How to Serve Family Court papers in NYC

3 Simple Steps to Serving Family Court papers in NYC

As I've mentioned before, serving legal papers in NYC is a complex set of requirements. One of the most frequent questions asked to me, "How are Family Court papers served in NYC", is the subject of this post.  When serving legal papers in NYC there are multiple layers of laws, rules and regulations that are imposed upon process servers; not to mention the relatively new NYC DCA requirements that are now in place. So then, what is the exact process for serving Family Court papers in NYC?

At we deal with all types of legal papers- each with its own particular  needs and requirements. With that in mind, we have devised a method that allows us to custom tailor each service to suit the needs of each particular case.  The job of a process server is to serve the papers in a manner that will produce positive results and he does that best when a mechanism is in place to ensure that all of the necessary guidelines are being followed.   


STEP ONE - Paper Specific Information Gathering 
What: What is the court/venue? Type of paper being served? (Paternity, Support etc)
When: What is the court date?   What is the serve-by date? (a precise knowledge of court documents is needed. There is no latitude in this crucial aspect of service.)
Where:  Exactly where are they being served?   Is this their home, residence, business? (the importance of the address cannot be overstated! Is this their LEGAL address? Will the court deem this address to be an appropriate address for service? Often, in cases where the address is uncertain, multiple addresses must be served in order to build a credible "body of evidence" to prove to the judge that you have demonstrated "due diligence" in your efforts to effect proper service.)
Who:  Who are we serving? What is their age? (are they of legal age to accept service?) What is their relationship to the client? Who do they live with?  (precise information always proves to be helpful)

"At first glance all of the relevant information appears to be on the surface of the documents. However, experienced process serving firms will look below the surface and quickly discern the problematic aspects of the particular case. Ultimately it's more about knowing what questions to ask and viewing the case from the perspective of a judge who is going to rule upon the service."

STEP TWO - Serving the Papers
The serving of process requires an initial distinction between General Rules for ALL cases and Specific Rules for particular types of cases (paternity, custody, etc). *On a case-by-case basis the judge has complete discretion and can instruct a specific method of service. This is generally done after all "due diligent" efforts have been exhausted. At that point the judge may intervene and provide you with a specific method of service.

General Rules: ALL CASES
1-The papers MAY NOT be served on SUNDAY unless the petition contains a request for an Order of Protection. 
2-As a party in the case. YOU MAY NOT serve the papers upon the other party. 
3-The person who has delivered the papers MUST complete the "Affidavit of Service" and have it notarized. A full physical description of whom the papers were served upon must be included.
4-You must bring the "Affidavit of Service" to court on your return date. 

Specific Rules:  TYPE of CASE
Paternity Case - Case numbers that begin with the letter P
Support Case - Case numbers that begin with the letter F
     The Summons and petition MUST be served upon the other party at least 8 days before the date set for appearance in court.  *The following four methods are available in descending order of preference. Once again, the service of Family Court papers is carefully scrutinized. Service of process  in NYC is regulated on many levels and even the best service is open to question. The judges have complete discretion and will carefully weigh the accusation of "improper service". Additionally, the judge may specify the exact type of service that is required in a particular case. 
1-Papers may be served upon the Respondent (person named to be served) by any person at least 18 years of age-who is NOT a party to the action.
2-Papers may be given to a person who you believe will give the papers to the Respondent, if that person works for or with the Respondent and that person is at the actual place of business of the Respondent AND an additional set of papers must be mailed to the last known residence of the Respondent.
3-Papers may be given to a person you believe will give the papers to the Respondent, if that person resides in the home of the Respondent AND and additional set of papers must be mailed to the last known residence of the Respondent. 
4-Papers may be mailed to the Respondent without giving the papers to any other person. HOWEVER, if the Respondent does not appear on the court date the case WILL NOT PROCEED, unless the court has independent proof that the Respondent ACTUALLY RECEIVED the papers. *This method is a long shot. I have never personally heard of it being accepted by a judge. 
Family Offense Case  - Case numbers that begin with the letter O
-The papers MUST be served upon the party at least 24 hours before the date set for appearance in court. 
- If a Temporary Order of Protection has been issued or one has been requested, a peace officer acting pursuant to special duties, or a police officer may serve the papers and the Temporary order of Protection.
Custody / Visitation Case - Case numbers that begin with the letter V
-The Order to Show Cause and Petition MUST be served upon the party by the date indicated in the Order to Show Cause.

STEP THREE - The Affidavit of Service
-The Affidavit of Service is the document that you will bring with you on the court date. Unless it is a specific form used by the NYPD, it must be notarized. It will include all of the relevant information regarding the service of process in your case. If it is not properly constructed-your case probably will NOT proceed. At NYCPS we provide our own custom affidavit which is completely filled out, signed, notarized and conforms to all court standards. 

So there you have it. How to serve Family Court papers in three easy steps! 

"This is what I have distilled from over 50,000 services within the always magnificent but sometimes messy confines of NYC. It's a proven method that I teach to servers and has served us well."  Steve - NYCPS
Helpful Links:  Bronx Family CourtBrooklyn Family Court,  NY Family Court,  Queens Family Court,  Staten Island Family Court

Lastly, on a personal note, here at NYCPS we have been on the front line when it comes to Domestic Violence. We have seen first hand its devastating effects upon families and we support the efforts of organizations like  Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence  as they bring resources and awareness to this important issue.  If you or a loved one needs help please watch the video from our friends at SafeHorizon.

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  1. Hi, I live in upstate New York. If I have an order of support to serve, can anyone in the house be served?

    1. You can generally serve anyone in the household who is 18 years or older. You should inquire if the person actually resides there. Sometimes, the service location may be an address of a close relative, but the respondent does not actually reside in that household.

  2. How do I get family court papers served in NYC if I don't know where my Childs father lives? What if he moved from his old address and never gave me his new address.

  3. Michelle, this is not as uncommon as you might think. here are a few suggestions:
    1-Are you in contact with any of the other relatives? If so, they may be able to provide you with a current address.
    2-You can contact an agency that conducts DMV searches. If he has a driver license, he is supposed to keep his address current.
    3-You can conduct a U.S. Postal search with his last known address and see if there is a forwarding address.
    4-If he's working, you can always serve him at his place of employment.

    These are just a few suggestions. Worse case scenario, I would try serving him at a relatives address, it's quite possible they will pass the paperwork on to him. This may not qualify as legal service, but you may get a response.

  4. How do I get divorced in New York?

  5. Tanya, divorces in NY are not initiated through the Family Court, they are conducted through the Civil court at the county level. Essentially there are two options:
    1-Seek the advice and assistance of an attorney.
    2-Begin a pro-se divorce in which you fill out the paperwork, file all necessary legal documents in court and engage a process server to serve the Summons and Complaint.

    This may be a helpful Link:

  6. Can you guys serve a petition for support to an inmate at Rikers Island Jail?

  7. Whats the procedure for having my ex-wife served with child custody papers if she is a police officer and I don't have a home address?


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