How to Serve a Document on Your Opponent

An important part of the process of litigation is the sending of formal documents to your opponent (or to your opponent's solicitor if your opponent has engaged a solicitor to conduct the litigation) by deadlines ordered by the court or prescribed by the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). This is called serving a document.

Because of the importance attached to serving documents, the rules say that only certain ways of serving are valid.
 

Email

Service of a document on your opponent by email is only valid if your opponent has agreed to service by email. If your opponent has agreed to service by email, and you want to use this method, it is best to send the document as a PDF attachment by email no later than early morning of the deadline date. This is not just because there is a cut-off time in the afternoon (after which time documents received are counted as served on the next business day) but also because you need to leave time to hand deliver if, unexpectedly, there are technical problems with email - e.g. if the internet is down.

Note: Even if service of documents by email is not valid, it is good practice to always to send a copy of the document by email as well as serving a copy by a formally valid means (on which see below). This is because if by some accident you are late serving the document by a valid means of service, the fact that you sent the document by email before the deadline, even though not formally valid service, means that a court will (all other things being equal) be more likely to excuse the late formal service.  


FAX

You can use FAX to formally serve a copy of a document only if your opponent has agreed that FAX can be used for service of documents If your opponent has agreed to service by FAX, and you want to use this method, it is best to FAX the document no later than early morning of the deadline date.This is not just because there is a cut-off time in the afternoon (after which time documents received are counted as served on the next business day) but also because you need to leave time to hand deliver if, unexpectedly, there are technical problems with FAX such as the line being busy. If you do not have a FAX machine you can use a service such as www.efax.co.uk to send a FAX. Put "please find enclosed [document name] by way of service" on the FAX cover sheet. Keep a copy of the "confirmation of transmission" report.


If neither email nor FAX are valid means of serving (or if email is not valid and you do not have the facility to send a FAX) then you can use hand delivery or, if you have left sufficient time, First Class post. 

  

Hand Delivery

You can serve the document by hand delivering it to your opponent at the address for service your opponent has given – only service there is valid. You can do this yourself or get a trusted friend or commercial courier to deliver for you.  Enclose a covering letter saying "please find enclosed [document name] by way of service". If you are going to serve the document by this method, it is best to plan to deliver the document no later than the morning of the deadline date because there is a cut-off time in the afternoon after which any document delivered would be counted as served the next day. Make a note of the date and time of delivery and the address you have delivered to.


Post

Providing you have not left it too late you can use First Class post to serve the document on your opponent. Enclose a covering letter saying "please find enclosed [document name] by way of service". If you use this method you must post to the address for service of documents which your opponent has given – only service there is valid. Make a note of the date and time of posting and the address you have posted to and preferably get a certificate of posting from the Post Office. 

It is important to know on what date a document is served (in order to know whether it was served by any relevant deadline and also because the person served with the document may have a fixed number of days from the date of service to take some action) but if your opponent happens to be away for a day or two, when they return and open the post they will not know exactly when it was delivered. You know when you posted it but you also will not know exactly when it was delivered. Because of the importance of certainty as to the date of service, the court rules – CPR 6.26 – provide that a document sent by First Class post is counted as having been served two days after posting (or on the next business day if two days after posting is not a business day) so if the deadline date is tomorrow you are too late to serve the document by post because even if the document actually arrives tomorrow it is still not counted as being served until the next business day after tomorrow, by which time it will be late. 

When sending by post do not use a "signed for" service because if the recipient is out when the postman calls that will delay delivery of the letter perhaps missing the deadline. Indeed it might not be delivered at all if it is, after an unsuccessful attempt at delivery, left at the delivery office and the recipient fails to call to collect it.     


Disclaimer

The information on this page about specific computer techniques is provided for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date at the time it was written but no responsibility for its accuracy, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by me. You should satisfy yourself, before using any of the techniques, software or services described, that the techniques are appropriate for your purposes and that the software or service is reliable.

This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. This information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else. 

This page was lasted updated in March 2017          Disclaimer