Process Serving Explained Step-by-Step.

I got a question from a viewer named Darrel who’s getting into process serving. He’s about to serve his first pack, and he really wants to make sure he gets it right. He asked if I had a video that teaches step by step instructions for serving process. Something that he could listen to, over and over again, to really get it into brain so he does it well. Here’s that video!

The most basic form of serving process:

Step one, you pick up the service pack that you need to serve.

Step two, you hold back the Return of Service page for yourself.

Step three, you serve the papers.

Step four, you take the return of service page and you file it with the clerk of courts.

In its simplest form, that’s all there is to process serving!

To expand just a little bit…

I like to do one extra step and let the client, usually a law firm, know that I have filed the return of service.

At that point, bill your client and collect your check.

That’s it! That’s the whole process.

Details for Each Step

Step 1: Pick up the papers.

This is going to be either at the law firm or at the courthouse. It depends on how the law office wants to handle it. They’ll tell you.

This is not difficult. This is not scary.

Once you work with a law firm a couple of times, you’ll get it.

Usually, if you’ve picked the papers up from the law office before, that means they have them at the law office for you to pick up. You’ll run in, get them from the front desk person or, if it’s a small firm, you’ll get them from the attorney.

Or they might say they’ve got some service packs for you down at the courthouse. Just go to the courthouse and to the clerk of court’s office.

Tell them who you are and that you’re there to pick up some service packs. They’ll look through their pile, they’ll hand you the service packs, and that’s it.

Step 2: Hold back the return of service sheet for yourself.

This is going to be, usually, the top page. Sometimes it’s two pages. If it’s more than one page, usually they’re stapled together.

The rest of the pack (the papers you’re going to serve) is stapled or bull-dogged clipped together, depending on how big it is.

You simply hang onto the top page or two that should pretty clearly say, “Return of Service”.

You can see an example right here.

Example of a Proof of Service form.

Proof of Service (AKA: Return of Service) form example.

Step 3: Serve the pack.

Just serve the pack of papers. This is literally just delivery service.

You go out to wherever the person is, you hand it to them, and that’s it.

Nineteen out of twenty times, they’re gentlemanly and a lady-like about it. They understand. Don’t sweat the serving of process.

Can there be snags, weirdness, and oddness? Yes, of course there can. That’s why I have the Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving. I cover all these different scenarios like if it’s a bad address, if they’re hiding, if they won’t answer the door, etc.

So, yes. Sometimes, that one in twenty (or maybe less!) you’ll run into a snag like that. And yes, extended paid training will teach you how to handle all that stuff. But really, you just take that service pack and serve it to the person. Just deliver the papers.

Step 4: File the Return of Service (AKA: Affidavit of Service)

Take the return of service page that you held back for yourself and fill it out. It’s fill-in-the-blank.

It’s check-boxes. You check off that you served this person personally at such and such time, date, and location. You sign it and file that with the clerk’s office. Nothing scary there.

You go down to the clerk’s office with that piece of paper, that Return of Service, and slide it across the desk. They punch it in a time clock to the date/time stamp exactly when it was filed, and that’s it.

It is, technically, an affidavit. It’s technically a sworn statement. You cannot lie on it. You should never lie on this. Don’t get me started on the ethics of this… Do your job well. Do your job honestly.

Once you file that return of service, you may want to do step five. I particularly like to do this.

Step 5: Give the client a copy of the filed Return of Service.

So, when you file the Return of Service (sometimes called Affidavit of Service), get a copy of that filed return of service for yourself. You can give this copy, or a photocopy of it, to your client (usually the law firm).

Big Advantages For You

This let’s them know the pack was served and gives them documented evidence just in case they need it.

Maybe the law office wants this. Maybe they don’t. But, I have found that they all like to get it. It’s that nice, little professional courtesy and it sets you apart (over and above!) other process servers!

So, once they hire you, they see:

  • You’re doing a professional job.
  • Your service reflects well upon the law firm.
  • You’re successful in all reasonable circumstances where you could be expected to be successful.
  • You’re doing all of that and then going this above and beyond where you’re giving them the copy of the return of service that you filed!

If you just have to stretch this out to more than that, there’s step six…

Step 6: Bill your client.

For me, that was always at the end of the month. I just sent them an invoice, due within thirty days.

Step 7: Cash the check!

You may not be getting paid with an actual check. You’ve probably arranged a payment method with them that they like. That’s the important thing. That they like. So, maybe they want to write you a check. Or maybe they like to pay you electronically.


The actual process of serving process is not tricky or hard to understand.

I mean, you can run into snags where you have a bad address or the person’s avoiding you, but I cover all of that in my full, streaming course The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving.

If you have any questions or you think this needs to be expanded a little bit, please let me know. I’d be delighted to include that information in a future article.

In the meantime, this is Larry Kaye reminding you to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.

Committed to your success and safety,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

P.S. – Need a Process Server badge?
I highly recommend you get one at Yes, I do make money when you buy through this link, but it’s doesn’t cost you any more than going directly there.)

NOTICE: If you want this exact badge for FREE, it comes as a bonus when you get my course The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving.

In the meantime, this is Larry Kaye reminding you to do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.

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