, as we can see the whole process through – from claim to collection.

If you are about to make a claim against somebody, be that an individual and company, for commercial or personal reasons, call the knowledgeable team at Blackhawk Intelligence to discuss the best strategy for you.

Call +44 (0)20 8108 9317 today to kick-start how we can help to serve legal notices on behalf of you.

This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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The Complete Guide to Process Serving


Agents at Blackhawk Intelligence, aka process servers, have years of experience serving legal notices to companies and individuals. We adhere to strict rules surrounding the means of service. This guide details the work involved.