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Do You Have to Go to Court if You Haven’t Been Served?

Going to court is no fun, even if you’re the one that filed the lawsuit. We can definitely understand why people would want to avoid having to appear in court if at all possible, however, sometimes it is unavoidable. When a lawsuit is filed against you or your business, you will have to make an appearance in court after being properly served with a Summons and Complaint.

Some people go to great lengths to never receive these documents, also known as the court process. They usually do this because they believe if they are never served the process, then they don’t have to show up to court.

No, if you have never been properly served with the process for a court case in which you are named as a defendant or witness, then you DO NOT have to go to court.


The catch is the properly served part. The chances of you going unserved in a court case filed against you are slim (unless the plaintiff just doesn’t serve you before the deadline). That’s because there are several different methods in which you may be served in North Carolina, not just face-to-face. Let’s talk about the 4 main ways people are served court process here in NC:

 In-Person Service

In-person service is by far the most common type of service of process in North Carolina. With in-person service, a party authorized to serve process in the state locates and delivers the court process to the named defendant(s) face-to-face. This is usually handled by the sheriff’s department local to the county where the process is being served, but in some cases, it can be by a private process server. The officer or server would then complete an affidavit noting the date, time, and location of the service and file this with the appropriate court to confirm that proper service was achieved. The court holds the word of law enforcement and process servers in high regard, so if an officer or server says that you were served in this manner, and you cannot prove otherwise, the court will consider you served, and the case will proceed with your appearance required.

 Service by Registered or Certified Mail

Another method of service of process in North Carolina is service via USPS Registered or Certified Mail, including either the return receipt requested or signature confirmation. The court process must be addressed to the named defendant(s) and delivered to their known home address. If you are served in this manner, once the return receipt or signature confirmation is received, you are considered served, and the case will proceed.

 Service by Designated Delivery

Another mail option for service of process in North Carolina is service via an authorized designated delivery service, such as FedEx, UPS, or DHL. If using this method, the court process must be addressed to the named defendant(s) and delivered to their known home address. A receipt for the delivery is sufficient to prove proper service.

 Service by Publication

Finally, we have service by publication. While there may be some wiggle room with the other service methods in terms of denying that proper service was actually made, service by publication leaves no room for denial. This is a last resort method of service that should only be used if all other methods above are unsuccessful or not possible. A judge must approve the use of this service method ahead of time, which will require the plaintiff to prove that they have diligently searched for the defendant(s) without success and file an Affidavit of Due Diligence with the court. When serving someone by publication, North Carolina requires that a notice be posted in the newspaper of the defendant’s last known county of residence. The notice must be published once per week for at least three consecutive weeks for this type of service to be valid. Once these requirements are met, the defendant is considered served and the case will proceed.

Have You Been Served?

So the question comes down to…have you been served properly according to North Carolina law? Just because you haven’t received court documents from a process server in person doesn’t mean that you haven’t! The easiest way to check if you have been officially served in a case is to contact the Clerk of Court for the county where the case was filed (or whatever court is handling the case). Not only can they tell you if the service has been properly made, but they can also tell you exactly when, where, and how that service was made. If they have no record of you being served, then you have no obligation to appear in court.

Service of Process in Charlotte

If you’ve filed a civil lawsuit in Mecklenburg County and need to have the defendant(s) and witness(es) in your case served, trust Accurate Serve of Charlotte to get it done quickly and in compliance with all state laws. To get started, just give us a call at (704) 858-2952 or send us a work request online.