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The actual delivery of process to the individual to whom it is directed or to someone authorized to receive it on his or her behalf.
Service of Process is the delivery of legal notice to a party in a case. Any party who is being sued is entitled to advance notice of the suit. Notice consists of a copy of the complaint and a summons to appear in court. If a party does not receive notice of a lawsuit, the court will dismiss the case.
Personal service of the complaint and summons is a form of actual notice. Actual notice occurs when the summons and complaint are delivered personally to the respondent. The two other basic forms of process service are substituted service and constructive service. Substituted service is personal delivery to the residence of the respondent or notice given to an agent of the respondent. Constructive service is notice delivered through publication in a newspaper.
If a party cannot be reached in person, substituted service may be made by mailing the summons and complaint by certified or first-class mail. If a party cannot be found, notice may be served by publication in a newspaper.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that service of process should be reasonably calculated to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to be heard. The reasonableness of the notice must be considered in light of all the circumstances. For example, if a party receiving notice lives in an apartment building with many children living in the building, one notice left on the front door of the apartment may not be sufficient because it is possible that the children may take the papers (Greene v. Lindsey, 456 U.S. 444, 102 S. Ct. 1874, 72 L. Ed. 2d 249 ).
n. delivering a summons, complaint, notice to quit tenancy or other legal document which must be served by handing it directly to the person named in the document. Personal service is distinguished from "constructive service," which includes posting a notice on property and then mailing a copy to the resident, or publishing a summons directed toward a person the court has found is hiding to avoid service. Person service can be accomplished by "substituted service," which is giving the document to a responsible adult, a secretary or receptionist at the address, (See: service of process, summons, substituted service)