Service of Process for South Carolina Family Court

South Carolina Family Court requires Service of Process. This is a legal term which means you have to give people notice, usually a certain amount of time in advance, of what is happening in court pertaining to them and give them an opportunity to be heard regarding what is going on. There are five ways a person can be served under the South Carolina Rules: Certified Mail, Process Server, Service by the Sheriff’s Office, Publication, or Acceptance of Service.




United States Postal Service:You can serve a person through United Stated Postal Service Certified Mail Restricted Delivery, Return Receipt Requested. This can be very costly, around $12.00 right now for a few ounces of mail. This is permitted according to Rule 4(d)(8).


Process Server:You can serve a person through a Process Server, my preferred server is Clay Stacey of Carolina Civil Process Service. Your attorney may choose to you another process server. If you are an attorney and do not have a process server you may wish to use Mr. Stacey or find a process server listed the National Association Professional Process Servers (NAPPS).  It is a good idea to give your process server a short informational sheet regarding the person to be served and your client’s information to help them serve the person faster. A private process server can cost anywhere from $65-$250 per person being served depending on a number of factors.


Sheriff’s Office: Service can also be done through the Sheriff’s Office where each Defendant is located. This will cost less than a process server however, in the event you are indigent you may be able to get the fees waived by the Sheriff. Generally the Sheriff will charge a flat fee for the first two attempts and then charge an additional amount for each additional attempt at service. Each Sheriff’s office will have their own office to contact regarding service and you can usually call and ask to speak to the officer or department who handles service issues in the appropriate county to find out exactly how they handle these types of requests. NOTE: YOU MUST SPECIFY TO THE SHERIFF THAT YOU WANT PERSONAL SERVICE TO MAKE SURE THEY DO NOT LEAVE THE PAPERS WITH SOMEONE AT THE RESIDENCE.


Publication: If you cannot find the person who is to be served and there has been a diligent search, the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure allow for a person to be served by Publication. This is very complicated and requires a Petition to the Court. “Service By Publication Or Out Of State,” Service rules start at S.C. Code Ann. § 15-9-710.


Acceptance of Service: A person can always accept service of any court documents by acknowledging in writing and signing a properly executed acceptance of service form. This is permitted under rule 4(j).




MANNER: The South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure 4 governs the Rules of Service for the Summons and Complaint for a Family Law case in South Carolina. A summons and complaint must be personally served on the person who is being sued according to Rule 4(d). This means that the person being sued must be served with the papers themselves. The papers cannot be left at their residence, cannot be served upon an anyone else at the residence, and cannot be signed for by any other person at that address. You can use any of the methods mentioned above, to personally serve someone- however, I caution using publication.


TIMING: There are no specific time requirement for when the Summons and Complaint to be served.




MANNER: If served with the Summons and Complaint it must be personally served, however, if it is independent of the Summons and Complaint and the Summons and Complaint have already been served, this notice can be sent by any of the methods of service. Again, caution on using publication.


TIMING: The general rule is that a written motion for temporary relief and notice of the hearing needs to be served no less than 5 days before the hearing UNLESS a different time is specified in the order setting the hearing date. There are rare occasions where the court may deem a case an emergency situation, an order may be made on ex parte application. This means no notice would need to be given prior to the hearing date. THIS IS VERY RARE.



MANNER: A rule to show cause must be personally served upon a person by the Sheriff unless it is specifically requested in the pleadings to be served otherwise. Service must include verified petition or supporting affidavit.


TIMING: The general rule is that a written motion for a Rule to Show Cause needs to be served no less than 10 days before the hearing UNLESS a different time is specified in the order setting the hearing date.




MANNER:  It is generally accepted that any of the above mentioned forms of service would also accepted. You should make a personal service for the final hearing notice to ensure you do not have any issues at your final hearing. If you use the US Postal Service you should send the document Certified Mail, Restricted Delivery, Return Receipt Requested, even though this is not specifically required by the rules. NOTE:  Even if your spouse does not sign for service, sending the document is sufficient for most courts. You generally need to show the notice was mailed. You generally do not have to show actual receipt of the notice.


TIMING: You must provide notice at least 10 days before the final hearing.



You should contact an attorney if you have any other questions about the South Carolina Rules of Service of Process. We can be contacted at 843.261.7025.


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