How to avoid being served legal papers

Updated March 23, 2017

Legal papers are served for a number of reasons, including lawsuits for credit card debt or divorce. A credit card lawsuit leads to the delivery of a document called a summons and complaint. The summons is the notification of a lawsuit, while the attached complaint is the actual lawsuit. Generally, they are delivered by a courier to you at your home or where you work. The courier asks for you by name and then hands you the papers. You are considered served when the paperwork touches you. In some states, people are served through the mail or by leaving the paperwork at the last known address. The only legal and ethical way to avoid being served is to resolve issues amicably to end the threat of a lawsuit.

Avoid being served legal papers in a debt-related matter by settling with the creditor or debt collector. It's hard to know when a creditor will sue. However, letters from a debt collection law firm in your state could indicate that legal action is near. Avoid being served by contacting the law firm to establish a payment plan or settlement. Settlement allows you to pay the balance for less than the full amount owed.

Settle marital problems and other disputes through mediation to end the threat of being served. Contact the opposing party and agree to resolve the problem through counselling or mediation.

Check public records if you suspect that someone has filed a lawsuit against you and a courier is looking for you to serve the papers. Many counties maintain online databases showing active lawsuits. Contact the public library in your town to find the Web address for the county clerk of court. Search the public records section of the website to determine if a lawsuit has been filed against you. If so, note the name of the attorney filing the lawsuit and contact the attorney to arrange a settlement.


Some people try hiding, not coming to the door, moving to another address and more to avoid being served. However, in some states, you are considered served if "reasonable" attempts are made to serve you, including multiple visits to your home or place of employment. It is better to focus on resolving the issue than avoiding the paperwork.

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About the Author

Robert Lee has been an entrepreneur and writer with a background in starting small businesses since 1974. He has written for various websites and for several daily and community newspapers on a wide variety of topics, including business, the Internet economy and more. He studied English in college and earned a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Governor's State University.