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New York Process Service Legal Terms Explained.

Process Service

Process service, also known as "service of process", "service of legal documents", "subpoena service", "effecting service","service", "subpoena delivery" is the act of delivering court related documents or other legal document to a defendant, complainant, witness or other recipient . Unlike courier services, process service procedures demand that  process server  keep records, file papers and certify that he positively identified the recipient.  The recipient of process must answer questions from the process server or acknowledge receipt of the court paper in most instances. The court papers delivered upon recipient may require further steps to be taken by the recipient such as appearing in court, producing evidence, refraining from contacting a domestic violence victim, etc.

New York Courts

A court is the place where your case, criminal or civil, will be heard. There are several types of courts in New York. They may deal with criminal cases or civil cases or both types of cases:

New York City  Civil Court hears lawsuits which do not exceed $25, 000. It has a small claims part also known as "Small Claims Court" which operates mostly in the evening and accepts to hear claims of less than $5,000.

New York City Criminal Court hears cases which may  carry a fine or imprisonment of one year or less ( misdemeanors), violations and preliminary proceedings in felony cases

District Courts, City Courts, Town Courts and Village Courts deal with minor civil and criminal cases and preliminary proceedings in felony cases.

Family  Court of the State of New York is the court that hears cases involving children, spouses, and families. They also hear cases related to child support, child abuse, child neglect, child custody, child visitation, paternity petitions, spouse support, juvenile delinquency and domestic violence (orders of protection).

Surrogate's Court of the State of New York handles wills, estates and other related cases.

Supreme Court of the State of New York is a state court that handles cases with claims of more than $25,000. In the City of New York, the Supreme Court hears felony cases too.

Court of Claims hears litigation matters against the State of New York (The government)

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court and Appellate Terms handle appeals of decisions of criminal courts and civil courts.

Court of Appeals is the highest court and it hears  cases from the appellate courts or trial courts.

Affidavit of Service

An affidavit of service or service return is sworn written statement signed by the process server in presence of a notary public where the process server states that he effected service upon a defendant, plaintiff , witness or any other recipient of process. It is also known as proof of service.

Manner of Service

Manner of service refers to the way service of process was effected: personal, substituted, mail, etc. Depending on the case, the court and the circumstances only specific forms of service may be effected. Generally speaking in New York City, divorce summonses must be delivered personally upon Defendant himself, not a third party. However cases such as a three-day notice terminating tenancy may be delivered upon a third party such as a co-tenant if Respondent is not available. Affixing and mailing copies of the summons for a Family Court of the State of New York is unacceptable unless expressly ordered by the judge.  Generally the manner of service will be indicated by the Court which issued the summons and complaint.

Evasion of Service

An evasive defendant or witness may choose to ignore a process server by refusing to open the door, by running when approached or by lying to the process server when asked about his identity. Evasion of service is unacceptable by the courts but it is a common practice of amoral individuals who choose to escape the law rather than facing the consequences of their actions.  You must not attempt to escape process if you abuse your spouse, have failed to pay a debt, have defrauded someone, have failed to care for your children or have committed any other type of action that may lead a court to get involved. Doing so only gets you in more trouble with the law, because the process server will eventually report your evasive maneuvers to the judge. The process server's report, usually in the form of an affidavit of service, may allow the case against you to proceed and a default judgment to be issued. In some cases a warrant for your arrest may be issued if you fail to appear in a court hearing.

Process Server

A process server is person allowed to deliver process upon litigants, witnesses or other parties involved in a legal matter. Process is a summons, court order, subpoena or any other type of legal document required to be delivered by a process server either by affixing it at the entrance door of Defendant's apartment, by mailing it, by delivering upon a third party (sub-service) or by personal in hand delivery. Process serving may be effected by a police officer, a deputy sheriff , a City marshal , a constable, a process server or any qualified individual (E.g.:Minors and litigants must not effect service of process). In New York  City all process servers must be authorized and licensed by the City of New York. Failure to effect service according to statute is called "improper service" and it may cause a legal proceeding to be dismissed.  

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