How to Locate a Defendant for Service of Process

The first step in prosecuting any lawsuit is delivering the summons and complaint to your adversary.  Locating the defendant may not be an issue in most cases, but what happens if you have no current information regarding the defendant’s whereabouts?  This article describes commonly used practices for tracking down someone you need to serve with legal papers. 

Post Office Records

If you have an old address, an effective method of locating the defendant is to send a letter to the person’s last known address.  Under your return address, write “Return Service Requested. Do Not Forward.” If the person filed an address change with the post office, you will receive the letter back from the Post Office with a notation of the new address on the front of the envelope.  You can also visit the local post office covering the area for the person’s last known address and inquire into whether he or she left a forwarding address. 

Directory Assistance

Using directory assistance may also uncover useful information on locating an individual.  If the person is listed, you may be able to obtain his or her address in addition to a phone number.  And even if the only available information is a phone number, you can use that number to possibly locater an address for the individual using internet search engines methods described below. 

Internet Searches

One of the most efficient ways to locate a person is by using online internet search engines like Google to uncover the information.  You can also search online on people search sites.  Many searches are initially free but provide limited information for free.  Typically, a small fee is charged for a complete report on the subject.  A complete report could include the individual’s current and prior addresses, phone numbers, relatives, criminal records, and bankruptcies. 

In addition, some internet sites offer reverse telephone directory searches, which allow you to search by a telephone number to get the name and address of that telephone number’s subscriber Searching on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram may also uncover information on the individual’s whereabouts. 

Property Records Search

If the person you are trying to find owns property, search property records online or at the Assessor’s office.  The tax rolls in the assessor’s office list the names and addresses of property owners in the county by both owner name and address of the property.

Private Investigator

If you have exhausted all the above options without success, should consider hiring a private investigator.  Most private investigators charge their clients by the hour, in the range of $65 to $200 per hour depending on their experience level and job difficulty.  

Note that you do not need to know where the individual lives to validly serve him or her with legal papers. If you know that at a given time, he or she generally goes to a certain coffee shop, or to the gym, or to some other fixed place, you can deliver the legal papers to the person at that place.

Please contact Lynx Legal for all your service of process needs, or if you have any questions regarding the above.  We can be reached at 925-237-9216 or  You can also schedule a free telephonic consultation with one of our representatives by clicking “Schedule a Consultation” on our website.  Our experienced professionals are standing by to assist you. 

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