Professional Process Server vs The Sheriff

This is just one example below. All of us who have been doing process serving  for awhile have heard so many stories from others, and especially our own new potential clients, who call and complain that they tried the Sheriff because it was cheaper, but the Sheriff didn’t get the job done for them. Why? Because Sheriff’s servers tend to go out from about 9 AM to 3 PM, at which time they return to the office and write up their stuff so they can go home at 5.  They knock or ring a bell, and they do three attempts, and that’s it. If no one answers, the client is told that they couldn’t get it served, and of course the client’s money is spent.  ( Many of us would say “wasted”. )

The most egregious example I’ve personally heard of, was when a potential client called me at 4:20 PM on a week day and was freaking out. He’d sent the Sheriff with a Same Day Rush serve that just had to be served that day, to serve a defendant at work. The Sheriff’s server had gone there at 12:30 PM, only to find that the guy was… ( Wait for it! Drum roll, cymbal crash! ) out to lunch!  Quelle surprise!  And they’d just called him after 4 PM and told him this, and that they couldn’t get his serve done! He needed it done, rush, right then.

While we get a good fee for Same Day Rush service, I felt ethically obliged to decline the job. I told Mr. Potential Client that, while we certainly liked making money, the guy could be going home at 4:30, in some places they even go home at 3:30. So there was now way I could even be reasonably sure that I could get this done for him that late in the day, and I didn’t want to take even more money from him than the Sheriff had, and then possibly let him down.

It’s only a shame that clients don’t know about these things in advance, and so many of them don’t realize that choosing a process server is not the same as shopping around for the same model of  TV set.

It does matter who you pick.

Melissa Brookstone
Editor in Chief

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

Posted On: September 7, 2012

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 the defendant is willing to acknowledge service, O.C.G.A § 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, Associate Attorney, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC

Posted by Meriwether & Tharp | Permalink | Email This Post

Posted In: Divorce




  1. Thanks for the interesting read about process servers and the sheriff. It’s good to know that a process server can get a defendant served usually faster than a sheriff. This sounds really useful if you have a limited deadline.

  2. Mia Stewart says:

    I like how the article explains that a process server is faster at getting the papers delivered and will make more attempts to get it delivered. My case is needing to have papers served to a person and we are wanting to get them delivered fast. We will look into using a process server to deliver them.

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