SERVICE OF PROCESS
When filing a pleading with the Clerk of Courts, a party to an action must indicate the method that the Clerk should use to serve the pleading to the opposing party. To comply with due process requirements, service gives the opposing party reasonable notice of the lawsuit. The court can serve a pleading through certified mail, ordinary mail, personal service, residence service, or service by publication. To direct the court to serve a pleading, customers must complete a service of process precipe.
Under Ohio Civil Rules, service on parties within the United States will be made by certified mail unless another method is requested. The Clerk issues a summons and a copy of the complaint to the party in a sealed envelope as directed by the precipe. The Clerk may require an additional deposit from the party who requests service to cover the additional cost of postage. Postal regulations permit the letter carrier to deliver certified mail to any adult at the delivery address, not necessarily only the party to whom it is addressed.
The Clerk dockets the issuance of certified mail on the appearance docket. The post office returns a certified mail receipt stating to whom the summons and complaint were delivered, the date of delivery, and the address where they were delivered. The receipt also contains the signature of the person accepting delivery. The Clerk is responsible for promptly docketing the return of the certified mail receipt on the issuance docket and filing the return in the case file.
If the Post Office returns the envelope showing failure of delivery, the Clerk issues a notice of failure to the attorney of record. If there is no attorney of record, the Clerk sends the notice of failure to the initiating party. The Clerk records the issuance of the notice of failure on the appearance docket and files the return receipt or returned envelope in the case file. If the delivery has been successful, the date of service determines the amount of time given to the opposing party to answer the complaint. The date of delivery on a failure establishes the time used to calculate when the party is in default.
Unclaimed Certified Mail Service
The Clerk is required to give notice of failure of service to the requesting party if the certified mail envelope is returned with an endorsement showing that the envelope was unclaimed. By written request, the attorney may choose one of four possible follow-up methods of service: additional certified mail service, ordinary mail service, personal service, or residence service.
A party to a case must file a written request with the Clerk to serve another party through ordinary mail. The Clerk is responsible for delivering the mail to the Post Office and promptly docketing issuance of the ordinary mail on the appearance docket. Service is deemed complete if there is no failure of delivery by the Post Office.
If the Post Office returns an ordinary mail envelope, the Clerk is required to issue a notice of failure to the attorney of record by mail. If there is no attorney of record, the Clerk sends the notice of failure to the initiating party.
When a party files a written request with the Clerk for personal service, service of process can be made by two methods, personal service by the sheriff or personal service by a process server.
For personal service by the Sheriff, the Clerk is required to direct process to the Sheriff of the county where the party is to be served.
Process servers must be appointed by the court and may be requested by precipe to perform service. All court-appointed process servers are required to be at least 18 years old and cannot be a party to any action in which service is made.
Personal service requires the Sheriff or process server to locate the named party, serve that person with the summons and complaint or other documents, and issue a return of service to the Clerk of Courts. The Clerk is responsible for promptly docketing the issuance of personal service on the appearance docket and making a similar entry when the return of service receipt is received.
When the process server is unable to make service within twenty-eight (28) days, he or she must notify the court of the reasons and make a return, which the Clerk will enter on the appearance docket.
If the party to a case requests residence service, the process server is required to leave the summons and complaint or other documents at the usual residence of the party being served. The requirements of service of return and a notification are the same as described for personal service.
Service by Publication
Service by publication may be used only if the address of the served party is unknown. All service attempts must be made in the usual manner before service by publication can be considered. Before making service by publication, the serving party or his or her counsel must file an affidavit with the Clerk stating that service of summons cannot be made because the address of the served party is unknown. This affidavit must describe all previous efforts to ascertain the address of the served party, and must provide sufficient evidence suggesting that this address cannot be ascertained with reasonable diligence.
After filing the affidavit, the Clerk places a notice in the Hamilton or Middletown Journal News. This notice contains the name and address of the court, the case number, the name of the first party of each side, and the name and last known address of all persons whose residences are unknown. In addition, the notice must contain a summary statement of the object of the complaint and demand for relief as well as notification to the party to be served, that he or she is required to answer within twenty-eight (28) days after the last date of publication. The notice must be published for six (6) consecutive weeks, with the publication dates noted in the proof of publication. Service is considered complete at the date of the last publication.
The Journal News will notify the party requesting the Notice by Publication when the required numbers of publications are complete. The Journal News will not release the Proof of Publication until the publication fees are paid in full by the requesting party. Once paid, the Journal News will mail the Proof of Publication to the requesting party. It is the responsibility of the requesting party to file the Proof of Publication with the Butler County Clerk of Courts.
In Domestic Relations, divorce, annulment, or legal separation actions in which the party is proceeding in forma pauperis, service by publication is made by posting. Before making service by posting, a party or his or her counsel must file an affidavit with the court. The requirements are the same as service by publication. The Butler County Court of Common Pleas makes service of notice by posting on the public bulletin boards on the 8th floor of the Government Services Center, the 1st floor of the Historic Courthouse, the 1st floor of Middletown Municipal Court, and the Ohio License Bureau for six (6)consecutive weeks.
DEFINITIONS OF GOOD SERVICE
"Good service" is when the post office delivers the envelope to the address.
"Failure of service" is when the post office returns the envelope to the Clerk of Courts as undeliverable.
"Good service" is when the post office returns a signed certified mail receipt to the Clerk of Courts.
"Failure of service" is when the post office returns the envelope showing failure of delivery.
"Good service" is when the Sheriff's Deputy or Process Server locates the named party and serves that person with the summons and complaint or other documents and issues a return of service to the Clerk of Courts.
"Failure of service" is when the Sheriff's Deputy or Process Server is unable to make service within twenty-eight (28) days and must notify the court of the reason and issue a return to the Clerk of Courts.
"Good service" is when the Sheriff's Deputy or Process Server leaves the summons and complaint or other documents at the usual residence of the party being served and issues a return of service to the Clerk of Courts.
"Failure of service" does not apply to residence service.
"Good service" is when a legal notice advertisement is placed in the local newspapers for a period of six consecutive weeks and the newspaper files a proof of publication with the Clerk of Courts.
"Failure of service" does not apply to service by publication.