Serve guardianship papers in person

After you file your Petition and get a court date, you must have another adult (called a server) hand-deliver a copy of your Petition and the Notice of Hearing to the child's parents and a few other people.

Who must be served in person

Some people must get a copy of the Petition and Notice of Hearing in person. The papers can't be mailed to them.

  • The child's parents
  • The child, if they are 12 or older
  • Any person who has legal custody of the child
  • Any court-appointed guardian of the child's estate (if they have one)
  • Any person nominated as guardian of the child

If you filed a petition asking for someone else to be appointed guardian (not you), you must also serve them in person. 

How to serve in person

  • Choose a server

    You can't serve papers yourself. Ask another adult who is not part of the case—a server—to deliver the papers.  

    Your server must be:

    • 18 years old or older
    • Not someone who signed the petition or who is entitled to receive notice

    Your server can be:

    • Someone you know 

    • The county sheriff (in most, not all, counties) 

    • A professional process server you hire 

    The sheriff charges to serve papers unless you have a fee waiver. 

    If the other person is in jail or in prison: An official at the jail or prison will be your server. Contact the jail, California state prison, or federal prison to find out who does this and how to get them the documents.

    If the other person lives on a military base: If they're stationed in the United States, your server can deliver the papers to them when they're not on the base. If they're on base, their commanding officer may be able to arrange for service of the papers. Contact the military base to find out their rules. If they're not in the United States, you will need to follow other rules. The process is complicated. In general, if they're serving overseas, you may want to speak to Self-Help Center staff or a lawyer since different rules apply. 
  • Figure out the deadline to serve

    Unless the court orders a different deadline to serve, your server must hand-deliver the papers at least 15 days before your court date.

    Take out a calendar and find your court date (it’s listed on the first page of your Notice of Hearing). 

    1. Count back 15 calendar days, including weekends and holidays. Your court date is not counted (so it’s day “0”). 

    1. When you get to the 15th day, check what day it is:  

    •  If it’s not a holiday or weekend, that’s your deadline. 

    • If it’s a Saturday, Sunday, or court holiday, keep counting back until you get to a day that court would be open. That’s your deadline. 

    Your server needs to hand-deliver the papers on or before this date.


  • Have your server give the papers to the other person

    Your server must find the other person and hand them:

    • A copy of your Petition for Appointment of Guardian (form GC-210 or 210(P)) and any attachments 

    • A copy of your Notice of Hearing

    • A copy of the Comparison of Guardians With Other Nonparent Caregivers (form GC-207-INFO/JV-352-INFO)

    Tell your server to write down the date they hand-delivered the papers. Your server needs this date to fill out the Proof of Service form. 

    Your server can leave the papers next to them and tell them what they are. For example, your server can leave the papers on the ground next to them and say, "These are important legal papers for you." 


    Your server needs to try delivering the papers on different days of the week and at different times. If they're never there, your server may be able to try substituted service. There are different rules for this type of service.
  • Have your server complete the Proof of Service form

    Use Proof of Personal Service of Notice of Hearing (form GC-020(P)).

    It helps if you fill in the case number at the top.

    Your server can then fill in the information about how, when, and where they handed the people the papers.

    Your server must sign and date the form and return it to you.

  • Copy and file the Proof of Service form

    • Make a copy of your Proof of Service form. Attach the original to a copy of the Notice of Hearing and the copy to another copy of the Notice in Hearing.

    • File the original attached to the Notice along with a second copy with the court where you filed the papers. The court will stamp and return the copy. 

    • Keep the copy of the Proof of Service form for your records.

    File the Proof of Service at least 5 court days before your hearing.


What's next?

If you haven't already, you'll need to have the child's other family members served by mail. You can also start to get ready for the investigation. Before the court date, someone appointed by the court (an investigator) will contact you.

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