Court summons must be served in a way that calls attention to it

We thank Mr Teo Choon Lik for his feedback ("Ensure receipt of court summons is acknowledged"; Wednesday).

Mr Teo raised concerns related to the personal service of court summons and the practice of affixing the summons on the front door when personal service cannot be done.

He is concerned that the service of summons done in this way can be removed by a third party and may attract unnecessary attention and cause embarrassment to the respondent.

The manner in which a court document, such as a summons, is served must be one which will bring it to the attention of the party to be served.

Under the law, it must be served personally on the person named in the summons.

Only if that cannot be done after repeated attempts will the law allow the summons to be served by leaving it with an adult member of the person's family or an employee residing with that person.

If this is still not possible, the law further allows the court to direct that it be affixed to some conspicuous part of the residence.

Although this may attract the attention of members of the public, it is likely to be brought to the attention of the person named in the summons.

It is a criminal offence for the summons to be removed by any other person.

Mr Teo further suggested alternative means of serving court documents by telephone, e-mail or registered mail.

There are practical difficulties, such as verifying the identity of the recipient of the telephone call or e-mail.

As for registered mail, the postal authorities do not require that only the addressee can acknowledge receipt, and hence, we cannot be certain that the correct party has been made aware of the summons.

It is important that parties to proceedings are made aware of the need to appear before the Family Justice Courts to answer the summons or applications against them.

In that light, where it can be shown that the party being served cannot be served personally, the Family Justice Courts will intervene to allow for service other than personal service.

Chia Wee Kiat

Registrar

Family Justice Courts

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'Court summons must be served in a way that calls attention to it'. Print Edition | Subscribe