Home > Small Claims > How Court Papers and Documents are Served

How Court Papers and Documents are Served

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 31 Jul 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Court justice party case proceedings

It is a fundamental principle of justice that a party is entitled to know the nature of the case against him. Further, whenever a party on either side of proceedings intends to rely on a document as part of their case it is almost inevitable that the other side will be entitled to see it. Service describes the process of sending or delivering documents to a party in court proceedings.

Service Under the Civil Procedure Rules

Part 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) sets out the modern approach to service of court documents. Although special rules apply to some specific documents - for example bankruptcy petitions – most documents are now served by sending them to a party by ordinary pre-paid post. Service is said to be “good” if it complies with the rules.

Methods of Service

The CPR sets out the various methods of service that can be used. The usual method of service is by first class post. Other methods of service which may be used include:
  • Personal service – where a document is physically handed to the party. If the party is a limited company or a corporation the document can be handed to a person who has as a senior position in the organisation.
  • Leaving the document at the correct address.
  • Fax, email or document exchange – a party may have to consent to service by these methods.

The Deemed Date of Service

The CPR sets out the date on which a document is deemed to have been served, according to the method of service used. This is the relevant date for the purposes of court proceedings, not the date on which it was sent. This may be crucial in cases where there are strict time limits for the service of a particular document. It is irrelevant if the document in fact arrived after or before the date of deemed service.

The deemed dates for service are as follows:

  • Personal service – the day it was handed to the party unless it was given to them after 5 pm in which case it is the following day.
  • First class post – the second day after it was posted.
  • Leaving a document at the correct address – the day after it was left at the address.
  • Fax – the same day if sent before 4 pm on a business day. If sent later, the business day after it was sent.
  • Email – the second day after it was sent.

The “Irrebutable Presumption” of Service

It can be difficult for parties to litigation to understand that, in legal terms, service is not the same as delivery or receipt. A claim form is deemed to have been served on a defendant even if it has been returned to the court marked undelivered – provided that it was sent to the last known or usual address of the defendant. The claim form is even deemed to have been served if the claimant knows that the defendant has left that address – unless they know the defendant’s new address.

This rule is so strict that there is nothing the defendant can do to rebut it even if they have conclusive proof that they never received the document. There is even case law that says that service was still good where a document was sent to a property which had previously been destroyed.

The Correct Address for Service

For service to be good it must have been sent to the correct address. This will depend on the nature of the party to be served. The correct address where the party is:
  • an Individual – their usual or last known residence;
  • an Individual who runs a business or operates under a trading name – their usual or last known residence OR their (last known) place of business;
  • a Limited Company – the registered office of the company OR any place of business which is connected to the claim;
  • a Corporation - the registered office of the corporation OR any place where the corporation conducts its activities which has a connection to the claim.

Service on a Party’s Solicitor

If a party has a solicitor acting for him and that solicitor is “on the record” or has agreed to accept service, documents should be served by sending them to the solicitor. A solicitor goes on the record by lodging at court a formal statement that they are acting for the party in relation to the case.

Service Out of the Jurisdiction

The basic assumption behind all the rules of service is that the party to be served is within the jurisdiction. If a party to be served is not within the jurisdiction the court’s permission may well have to be obtained before court documents can be served on them.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Hello, I wonder if you can advise me. I am in a legal dispute with someone. I sent a pre-court action letter to his business address, which I know he still uses because he has a Linkedin page about it, but he emailed me to state that he is no longer involved with that address. I tried sending the pre-court action letter to his home address by Special Delivery, which I had because we've had a previous legal dispute, (I was wary of contacting him there because during our last dispute, he was claiming harassment) but it has been sent back as Return to Sender because, apparently, he is "No longer at that address". I believe that he is now being evasive. What should I do? Thank you.
Davsak - 31-Jul-18 @ 1:04 PM
The person who sold a house to me breached the contract by not making good the damage to a wall which he had agreed to do in the contract. I wush to take it to small claims court but he will not give his new address . It seems that he can evade justice in this way but it seems incredible . Is there a way around this please such as giving my address as it is his last known address and take any papers sent to my address to his estate agent to forward to him if they will ?? thanking you
barry cook - 20-Jul-18 @ 6:06 PM
A court order has been served on my ex son in law by solicitor by hand the time has elapsed for response the solicitor has advised my daughter to enact a court pursuer at a cost of £500 to have him committed to prison.Can she recover the cost and what is a pursuer.
Harry - 13-May-18 @ 11:34 AM
Hi I am using a debt collecting company to recover a debt.We have a CCJ against the defendant but need to enforce the debt.So far we have paid two lots of serving fees to our debt collection company but they say they have been unsuccessful in serving the papers.They now want a third lot of serving fees to try again. I have then come across your article which suggests papers do not need to be physically handed to the debtor to be deemed as 'served' on them.I have gone back to our debt collectors regarding this including paragraphs of your article and their response was; "they do need to be personally served – I think this below must refer to some other document." Clearly their response is not very helpful! Who is right here? Do they need to be physically served or is your article correct and I am being misled by my debt collection agency?Help!!
Greenr6 - 4-Apr-18 @ 10:48 AM
An ex tenant through court mediation agreed to pay a set sum for outstanding rent, however through her solicitor has communicated to not paying whilst between work. 3 months of non payment, and her solicitor will not respond to my emails for an update?! Are they legally responsible to keep me updated? And can I continue with a CCJ now? I am not sure of the ex tenants address now, but can we serve through the solicitor? Worst of it is I’d been soooo lenient over such a long period of time, even the repayment is nominal compared to the overall debt which was over 4 year! And the ex tenant is a or was a trainee solicitor. I’m sure this CCJ would prevent her from becoming one? So I had held off.
Bobbyd - 3-Mar-18 @ 10:15 AM
MikeR - Your Question:
I think that should be 'principle'.It is worrying when you are dealing with matters requiring precision.

Our Response:
Thank you for pointing this out. The matter has been rectified.
AboutSmallClaims - 22-Feb-18 @ 2:17 PM
I think that should be 'principle'. It is worrying when you are dealing with matters requiring precision.
MikeR - 20-Feb-18 @ 2:29 PM
Ive made an application to the Money Claim Court to recover equity from a property I jointly owned with an ex-partner. On making the application I submitted my address separately explaining this was due to a history of domestic abuse during the relationship. I have now been advised by the Court to complete an N244 Form to make application to go infront of a Judge to decide if I am allowed to supply my address separately and not enter it on the claim form where my ex partner would see it. and understand this will incur a fee. Is this correct?I feel my safety could be at risk and do not understand why a Judge needs to make that decision.
Donut - 28-Nov-17 @ 2:23 PM
i have gone through court proceedings but the bailiffs cannot serve because the person keeps moving on. How do I get the persons address?
greendizzycrab - 31-Oct-17 @ 6:31 PM
@Charlie - easy, try a tracing company to locate the address. It'll cost, but it's worth it (depending how much the claim is for). It won't harm you to ring around and compare costs.
DaveT - 6-Oct-17 @ 3:34 PM
Hi I am in need of some advice! I am trying to send someone court papers but she has refused to give her address only email. (Which she is now not responding to). Is there any way i can continue without the address or any way i can find it somewhere? Thanks in advance!
Charlie - 5-Oct-17 @ 10:14 PM
If a person who has received money that he or she is not entitled to by bank transfer, if the money is to be reclaimed and if the name and address of the recipient are not known, but the recipient's account number and sort-code are known, is it sufficient for the account number and the sort-code to be entered on Form N1, in anticipation of a judge's making an order to the recipient's bank in order for the bank to disclose the name and address or, alternatively, in anticipation of the court's serving the form by way of the bank?
a - 29-Sep-17 @ 3:42 PM
Id like to know if a defendant files an Acknowledgment of Service does that class the document as being servced since they have in fact recieved and responded to the claims before the "Deemed Served" date which as the documents I have been sent by court suggest as they state the defendant has accepted the claims and been served and now have 28 days from the letter recieved and has clear date as an when the 28 days starts on their acknowledgement of service. I an currently disputing a Default Judgment as the defendant filed their defence 2 days outside of the 28 days.
adam - 9-Aug-17 @ 12:42 PM
Hello I want to send a letter to a small company that was dissolved in January 2017. I know a new small company operates from the same address and the director is closely related to the dissolved company. Will the court accept that i have made all reasonable attempts to contact the dissolved company if i post to the address of the dissolved company (post then post a reminder with proof of postage and multiple emails)? thanks iain
iain - 20-May-17 @ 11:06 AM
The plot thickens! I posted the documents I intend to use at the hearing later this month and they arrived at the court in good time. I also got a receipt from the court confirming my payment of £335. The defendant has not sent the court anything and has not even acknowledged receipt of the papers I sent showing the evidence. This might be because the 'eminent lawyer' I met last Tuesday reviewed my 'bundle' and spotted something that proves beyond all doubt that the defendant tried to defraud me at the outset. The defence literally has no legs to stand on and if he tries to offer a certain piece of 'evidence' to substantiate his defence he could be committing perjury. I'm sure his McKenzie Friend will have pointed that out to him but I've heard nothing from him, either. I'm half expecting a cheque for a derisory amount in the post "in full and final settlement" of the contested debt (which if I was stupid enough to cash would be the end of my claim) and will delight in returning it with a suitably sardonic letter. Less than two weeks to go.........
Buzz - 3-May-17 @ 5:08 PM
The plot thickens! I posted the documents I intend to use at the hearing later this month and they arrived at the court in good time. I also got a receipt from the court confirming my payment of £335. The defendant has not sent the court anything and has not even acknowledged receipt of the papers I sent showing the evidence. This might be because the 'eminent lawyer' I met last Tuesday reviewed my 'bundle' and spotted something that proves beyond all doubt that the defendant tried to defraud me at the outset. The defence literally has no legs to stand on and if he tries to offer a certain piece of 'evidence' to substantiate his defence he could be committing perjury. I'm sure his McKenzie Friend will have pointed that out to him but I've heard nothing from him, either. I'm half expecting a cheque for a derisory amount in the post "in full and final settlement" of the contested debt (which if I was stupid enough to cash would be the end of my claim) and will delight in returning it with a suitably sardonic letter. Less than two weeks to go.........
Buzz - 3-May-17 @ 8:27 AM
On the subject of serving documents, I have to pay the final £335 for the hearing by 16.00 fourteen days before the date. I also have to produce my 'bundle' of evidence that I intend to rely on in court to the court buildings and also to the defendant on the same day. There's a bit of tactics involved here; do I leave it until the very last moment (the defendant also must provide me with evidence that will be produced in court), or do I send it in early and give the defence a chance to find evidence rebutting mine? My initial feeling was to send it in early, but that choice has been removed as a very eminent lawyer whom I've known for over 25 years has agreed to look at my bundle and advise me (for free! He normally charges £400+ per hour). However, he can only see me on the Tuesday and my bundles must be presented to the court and the defendant by Thursday of the same week. I'll pay the £335 to the courts on Wednesday and send the bundles by Royal Mail (GuaranteedDelivery before 13.00 the next day) either on Tuesday evening, assuming 'my' lawyer doesn't suggest a significant change to my bundles, or on Wednesday if I have to make substantial changes. This website advises: "The deemed dates for service are as follows: Personal service – the day it was handed to the party unless it was given to them after 5 pm in which case it is the following day." Does "Royal Mail Guaranteed delivery before 13.00 the day following postage" qualify as 'Personal service'? If not then I'll have to either deliver it myself (my wife will not agree to that) or pay someone else to do it. As I'm hoping that others in a similar situation will be reading this, a word to the wise: I was taken off-guard by the 'extra' £335 I have to pay for the hearing. I thought that once I'd paid the MCOL fee of £410 that would be enough to 'have my day in court'. It is not clear anywhere online what the full costs can be unless you understand the process entirely.
Buzz - 24-Apr-17 @ 6:46 AM
On the subject of serving documents, I have to pay the final £335 for the hearing by 16.00 fourteen days before the date. I also have to produce my 'bundle' of evidence that I intend to rely on in court to the court buildings and also to the defendant on the same day. There's a bit of tactics involved here; do I leave it until the very last moment (the defendant also must provide me with evidence that will be produced in court), or do I send it in early and give the defence a chance to find evidence rebutting mine? My initial feeling was to send it in early, but that choice has been removed as a very eminent lawyer whom I've known for over 25 years has agreed to look at my bundle and advise me (for free! He normally charges £400+ per hour). However, he can only see me on the Tuesday and my bundles must be presented to the court and the defendant by Thursday of the same week. I'll pay the £335 to the courts on Wednesday and send the bundles by Royal Mail (GuaranteedDelivery before 13.00 the next day) either on Tuesday evening, assuming 'my' lawyer doesn't suggest a significant change to my bundles, or on Wednesday if I have to make substantial changes. This website advises: "The deemed dates for service are as follows: Personal service – the day it was handed to the party unless it was given to them after 5 pm in which case it is the following day." Does "Royal Mail Guaranteed delivery before 13.00 the day following postage" qualify as 'Personal service'? If not then I'll have to either deliver it myself (my wife will not agree to that) or pay someone else to do it. As I'm hoping that others in a similar situation will be reading this, a word to the wise: I was taken off-guard by the 'extra' £335 I have to pay for the hearing. I thought that once I'd paid the MCOL fee of £410 that would be enough to 'have my day in court'. It is not clear anywhere online what the full costs can be unless you understand the process entirely.
Buzz - 21-Apr-17 @ 5:47 AM
Buzz - Your Question:
+BYT77. Thanks for your comment and I agree that McKenzie Friends can pose a potential problem by " messing up your day in court and ruffling the judge's feathers."I think you've misunderstood my position, though. I am the claimant and will be representing myself alone in court. The defendant has employed a 'Profession McKenzie Friend' and my question here was regarding what remit the McKenzie Friend of the defendant has. I am rather hoping that he does, indeed, "mess up the defendant's day in court by ruffling the judge's feathers"!I'll certainly report back after the hearing to say what happened.

Our Response:
A McKenzie Friend is someone who accompanies a litigant in court to provide moral support. They may also take notes, help the litigant find the correct papers and give advice on questions to ask witnesses etc. They cannot however speak for the litigant, or run the case for them. They cannot; examine witnesses, address the court (though the judge may be prepared to hear from them if this would clarify an issue and assist in the swift administration of justice), or attend a closed court unless they have prior permission from the court. I hope this helps answer your question.
AboutSmallClaims - 20-Apr-17 @ 3:06 PM
+BYT77 . Thanks for your comment and I agree that McKenzie Friends can pose a potential problem by " messing up your day in court and ruffling the judge's feathers." I think you've misunderstood my position, though. I am the claimant and will be representing myself alone in court. The defendant has employed a 'Profession McKenzie Friend' and my question here was regarding what remit the McKenzie Friend of the defendant has. I am rather hoping that he does, indeed, "mess up the defendant's day in court by ruffling the judge's feathers"! I'll certainly report back after the hearing to say what happened.
Buzz - 20-Apr-17 @ 10:41 AM
On the subject of serving documents, I have to pay the final £335 for the hearing by 16.00 fourteen days before the date. I also have to produce my 'bundle' of evidence that I intend to rely on in court to the court buildings and also to the defendant on the same day. There's a bit of tactics involved here; do I leave it until the very last moment (the defendant also must provide me with evidence that will be produced in court), or do I send it in early and give the defence a chance to find evidence rebutting mine? My initial feeling was to send it in early, but that choice has been removed as a very eminent lawyer whom I've known for over 25 years has agreed to look at my bundle and advise me (for free! He normally charges £400+ per hour). However, he can only see me on the Tuesday and my bundles must be presented to the court and the defendant by Thursday of the same week. I'll pay the £335 to the courts on Wednesday and send the bundles by Royal Mail (GuaranteedDelivery before 13.00 the next day) either on Tuesday evening, assuming 'my' lawyer doesn't suggest a significant change to my bundles, or on Wednesday if I have to make substantial changes. This website advises: "The deemed dates for service are as follows: Personal service – the day it was handed to the party unless it was given to them after 5 pm in which case it is the following day." Does "Royal Mail Guaranteed delivery before 13.00 the day following postage" qualify as 'Personal service'? If not then I'll have to either deliver it myself (my wife will not agree to that) or pay someone else to do it. As I'm hoping that others in a similar situation will be reading this, a word to the wise: I was taken off-guard by the 'extra' £335 I have to pay for the hearing. I thought that once I'd paid the MCOL fee of £410 that would be enough to 'have my day in court'. It is not clear anywhere online what the full costs can be unless you understand the process entirely.
Buzz - 20-Apr-17 @ 9:21 AM
@Buzz - be careful. You don't want your McF messing up your day in court and ruffling the judge's feathers. I'm just looking into the McF to help me - but there are a lot of conflicting reports about how useful they really are and how because they are not always legally trained, how they can make the situation worse. Let us know how you get on. Ben.
BYT77 - 18-Apr-17 @ 2:02 PM
My question regarding the role of a McKenzie Friend in a Small claims Court was answered comprehensively and has completely endorsed what I thought to be the case, but my wife needed more than my assurances that I had done my research thoroughly. I am also very grateful for the confirmation as I had asked two solicitors casually what they thought and the answers were somewhat ambivalent. This response was unequivocal and I will now feel very much more confident on the day of the hearing. I will comment further after 'my day in court' as I'm certain the McKenzie Friend will try and overstep his remit. It will be interesting (to me at least) to see how the Judge deals with it. Politely at first, I'm sure, but I know this 'McKenzie Friend' and I dont believe he will be silenced easily.
Buzz - 18-Apr-17 @ 6:30 AM
Buzz - Your Question:
I am making a small claim against someone I believe will lie in court, even if under oath. The defendant has used a Lay Representative in all correspondence and has stated that this “Professional McKenzie Friend” will act for the defendant throughout the proceedings.Can the defendant decline to speak in court and thereby avoid committing perjury? Is the Professional McKenzie Friend allowed to speak in a small claims court? Can I request that the defendant speaks under oath? Am I allowed to say I believe the defendant will lie?

Our Response:
A McKenzie friend can give quiet advice on points of law to the litigant, advise the litigant on issues that they might want to raise in court. They can suggest to the litigant questions that they might want to ask the other party or witnesses and help organise documents or take notes. However, a McKenzie friend cannot; speak for the litigant, examine witnesses, address the court (though the judge may be prepared to hear from them if this would clarify an issue and assist in the swift administration of justice.) They cannot attend a closed court unless they have prior permission from the court, or sign court documents on the litigant's behalf. The defendent will be under oath.
AboutSmallClaims - 13-Apr-17 @ 12:19 PM
I am making a small claim against someone I believe will lie in court, even if under oath. The defendant has used a Lay Representative in all correspondence and has stated that this “Professional McKenzie Friend” will act for the defendant throughout the proceedings. Can the defendant decline to speak in court and thereby avoid committing perjury? Is the Professional McKenzie Friend allowed to speak in a small claims court? Can I request that the defendant speaks under oath? Am I allowed to say I believe the defendant will lie?
Buzz - 12-Apr-17 @ 4:00 PM
WHAT a sham the small claims courts are, mediation waist of human sorceresses, direction hearing 18th Jan defendant told to issue an up dated counter claim to be issued to the court and my self by the 15 Feb, i am to reply by the 15th March, have not received order from Jan 18th, not received counter claim from defendant,phoned court on four accations now, all im told their is a back log, can i tell the vat man he cant get paid because i have a back log,know wonder people dont pay their debts, these small claims courts are a joke
del - 16-Mar-17 @ 6:58 AM
Hi there, if I only know of the person whom owes me money work address, can I send the court papers to her work address?. Thank yo
Footy - 13-Mar-17 @ 11:41 AM
The judge has instructed the claimant to send to the court and me ( the defendant) by 13th Jana copy of an amended claim This form has been sent registered post on the 20th January.Which is too late what can I do.Can I have the case thrown out ??
Rob - 24-Jan-17 @ 11:09 AM
A tenant has moved out of my property having not paid rent or settled any bills. She has not left a forwarding address. I do know where she works though. Can I send papers there or give them in person to her there?
Dannyboy - 24-Oct-16 @ 6:04 PM
...Just to add, I have not heard anything, absolutely nothing from 'D' since the day before my goods arrived!...then this 'C' took over...?!! (lol) Thanks :)
TiaMaria - 23-Sep-16 @ 9:26 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the AboutSmallClaims website. Please read our Disclaimer.