July 15, 2015

Surrogate's Court: Service of Process/How to Serve a Citation/Order to Show Cause

Unless the Court provides otherwise, in all Surrogate's Court proceedings, there are only 3 permissible ways to serve "process," i.e., the Court's Citation/Order to Show Cause, upon a Respondent to the proceeding:

   1) Service by Personal Delivery: Commonly referred to as "in hand service," serving a Respondent by personally handing him/her the Court's Citation/Order to Show Cause is always a permissible way to effectuate service and is, perhaps, the preferred way to serve a Respondent with process. Note that if the Respondent to be served lives anywhere in New York State, service by personal delivery is the only permissible way to effectuate service on the Respondent. When personally serving a Respondent with process, it is always best to use the services of a professional process server to avoid any potentially unpleasant encounter. If serving a Respondent who resides in New York State by personally delivery, the Respondent must be handed a copy of the Court's Citation/Order to Show Cause no less than 10 days before the return date/hearing date specified in the Citation/Order to Show Cause.

   2) Service by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested: If the Respondent to be served lives outside the State of New York, but within the United States, the Surrogate's Court will allow the Petitioner to serve this Respondent by simply mailing a copy of the Court's Citation/Order to Show Cause to the out-of-state Respondent's residential address via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. With this type of service, as soon as the package containing the Court's Citation/Order to Show Cause is dropped in the mail service is complete upon the Respondent - nothing further must be done. If effectuating service by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, the mailing, as outlined above, must be done no less than 20 days before the return date/hearing date specified in the Citation/Order to Show Cause.

   3) Service by Registered International Mail, Return Receipt Requested: If the Respondent to be served lives outside the United States, the Surrogate's Court's Citation/Order to Show Cause should be served upon the Respondent by mailing the Court's Citation/Order to Show Cause to the Respondent at his/her last known residential address via Registered International Mail, Return Receipt Requested. As with service via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, discussed above, as soon as the package containing the Court's Citation/Order to Show Cause is dropped in the mail service is complete upon the Respondent - nothing further must be done. If effectuating service by Registered International Mail, Return Receipt Requested, the mailing, as outlined above, must be done no less than 30 days before the return date/hearing date specified in the Citation/Order to Show Cause.

Note that in certain circumstances, such as when you cannot personally serve a New York State resident because they are purposely avoiding service of the Court's Citation/Order to Show Cause or when you are required to serve process on a Respondent whose residential address is unknown, the Surrogate's Court is permitted to deviate from the methods of service outlined above and may allow service by "nail and mail," service by publication or service by other means.

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