"Service" and "Service of Process" are legal terms used to describe the act of giving notice of a lawsuit or court hearing to another person. Service is required so that the opposing party involved has notice that something has been filed that may affect their rights and that they have an opportunity to respond and attend a court hearing to share their perspective.
- It is not as simple as just handing the documents to the opposing party involved and telling the Court that service was completed. Official service of process documents (proof of service) must be completed and submitted to the Court as proof the opposing party was served.
The type of service required depends on the type of action being filed. There are several different methods and very specific time limits by which the opposing party must be served. If the opposing party is not properly served (within the correct time limits and / or the correct method was used), the Court cannot hear or decide the case.
Form FA-5000V (PDF) Service Instructions
Form FA-5001V (PDF) Service by Publication Instructions
Personal service means the documents are placed in the hands of the opposing party; the opposing party is served face to face. The two primary ways to have the opposing party personally served are:
- Voluntary Admission - Documents are given directly to the opposing party and he / she voluntarily accepts the documents.
- Form FA-4119V (PDF) Admission of Service - A proof of service document by which the opposing party can voluntarily accept service of documents without the need for formal service of process through a third party or agency.
- The petitioning party is to complete the caption and appropriate fields regarding the list of the documents being served.
- The opposing party is to review the document and complete and sign where indicated only if voluntarily accepting service of the documents.
It is absolutely necessary that the Admission of Service be filed with the Clerk of Courts.
If the opposing party will not voluntarily accept service, the petitioning party must have the opposing party personally served by a third party, usually a sheriff's deputy or private process server.
2. Sheriff's Department or Private Process Server - The Sheriff's Department of the county in which the opposing party resides may personally serve the opposing party, or arrangements may also be made with a private process server to have the opposing party personally served. Click here to find a private process server.
- Form FA-4118V (PDF) Civil Process Worksheet - A document to assist the Sheriff's Department/private process server in locating the person to be served.
- The petitioning party is to complete the document.
- Form FA-4120V (PDF) Affidavit of Service - A proof of service document by which a third party who has served documents on the opposing party can sign under oath the necessary information concerning that service.
- The third party individual who has personally served the documents on the opposing party must complete the document and have his/her signature notarized.
In most cases, the Sheriff's Department and/or private process server will complete their own proof of service document. It is absolutely necessary that the Affidavit of Service be filed with the Clerk of Courts.
Service by Mail
Serving documents on the opposing party by mail is allowed for certain types of actions. The petitioning party is responsible for mailing the documents to the opposing party and paying the appropriate postage fees.
- Form FA-4121V Affidavit of Mailing - A proof of service document by which a person who has served documents by mail upon the opposing party can sign under oath the necessary information concerning that service.
- The petitioning party who has personally served the documents by mail upon the opposing party must complete the document and have his/her signature notarized.
If the other party is represented by an attorney, and service by mail is required, the document(s) being served must be to mailed to both the opposing party and his/her attorney. It is absolutely necessary that the Affidavit of Mailing be filed with the Clerk of Courts.
Service by Publication
If it is unknown where the opposing party is residing, or the Sheriff's Department/process server is unable to achieve personal service, it may become necessary for the petitioning party to serve the other party by publication. Service by Publication requires the petitioning party to publish a specific notice in the newspaper that publishes legal notices in the county in which the opposing party last resided. The publication must take place one time for three consecutive weeks. (If publishing the notice of a hearing, the last date of publication must take place at least seven days prior to the date of the hearing). The petitioning party must provide the Court with Proof of Publication for this type of service for it to count as personal service on a party
Service by publication is the last resort and can only be used if attempted service by the Sheriff's Department or private process server has failed. The petitioning party has a responsibility to make every effort to personally serve the opposing party if possible, which includes gathering reasonably available information from family and friends to try and determine the opposing party's location. The option of service by publication is only available if the answer to the following questions is yes:
- The Sheriff's Department or process server has attempted to serve the opposing party.
- The petitioning party has provided as much information as possible to assist the Sheriff's Department or private process server in locating the opposing party.
- The Sheriff's Department or private process server cannot locate the opposing party after a diligent search and have provided an Affidavit of Due Diligence/Not Found/Attempted Service stating the opposing party cannot be found. The Affidavit of non-service must be filed with the Clerk of Courts before Service by Publication is attempted.
Before attempting this last resort, the petitioning party should consider seeking legal assistance as there are specific and complicated rules that must be followed to successfully serve the opposing party by publication.
The following forms are to assist individuals with service by publication who are filing an action for divorce/legal separation ONLY.
- Form FA-4122V Publication Summons - A document to provide notice by publication in a newspaper to the opposing party who cannot otherwise be personally served of the existence of an action for divorce or legal separation.
- Petitioning party is to complete the document
- Petitioning party is to provide the Publication Summons in the newspaper for publication in the city in which the opposing party resides
- Petitioning party is responsible for publication fees which unable to be waived through a fee waiver.
Petitioning party is to mail a copy of the Publication Summons along with the Summons and Petition to the opposing party at the opposing party's last known address.
- Form FA-4123V Publication Affidavit of Mailing - A service of process document to be signed under oath by the petitioning party who is publishing a Summons stating that an authenticated copy of the Summons and Petition has also been mailed to the last known address of the opposing party.
- The petitioning party must complete the document and have his/her signature notarized.
- Form FA-4184V Affidavit of Efforts to Serve Respondent (Service by Publication) - A document signed by the petitioning party under oath documenting the efforts made to served the opposing party and to justify performing service by publication.
- The petitioning party is to complete the document and have his/her signature notarized.
There are no pro se forms to assist individuals with service by publication for other family actions.
Proof of Service
The original proof of service document (i.e. Admission of Service, Affidavit of Service, Proof of Publication, etc.), indicating the opposing party was served or attempted service was made, is to be filed with the Oconto County Clerk of Courts, Oconto County Courthouse, 301 Washington Street, Room 1217, Oconto, WI 54153 as soon as possible.
If the opposing party was not properly served within the time limits, the Court cannot hear or decide the case. A new court date may be requested from the Oconto County Family Court Commissioner's Office, however, amended documents (i.e. Order to Show Cause, Notice of Motion) must be completed with the new hearing date and filed with the Oconto County Clerk of Courts. The opposing party must be served with authenticated copies of both the original and amended documents and proof of service filed with the Oconto County Clerk of Courts.
If the opposing party was not properly served and/or proper proof of service was not filed with the clerk of courts, the court cannot hear or decide the case.