A copy of the claim and order must be given to the defendant(s). This is called service of process. You cannot do this yourself. It can be accomplished by:
- Service by a Law Enforcement officer, by the Sheriff’s Department
- Certified Mail by the Clerk of the Court
- Personal or Substitute Service (by anyone who is over age 18 and not involved in the case)
You may ask the Clerk of the Court to serve the defendant by certified mail. The clerk will charge a fee. You should check back prior to the hearing to see if the receipt for certified mail was returned to the Court. Service by certified mail must be done by the Clerk's Office except in motor vehicle accident cases involving out-of-state defendants.
This method lets you serve another person instead of the defendant. You must follow the procedures carefully. You may wish to use the Sheriff or a registered process server in this instance.
A copy of your claim must be left at the defendant's business with the person in charge OR at the defendant's home with a competent person who is at least 18 years old. The person who receives the claim must be told about its contents. Another copy must be mailed, first class, postage prepaid to the defendant at the address where the paper was left. The service is not considered complete until 10 days after the copy is mailed.
Applicable Rule to Service as Follows
No matter which method of service you choose, the defendant must be served by a certain date as specified below or the trial will be postponed.
- If the defendant lives within the County, service must be completed at least 15 days before the trial date.
- If the defendant lives outside the County, service must be completed at least 20 days before the trial date.
- If the defendant lives within the County, service must be completed at least 25 days before the trial date.
- If the defendant lives outside of the County, service must be completed at least 30 days before the trial date.
A proof of service is also required
The proof of service must include:
- Who served the papers (must be at least 18 and not a party of the action)
- What document(s) were served
- When the papers were served
- How they were served (personally, by substituted service (see above), etc.)
The Proof of Service must be filed with the Small Claims clerk at least five days prior to the date of trial.
Forms can be found at: http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp.htm