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What is service of citation?

When you file your Petition and Civil Case Information Sheet at the clerk’s office, the clerk may ask if you want to have citation issued. This is sometimes called “service of citation” or “service of process.”  It is legal notice to the other side that you have filed your case. 

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1)   What is “service of citation”?  It is legal notice to the other side that you have filed your case.  It is not enough to tell the person on the other side that you have filed the case.  You must follow the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and show the court that you have given legal notice.

2)   Waiver of citation.  You do not have to give legal notice if the person on the other side agrees to sign a form called a Waiver of Citation in front of a notary.  The form must not be signed until after the Petition is filed at the clerk’s office.  TexasLawHelp.org has Waiver of Citation forms for many kinds of cases.

3)   Issuance of citation.   Another way to give legal notice is to have the clerk issue a citation.  There is a small fee for issuing the citation unless you have gotten a waiver of the fees based on your Affidavit of Indigency.

4)   Delivery of citation.  Unless you requested service when you requested the citation, you need to arrange for an authorized person to deliver the citation and Petition to the respondent.  There is also fee for this service, unless you got a waiver of the fees based on your Affidavit of Indigency.  If you request it, a person called a “process server” will give the citation and a copy of the Petition to the respondent.  The process server will usually be a sheriff’s deputy or constable unless you hire your own private process server.  No one in your family may serve the citation on the respondent.

5)   Other ways to give legal notice.

  • Service by mail.  You can ask the clerk to mail the citation and petition to the person on the other side by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested.  If the person on the other side does not sign the return receipt, then there is no legal notice.  If the person on the other side is an inmate, you may not use service by mail and MUST use personal service by a process server.
  • Service by publication or posting.  If you do not know where the person on the other side is, you may be able to serve them with notice of the suit by publishing legal notice in a newspaper.   You will have to prove that you have tried hard to find the other person.  The judge has to appoint a lawyer to represent the other side, and you may have to pay the lawyer’s fees.  If your case is a divorce case and you cannot find your spouse, and if you do not have any children or much property, you may be able to use service by posting at the courthouse.  To get information and forms for service by publication and service by posting, see the Giving Legal Notice information on TexasLawHelp.org. 

 

6)      Return of citation.  When the person on the other side has been served by the process server, the process server will complete a Return of Citation to let the judge know how and when the person on the other side was served.  The Return of Citation must be filed in the clerk's office with the rest of the papers in the case file.