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    June 30, 2023
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    Process Service
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    Andrew Linden

Understanding Process Service By Mail: The In’s and Out’s

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of process service by mail in Washington State family law, shedding light on how to get permission for it, its pros and cons, limitations, and what to anticipate throughout the procedure.

Understanding the intricacies of the legal system can be daunting, especially when it comes to family law. One area of this field that can often raise questions pertains to “process service,” particularly when it’s executed through mail. Within the confines of Washington State, process service by mail has specific rules, advantages, and limitations. This article serves as a guide to understanding this method of legal procedure in Washington State.

Firstly, let’s define “process service”. It refers to the formal way of notifying an individual about a legal action against them, allowing them the opportunity to respond. This process could be a summons, a complaint, or a subpoena. Depending upon the jurisdiction and the nature of the case, the method of service can vary, one such method being through mail.

Process service by mail in Washington State, as defined by RCW 4.28.080(17) & 4.28.180 and RCW 4.28.185 (for out-of-state defendants), involves sending legal documents to the party involved by certified mail, with return receipt requested. This means that the recipient must sign to confirm receipt of the mail. For those concerned about being personally served, mail offers a degree of separation that can make the process less confrontational.

Obtaining permission for process service by mail isn’t complex, but it requires adherence to certain rules. The plaintiff must seek the court’s permission and establish that other methods, like personal service or service through publication, aren’t practical or have been unsuccessful. The court will consider these factors before granting permission for service by mail.

One advantage of service by mail is the convenience it offers. The sender can initiate the process without leaving home, and tracking documentation can provide a record of the service. This method can also be cost-effective as it avoids the expense of hiring a process server or law enforcement officer to serve documents.

However, process service by mail also has its drawbacks. The primary one being that it hinges on the recipient signing and returning the receipt. If the individual does not cooperate or the mailed documents are ignored, the service may not be completed. Moreover, if the recipient claims not to have received the documents, it can complicate the case and cause delays.

So, what should one expect when using process service by mail in Washington State? Upon successful completion, the court will receive a green card known as a ‘Return Receipt’, which serves as proof of service. The date signed on the return receipt is the start date for the recipient’s response time.

In some cases, if the green card isn’t returned, but the mail wasn’t returned as ‘unclaimed’ or ‘refused,’ the service might still be deemed completed. This situation, known as ‘nail and mail,’ requires an additional step of posting a copy of the summons and complaint conspicuously at the respondent’s home.

In conclusion, process service by mail in Washington State family law is a method that offers convenience and cost-effectiveness but carries potential for uncertainty and limitations. Like all aspects of law, understanding this method requires an appreciation of its details and complexities. When it comes to the legal process, knowledge is power, and knowing how process service by mail works can help parties navigate their case more effectively.

If you are looking for legal guidance in the Seattle area, contact the Hemmat Law Group today at (206) 682-5200 to speak with a dedicated family law attorney. We have extensive experience dealing with international matters and child abductions.

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The Hemmat Law Group (HLG) was founded in 1994 by Steven Amir Hemmat, a former DOJ Trial Attorney. We specialize in family law, supporting victims of the legal system.

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Article by Andrew Linden
Associate Attorney