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How to Serve Someone Who Won’t Answer the Door

Welcome to the Lafayette Process Servers LLC podcast.

How to Serve Someone Who Won’t Answer the Door

When a process server attempts to deliver legal documents to someone who refuses to answer the door, additional steps must be taken.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the basics of process serving, including what you should do if someone doesn’t answer the door, as well as some other tips for ensuring you can complete the task.


Different Ways to Serve Legal Documents

Delivering papers directly to the person or company can be done in person or by leaving them at the place of business or residence. If the person or company cannot be found, the next step is to post the papers to them.

The following people could be directed by the court to serve any legal document:

  • Constable, marshal, or sheriff
  • Disinterested person not known to both parties, at least 18 years of age
  • Process servers

Process serving is a critical part of the justice system, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. What do you do if you can’t serve the defendant at their house or place of work?

There are a few different ways to serve legal papers when the person being served doesn’t open the door. You can try to contact them by mail, by phone, or even through social media.

If that doesn’t work, you can ask the court for permission to post the notice on a known publication for s required length of time. In some states like California, these papers must be printed once a week for four consecutive weeks.


Substituted Service

If the person refuses to open the door, the process server can leave the documents in a secure area and inform the recipient where it is placed.

If the process server has done all they can to deliver the summons or complaint to the defendant and has tried all reasonable efforts to contact the person but failed, the process server can “nail and mail” the document at the person’s certified address. They could “nail” the document on the door and then send a copy to the courts and the person’s address, informing them of how the document was delivered.


Process Serving Using Certified Mail

The process of serving documents by certified mail is fairly simple. Just prepare a copy of the document and a copy of the service certification.

You will also need to prepare a return receipt card and an envelope addressed to the person receiving the documents.


Regular First-Class Mail

Some states allow the serving of papers through regular first-class mail. However, it’s best to check with the local courts on what methods they accept in situations when a recipient refuses to accept the summons or complaints in person.


Serving Papers: A Vital Legal Service

The courts need process servers to inform defendants, plaintiffs, witnesses, and anyone who needs the courts’ help to see that justice and the law has been applied to all cases.

If a direct handoff of documents is not possible, there are several ways to ensure that the parties involved receive their papers.

The foregoing podcast has simply been presented for informational purposes only. He or those at Lafayette Process Servers LLC, are not attorneys.  Process serving laws and rules of civil procedure are different from state to state. If you seek further information about this topic, please make sure to contact an attorney in your local area




Fitzpatrick, Diana J.D. Serving Court Papers on an Individual,,

Taylor, Daniel, 3 Feb 2015, When Can You Serve Someone via Publication in a Newspaper?,,


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