Serving papers (documents) means delivering them to the other party in your case. Proof of service means proof that you have done this. To serve papers, you must deliver them and get proof of service by following specific rules.

In certain circumstances you are responsible for making sure that the other party in a case has been served with papers. For example, you may be required to serve a summons and complaint and other documents on the other party before an action can go forward. You may be responsible for serving a default judgment on the other party before you can enforce it.

This section covers the process of serving papers. Some cases in the family division involve minor children, and others do not. Therefore, there is a subsection for each situation.

Serving Papers If You Have No Minor Children

You are responsible for making sure that the other party receives a copy of the summons and complaint if you do not have minor children together. There are a few ways to do this that are acceptable to the court. You can have the court deliver the summons and complaint for you, but you will have to pay an extra fee.

Acceptance of Service

You can hand the paperwork to the other party along with an Acceptance of Service form for them to sign. Be sure to list all of the documents you gave the other party on the Acceptance of Service form. If the other party agrees to sign the form, you should file it with the court. By signing this acceptance, the other party is not agreeing to anything in the complaint. They are just saying that they received the papers, and the case can go forward.

First Class Mail With Acknowledgment

You can mail your papers to the other party. You need to include an acknowledgment for the other party to sign, date, and return to the court in a prepaid envelope. This is called a Notice of Action and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons. Be sure to list all of the documents you included in your mailing on the acknowledgment form. The other party should sign and return the form to the court within 20 days of the date the papers were delivered. If they do not, you will have to serve the summons and complaint in another way. If the other party does not sign and return the acknowledgment form, the court may later require them to pay you for the costs of sending them another way.

Certified Mail

You can serve the other party by certified mail, return receipt requested, with delivery restricted. You must send the court the green card returned to you by the post office showing that the other party signed for the delivery, and file a Certificate of Service . On the Certificate of Service, you must list all the documents you sent to the other party.

Personal Service by Sheriff

You can also arrange for the other party to be served by a sheriff or constable. If the other party does not voluntarily accept service by mail or in person, you will have to use this method. You will have to pay the sheriff to do this unless the court grants a waiver of fees and costs of service. The cost will depend in part on how many miles the sheriff drives and how many tries the sheriff makes before finding and serving the other party. You can save money by working with the sheriff or a constable located near the other party. You can find the contact information for every sheriff in the state here. There is no online list of contact information for all the constables in Vermont. You can check with the town clerk of the town in question for information about the local constable.

If you want to mail the documents to the sheriff, call the sheriff in advance to find out how to do that. Sheriffs all have their own processes. The sheriff may ask for a deposit to cover the fee. You can also take the documents to the sheriff in person.

Once the sheriff serves the documents, the sheriff will send you a Return of Service. That will list the documents the sheriff served and the amount the sheriff charged. You must file this Return of Service with the court.

Publication

The court can order that service be made by publishing a notice in the newspaper. This happens only in rare cases in which you cannot reasonably serve the other party any other way. You must request permission to use this method in writing with the court. If the court approves your request, you will have to arrange to put the notice approved by the court in the newspaper. You must use a newspaper located wherever the other party is likely to be living. You must publish the notice in that paper for two or more successive weeks. The first time must be within 20 days after the court issues the order. You will have to pay any fees that the newspaper charges unless the court waived your fees and costs of service. You will then need to return a copy of the notice to the court, with an affidavit saying when and where the notice ran. The newspaper can provide this.

Serving Papers If You Have Minor Children

The court clerk handles serves (delivers) the summons and complaint on the other parent if you have minor children together. When you file your case, the clerk will ask you which method of service you prefer. If you make no request, the clerk will serve by certified mail.

Acceptance of Service

Even though the court clerk handles service when children are involved, if the other parent is agreeable, you may deliver the papers yourself, along with an Acceptance of Service form for them to sign. Be sure to list all of the documents you gave the other party on the Acceptance of Service form. If they agree to sign the form, you should file it with the court. By signing this acceptance form, the other party is not agreeing to anything in the complaint. They are just saying that they received the papers, and the case can go forward. The court clerk may also serve the other party this way. If the other party does not accept service, then you must use one of the following alternative ways of service.

Certified Mail

The clerk will serve the papers on the other party by mailing them by certified mail, return receipt requested, with delivery restricted. You will need to provide the address, and you will pay the mailing fees unless the court waived your fees and costs for service. If the other party refuses to accept the certified mail, the court clerk can send the papers by first class mail. Not picking up the certified mail is not considered to be a refusal.

First Class Mail With Acknowledgment

The clerk may serve the other party by using first class mail along with an acknowledgment form. This form is called a Notice of Action and Request for Waiver of Service of Summons. The other party should sign the acknowledgment form and return it to the court in the prepaid envelope within 20 days of delivery. If the other party does not do that, the court may later require them to pay you for the cost of sending the documents in another way. You are responsible for the fee for this type of service unless the court waived your fees and costs of service.

Personal Service by Sheriff

You can also arrange for the other party to be served by a sheriff or constable. If the other party does not voluntarily accept service by mail or in person, you will have to use this method. You will have to pay the sheriff to do this unless the court waived your fees and costs of service. The cost will depend in part on how many miles the sheriff drives and how many tries the sheriff makes before finding and serving the other party. You can save money by working with the sheriff or a constable located near the other party. You can find the contact information for every sheriff in the state here. There is no online list of contact information for all the constables in Vermont. You can check with the town clerk of the town in question for information about the local constable.

If you want to mail the documents to the sheriff, call the sheriff in advance to find out how to do that. Sheriffs all have their own processes. The sheriff may ask for a deposit to cover the fee. You can also take the documents to the sheriff in person.

Once the sheriff serves the documents, the sheriff will send you a Return of Service. That will list the documents the sheriff served and the amount the sheriff charged. You must file this Return of Service with the court.

Publication

The court can order that service be made by publishing a notice in the newspaper. This happens only in rare cases in which you cannot reasonably serve the other party any other way. You must request permission to use this method in writing with the court. If the court approves your request, you will have to arrange to put the notice approved by the court in the newspaper. You must use a newspaper located wherever the other party is likely to be living. You must publish the notice in that paper for two or more successive weeks. The first time must be within 20 days after the court issues the order. You will have to pay any fees that the newspaper charges unless the court waived your fees and costs of service. You will then need to return a copy of the notice to the court, with an affidavit saying when and where the notice ran. The newspaper can provide this.