Educate Yourself About Law

How Do You Serve Papers on Somebody Who Wants to Hide?

by Erika Reed

When one party wants to begin a legal process against another, they must, under Australian law, inform that party of what they intend to do. Consequently, lawyers will generate an appropriate document that gives all the details, and the courts will insist that this document is "served" onto the other party. Sometimes, this can be a relatively straightforward process, but at others, it can be more complicated. What will happen if, for example, that other party wants to be evasive and does everything they can to stay in hiding?

Process Serving

Before any document can be delivered, a certain amount of research is necessary. The court will want to know the home or business address of the individual, or the place that they are most likely to be on any given day. When they have that information, a process server can then attempt to find the person, and if they do, they will simply need to hand the person the envelope or put it down in their presence. The other party may decline to touch the envelope, but in legal parlance, they have still "been served."

Going to Ground

Should the other party be aware of the impending lawsuit, they may decide to keep out of the way so that they cannot be served in the traditional sense. They may think that this protects them and, somehow, the court case will go away, but in any case, the process server may need to become more creative.


If they are licensed and entitled to do so, a process server can carry out further investigations and gather information that may help them to do their job. They may observe the business or home address to find out when the individual is likely to be there, or discreetly ask their neighbours to get information.

Other Options

In a worst-case scenario, an individual may remain in hiding for a long time. In this case, the judge may allow the document to be served to any individual at their place of business who is over the age of consent. This will then have the same legal effect as if it were served on the defendant.

Professional Help

Generally, it is not possible for a plaintiff to serve papers on a defendant, so it is key to bring in an experienced process server instead. They will be able to assess the challenge and carry out the service using whatever method is felt to be most appropriate.