Serving Legal Documents Correctly in New Zealand by Proserve.

July 19, 2023
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We serve your legal documents correctly every time!

Almost every legal document you file in the New Zealand High Court, District Court or Family Court needs to be served correctly (in accordance with the New Zealand Courts rules of service). It’s the applicants / plaintiff’s responsibility to ensure their Court proceedings are served on the defendant / respondent), and in return it is the defendant’s responsibility to serve their documents on the plaintiff. This includes information about when and where a Court hearing or similar formal meeting will take place.

There are different ways to serve Court proceedings:

  • Personal service by a process server.
  • Sending via courier to their address.
  • Posting to a postal box or DX mail box.
  • If the Judge has ordered, via email address.
  • By an alternative service method approved by the Courts.

Legal cases can be delayed if one of the involved parties claim they were never served. So, whatever service method is used, it’s essential to ensure there is sufficient evidence to prove correct service.

It is not uncommon for the recipient / defendant to avoid service, our process servers have dealt with many individuals who attempt to avoid matters before the Courts by denying they were served. In one case, the defendant stated they had not been served (in an attempt to delay the matter). Our process server appear in Court to advise the Judge how service was effected.

We keep formal records not only of date, time and location of service, but also the GPS date/time stamp in real time. The judge upheld the service and suggested that the defendant did not continue to waste any more of the Courts time.

Serving an individual or company, are the rules of service different?

Serving an individual

In New Zealand personal service is just that, one person handing documents to another. The person serving will ask the recipient to acknowledge their identity and then accept the documents handed to them – the perfect scenario! In some cases i.e. family proceedings, the recipient may also be asked to sign an acknowledgement of service.

If the defendant will not accept the documents, as long as the server has established their identity, then the documents can be served by placing them at the recipients feet and bringing them to the recipients attention.

If the defendant cannot be located, then there are other methods that can be employed to get the documents to them. Substituted service may be an option, via a family member, emailing, affixing to a property they own, or posting on an active social media account (e.g. Facebook).

When can you serve a third party?

For example, a lawyer may be authorised to accept on behalf of their client. There needs to be evidence of this, and it is prudent to get the lawyer to sign an acknowledgment of service. We have had individuals claim that their lawyer has the authority to accept documents on their behalf.

We have then contacted the lawyer only to be told that they do not have the official capacity to accept. It is essential to have the authorisation acknowledged – before proceeding to serve the documents incorrectly!

There are rules for serving an individual who:

  1. Resides or is employed on board a vessel.
  2. Is an active member of the defence forces.
  3. Is an inmate in a corrections facility (prison).

Understanding the rules is important, as you need to get service right first time or you run the risk of disrupting the progression of a court case.

Times/ days service is permitted on an individual in New Zealand: In most cases documents can be served any day or time of the week, except on Sundays and Public Holidays.

Serving a company:

In New Zealand the service of documents must adhere to the rules outlined in sections 387-391 in the Companies Act 1993. Methods of service do differ from that of an individual, and it is important to understand the rules.

Serving a company can be done by:
  • Handing to a Director of the company.
  • Handing to an employee of the company at the companies Registered Office (it is prudent to confirm the address on the Companies Register.
  • If the Registered Office is a residential address, the document can be left with a person over the age of 18 or be fixed to the front door of the address.
  • Note: if there is no one at the Registered Office, then the document can be left at the address – usually by way of affixing to the front door.
  • If there is a solicitor representing the company who is authorised to accept the documents, then they may be served.
A vacant business premises:

If the premises of the business is vacant, but the address is still listed as the Registered Office for the company then the documents can simply be affixed to the front door, job done. However, if you want to ensure that the proceedings are brought to the Directors attention, then it may be best to locate and serve them personally also.

Times/ days service is permitted on a company in New Zealand: 

Documents can only be served on a company during business hours Monday – Friday, and not on Public Holidays. However, if you are serving a Company Director, the rules for personal service (outlined above) apply.