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Service of Process in a Georgia Divorce: Sheriff or Private Process Server?

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In Georgia, a civil action, including a divorce, cannot go forward until the defendant is served with a copy of all pertinent legal papers (what is termed "service of process"). Unless thedefendant is willing to acknowledge service, O.C.G.A ยง 9-11-4(c) dictates that service must be effected by a sheriff in the county where the defendant resides or by a process server appointed by the court.

We are often asked what the difference is between the sheriff serving process and a private process server serving process. Regarding the validity of service, there is no difference. However, private process servers are typically faster at getting a defendant served than the sheriff. Whereas it could take the sheriff weeks to attempt to serve a defendant, private process servers usually make their first attempt in 1-3 days and will generally make more attempts at service. Further, private process servers will often honor special requests, such as the time of day you would like the defendant served, whereas the sheriff cannot. Additionally, private process servers may have the flexibility to acquire information from others in the surrounding area (such as neighbors) as to a difficult-to-serve defendant's whereabouts.

Private process servers typically charge more to serve process than the sheriff's office; however, the fee is usually only about $25-35 more. Although the fee is a little higher, private process servers are typically quicker and can be more effective when attempting to serve a defendant.

For more information on service, we recommend you contact one of our Atlanta Divorce Attorneys to counsel you on your options.

By: Courtney H. Carpenter, Partner, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC

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