Each defendant must be informed of your lawsuit by receiving, or being served, the Original Notice. To give notice is to make the other party aware of a legal action or filing of a document. Typically a small claims “Original Notice and Petition” is served to begin a small claims lawsuit and states a time in which an answer or response to the petition must be filed with the court. This process is referred to as “service,” “personal service,” or “service of process,” all of which refer to the formal delivery of notice of a legal document, such as a petition, to assure that the opposing party is aware of the action and is given an opportunity to respond.
- “Personal service” means the actual delivery of the notice to the person to whom it is directed and is usually required for the initiation of most lawsuits. Personal service is typically performed by a sheriff or process server.
- “Service by publication,” may be done by publishing notice in a newspaper or other public medium, is allowed under certain circumstances, usually when a defendant cannot be located. Service by publication can be complicated and you should talk with an attorney.
The type of notice may vary with the circumstances, such as the type of claim the party wishes to file and whether the defendant lives in Iowa. There are some instructions available on the judicial branch website under the “Small Claims” tab at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/court-forms/. Iowa Code section 631.4 discusses various types of service in small claims actions. If you do not understand how to provide notice or how to do service of your lawsuit, you should talk to an attorney.