in collaboration with the Colorado Supreme Court


How Legal Papers are Delivered

By law, legal papers have to be delivered (served) to the other side the right way. Find out how to serve papers, about proof of service and common examples of bad service.

Delivering legal papers is called service of process. The law says that legal papers have to be delivered the right way. Every adult and organization listed in the case must be served with its own set of papers. This includes any papers that are mailed.

Who can serve legal papers? 

A party in the case can never serve legal papers, like a Summons and Complaint or Petition.  A process server can be paid to serve the papers. Process servers are listed in the Yellow Pages or on the internet. You can also hire the Sheriff’s Office or ask anyone, like a friend, to serve the papers.  The person serving the papers must be 18 years old or older and not a party to the case.   If you have specific questions on serving Court documents, please see Rule 4 of the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure, watch this video provided by Colorado Legal Services, or view the attached flowchart. 

What happens after the papers are served?  

Whenever legal papers are served, proof of this has to be given to the court by Filing an Affidavit of Service.   This document needs to be notarized by the server, unless it is served by the Sheriff’s Department.  Remember, a party in the case can’t mail or deliver the papers. 

What happens if the papers are not delivered the right way?  

If legal papers are not delivered the way the law says the papers may not count. For example, the Court may not read opposition papers to a motion if the papers were not served. If papers starting a case are not delivered the right way the defendant or respondent can tell this to the Court in the Answer or on the court date. This is a defense to the case. The defendant or respondent can ask the Court to dismiss the case for bad service.  If the Judge decides that the service is bad, the case is over. But, the plaintiff or petitioner can start the case again.

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