When initiating a new case in eFiling, you must decide how to serve the defendant(s) in your case. Personal service is required by court rules to give the other side proper notice and opportunity to respond to the complaint you have filed. Personal service is required at the beginning of the case and your case cannot be resolved until the defendant has been successfully served.
How to serve the defendant is YOUR decision as a filer; the clerks and the AOC will not tell you what method of service you should use. Costs are involved, so evaluate your options and choose the one you think will be the best. If you are not sure which method is appropriate, you should contact an attorney for legal advice.
The sheriff in the county where the defendant resides may be able to personally deliver your documents to the defendant or agent authorized by law to receive service for an individual. The sheriff charges a fee (usually $40 or $50, depending on the county) and the fee is required regardless of whether or not service is successful.
Most sheriffs in Kentucky have agreed to receive documents for service through the eFiling system. To see if sheriff service is available for the county where you wish to have documents served, select “Sheriff Service” and scroll through the list of “Participating Sheriff Departments.” If you do not see the county you are looking for on the list, you can still have the sheriff serve documents for you, but you must choose the “Return to Filer” option and contact the Sheriff in the county yourself to arrange for service.
Service can sometimes be accomplished by certified mail with return receipt requested. If you choose this method, the defendant must personally sign to accept the documents from the postal service in order to be effective. It is not good service if another person at the defendant’s address accepts the certified mail instead of the defendant, even if it is the right address. If you do not have a good address for the defendant or believe that he/she may refuse to sign for the documents, this may not be the best option. Cost depends on weight, and you will be given the total amount due (including printing costs) prior to filing.
Long Arm Service (Secretary of State)
If the defendant resides out of state, you may need to use “long arm” service through the Secretary of State for service. “Long arm” generally refers processes that must be used to extend the “long arm of the law” across state lines in order to get personal jurisdiction over a defendant who is not in Kentucky. Kentucky’s long arm statutes are KRS 454.210 and KRS 454.220.
If you choose this method, the circuit clerk will send two attested copies of your documents to the Kentucky Secretary of State by way of certified mail. The Secretary of State will then send your documents by certified mail to the defendant in the other state to be served.
If you are attempting to serve a business or organization, you can also choose “Long Arm Statute – SOS – Restricted Delivery” which will require that the named person/registered agent of service for a business personally sign the certified mail receipt.
Return to Filer for Service
If you would likto use a constable or other person authorized to serve documents in Kentucky, you will need to select the “Return to Filer For Service” option. If you choose this option, you will receive a link to a service package from the clerk in your Notification of Court Processing once the case has been accepted.
You will then need to print your documents and take them to the constable or other authorized person to make arrangements for service. If you choose this option, you are required to eFile proof of service (a copy of the returned summons with the notes from the process server).
Serve via Alternate Service Address
eFiling gives you the flexibility to choose multiple methods of service and alternate locations where the defendant may be served.
- Select “Serve via Alternate Service Address” if you want to serve a defendant at an address other than the one you have provided as their primary address. Then scroll down, click “Create ASA,” add the additional address and choose the service method.
- If you want to serve the defendant at multiple addresses, select the desired service method on the primary address, then scroll down, click “Create ASA,” add the additional address and choose the service method for the additional address.
Warning Order Attorney
In some instances, it may be appropriate to request that your documents be served by Warning Order Attorney. This may be the case if the defendant is unable to be found or is unknown, or if previous service attempts were unsuccessful. Warning Order Attorneys do not represent the defendant – they are required by the court to make diligent efforts to locate and inform the defendant that an action has been filed against them. The warning order attorney must report back within 50 days of appointment with the results of his/her attempts to locate the defendant.
The costs of warning order attorney vary by jurisdiction and can depend upon what efforts the attorney makes to notify the defendant. Some counties require a partial fee to be paid to the warning order attorney in advance, and if so, this will be included in the amount due at the time of filing. You will be responsible for the full amount of the warning order attorney fees at a later time.
Guardian Ad Litem
If you are suing an unmarried person under the age of 18, a person who is legally disabled or incompetent, or an incarcerated person, you may need to request the appointment of a guardian ad litem for service.
It is up to you to decide whether to request a guardian ad litem to be appointed under Civil Rule 17 for the purpose of receiving service. If you choose this method, you will need to also indicate the reason why the appointment is necessary.
Registered Agent of Service
If the defendant you are suing is a business or organization, you will see the option to serve a registered agent of service. Most businesses are required by statute to maintain a registered office address in Kentucky who is willing to accept service of process and official mail on behalf of a business. You can search for a business’s registered agent of service online on the Secretary of State’s website.
To serve a registered agent, click on “Create RAOS” and type in the agent’s information and choose a service method for that agent.