California Service of Process
- Personal service of process is preferred by California courts.
- Substitute service of process is allowed if personal service fails.
- Plaintiffs must explain to the court how service of process was completed.
What are California's service of process rules?
Citibank charged off my credit card debt of $8500. Now a collection/law firm is telling me that they were hired by Citi to collect the whole amount or a sum of 75 cents/dollar. I am uncollectible and I told them so. They refuse to negotiate below the 75cents/$ even though Citi themselves had been willing to do 45cents/$ with me. This firm does not respond to letters or phone calls. They have hung up twice. They told me I had been served on July 17 but I have not been served personally or by mail. Am I correct that in California the process server must leave the papers with me or a member of my household (I live alone) and if by the latter method, it must be followed up with a letter. The papers cannot just be taped to my door or handed to a neighbor?
You are referring to California Code of Civil Procedure sections 412.10-412.30, 415.10-415.95, and 684.210-684.220.
Until 1969 in California, if a plaintiff did not have a process server serve a summons and complaint on the defendant personally, there was no service at all.
After 1969, substitute service was allowed if a copy of the summons could not be delivered personally with reasonable diligence. Substitute service is customarily certified mail to the defendant’s street address (PO boxes are not allowed) plus first-class mail as well. If the street address of the defendant is unknown, then constructive service is allowed. Constructive service can be public notice (such as an ad in an area newspaper), posting a notice on the defendant’s property, registered mail, or some other notice "served in a manner which is reasonably calculated to give actual notice to the party to be served and that proof of such service be made as prescribed by the court."
A plaintiff in a California court must provide a document similar to SC 104, which is a sworn statement explaining to the court when, how, and to whom the complaint was served. Failure to do so, or falsifying a record of the service may result in a dismissal of the case or sanctions on the plaintiff's attorney.
See the California Courts Self-Help page Service of Process and SC 104b: What is Proof of Service? for general information about California service of process rules.
For readers in other states, search your state government’s Web site to learn the civil procedure statutes appropriate for residents in your state. All states follow the same basic rule -- notice must be given to the defendant -- but the details of how this rule is implemented in each state vary.
Negotiating the Debt
See the Bills.com resource Debt Negotiation and Settlement Advice to learn tips and tactics for negotiating debt with collection agents.
I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.
Consult with a family lawyer in your soon-to-be-ex-spouse's state, sign a fee agreement with him or her, and ask him or her to contact the opposing lawyer. Your lawyer will act as your agent and receive the service of process.
A driver's license from another state is one piece of the evidence puzzle you may need to present to the judge to show you were not served personally. You may need to show utility bills, phone records, and affidavits from people who saw you in another state on the date you were allegedly served. If it is any consolation, you are far from the first person to contact Bills.com stating that a process server, well, lied about serving them personally. It is difficult to prove a negative, but in your case it should be relatively easy to present evidence you were far, far away from the place the process server swears you were.
A lawyer explains and interprets the law, and is also a client's counselor. The lawyers recommending bankruptcy may be following the quote attributed to Abraham Maslow, "If the only tool you have is a hammer you tend to see every problem as a nail." They may see bankruptcy as the universal solution to consumer debt. On the other hand, the bankruptcy recommenders may weigh the cost of appeal and its chance of success vs. the cost of a bankruptcy and its almost certain success in ridding you of the debt liability. I cannot say for certain why you were steered in favor of bankruptcy, and I would recommend you ask each lawyer why he or she thinks it is right for you.