If you've ever seen a movie or TV show with a courtroom drama in the plot, you know that one of the most dramatic moments is when someone is served court papers. It seems like such an intense and scary experience, but what exactly happens when you're served with legal papers? And why is it such an important part of the legal process?
In this article, we'll answer some of your questions about being served with legal papers and explain why it's such an important step in resolving your case.
First of all, what does it mean to get served legal papers?
If you're like most people, the idea of getting served legal papers is about as appealing as getting a root canal. But if you're involved in a lawsuit — even a divorce — it's an essential part of the process.
In short, it means that someone is suing you and wants to let you know about it in the most official way possible. Court papers are also sometimes called summons, and they usually come with a court order telling you when and where you have to appear in court.
People who constantly get sued — from Donald Trump to Lindsay Lohan to Johnny Depp — probably eat court papers for breakfast. They could spot divorce papers from a mile away. But the average person doesn’t.
How does one receive legal papers?
There are different ways that court papers can be delivered, depending on the state and the case. But generally speaking, court papers are either delivered in person by a process server or sheriff, or they're sent via certified mail.
In the case of celebrity exes, it seems that everywhere is fair game, including parties, concerts, press conferences, funerals — you name it. Recently, actress and director Olivia Wilde received custody papers while she was on stage discussing an upcoming film at a prestigious film industry gathering in Las Vegas. The papers — which were sent by her ex-fiancé, the actor Jason Sudeikis — somehow managed to find their way to the front of the stage.
But was it really rude, or did Mr. Sudeikis and his team simply didn’t have much choice given Ms. Wilde’s busy schedule? Was this nothing but a cheap ploy to shame an ex in front of a large audience?
The truth is that anyone can be served legal papers no matter what they’re doing, even while they’re holding a press conference or at home cooking an omelet. Serving someone legal papers in compromising circumstances is usually a last resort, such as when the person to be served is avoiding getting served. That said, it can definitely be done for the sole purpose of shaming the person being served.
But according to Mr. Sudeikis’s team, the actor didn’t know the papers were going to be given to Ms. Wilde in such a wildly inappropriate manner.
What should you do if you've been served court papers?
Keep calm and carry on. Yes, it's an intimidating experience, but it’s not a judgment or sentence, and it doesn’t mean that you've automatically lost the case.
Look no further than the rapper Tyga (real name Micheal Ray Stevenson) who got served while hosting a sneaker release party. The papers were from his landlord for overdue payments on the mansion he was renting. If it was any consolation, the man who delivered the papers to him bought two pairs of the rapper’s sneakers and had their boxes autographed. Upon seeing what the papers were for, Tyga even gamely posed for a picture with the man who served them. And it boded the rapper well to be such a good sport about it instead of acting upset and making a scene.
On the other hand, some celebrities can’t help but be upset when they become subject to such sneak attacks. In 2013, the singer Ciara was handed legal paperwork for a dispute with a nightclub alleging her of bailing on a scheduled performance. While performing at a concert, Ciara took the paperwork that she thought was from a fan looking to get her autograph. Upon seeing that the papers weren’t from a fan, she threw them back to the person who handed them to her and kept on performing like a true pro.
There is no single correct way to handle such a scenario. In Ciara’s case, she probably had her legal team handle the paperwork for her. She probably then wrote a song about it.
Keep in mind that some people have had stranger experiences when getting served court papers. If you ever find yourself at the receiving end of legal papers and have any questions, make sure you read the papers carefully and understand their contents before taking any further action. More importantly, ask an attorney for help. Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are the ones to ask about your family law or personal injury cases in the Evergreen State. Call our law offices in Renton, Seattle.