Personal Service & Court Ordered Options: Mail & Publication


Service is important.  Service must be done correctly so that you can move to the next step in your case. Unless there is a court order that allows otherwise, personal service is required.

If you tried personal service but couldn’t do it, you must get the court’s permission (court order) before trying alternative service by mail or publication.

Always file proof of service. The method of service will determine which form can be used for proof.

No matter which form you use, the answers to the 4W’s are critical: 

was served?
When were they served?
Where were they served?
What were they served?

Service by mail or publication is not the same as personal service.  The court may not be able to address some things when you do not use personal service.

Service by publication is expensive.
The court does not control the fees and cannot waive them. You must serve every party, including “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” when you do not have the party’s name.

These steps do not guarantee your request will be granted.
This is legal information. 
This is not a substitute for legal advice.  If you need legal advice, talk to an attorney. 

  1. Personal Service
  2.       Service by Mail       (only after Court Order)
  3. Service by Publication (only after Court Order)
PERSONAL SERVICE is giving notification about a legal action by delivering a legal document (summons, petition, etc.) by having someone else hand it directly to the person named in the document.


__ Step 1:  Decide who will do service.

  • You cannot serve forms on the other party. Nor can your dependent children.
  • The server must be age 18 or older.
  • A friend or relative may serve or you can hire the Sheriff or a professional for a fee.

__ Step 2:  Keep a copy of each document you are going to serve. 

  •  Also, make a list of the documents that are going to be served and keep the list.

__ Step 3:  Serve (done by the server) the other party and pay the fee, if necessary.

__ Step 4:  Complete and sign proof of service. The server does this. Not you

** For more tips on filling out form FL All Family 101, click here. **


Complete and sign an additional form, if personal service is done outside of Washington State.

__ Step 5:  File your Proof of Service and, if it applies, Declaration: Personal Service Could Not Be Made in Washington.

 You can file documents electronically via the Legal Information Network Exchange (LINX). There is a fee to set up your account. Contact the Clerk of the Court's LINX help line at (253) 798.7757 to obtain information on how to register for a LINX Account and password.
Submit your original paperwork by mail or in person at:
Clerk of the Superior Court for Pierce County
County City Building, Room 110
930 Tacoma Avenue S.
Tacoma, Washington 98402 

__ Step 6:  Wait for the response.  The other party has 20 days to respond if served in state, 60 days if out of state.

What if I tried personal service but couldn’t complete it?
If personal service doesn’t work, you must get a court order before trying service by mail or publication.