What's the difference between serving and filing a document?

Infographic showing the basic differences between service of process and filing a document with the court.

People often confuse service of process and filing a document with court.Service is giving your legal papers to the other party in the case. The purpose is to give the other party in the case notice of your side of the story. This allows the other party to defend against or dispute the claims. This is a crucial step because courts will not make a decision on your case if your papers have not been served on the other party. It would be unfair for the court to make a decision without giving the other party a chance to respond. Always make sure you serve the other party(ies) in the case within the deadlines set by statute or court rule.Filing is giving your legal papers to the court, who will then give them to the judge. This allows the judge to understand your side of the story. Papers filed with the court are public records, unless they are filed under seal. When you file your documents, always make sure your documents are complete and that you have signed on all of the necessary signature lines. If you forget to do this, the court may reject your paperwork.Check out our chart showing the differences between service and filing here:HelpSelf Legal - Serving v. Filing

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