I’m not a legal adviser or in any way in the position to give legal advice. However I get asked this question a lot!
In most cases it will depend on the type of papers you just received as to how you will proceed!
Small Claims or Money Judgment hearing – the papers will in most cases show a date you need to be in court. Gather all your documentation supporting your side of the case. Be in court and present all your information to the Judge, especially if you don’t think the amount being sued for is correct. You may be able to request lower payments and interest rates. If you decide not to show up, the person suing you will receive a default judgement and get basically everything they ask for. This also includes Forcible Entry and Detainers from Property Managers. Talk to an attorney if you feel you need further specific advise.
Divorce papers – Most of the time you know this is coming and have already secured an attorney. Unless you have agreed to everything already I would suggest you get an attorney to discuss your options further. In Oklahoma, once you are served with divorce papers, you will have 20 days following the service to submit an answer to the court. If you disagree at all with any of the papers given to you, you will need to file an answer with the court explaining your side of the issue. This will also set you up for a hearing date. Again, it is always best to get an attorney if you have any questions.
Subpoena – You may not have any direct involvement in a case and still receive a subpoena from an attorney or court clerk. Sometimes this is expected and sometimes it is a surprise. In Oklahoma the person issuing the subpoena must include a witness fee for your appearance and time. It will tell you a date, time and address of where you need to be and will explain any documents or items you need to have with you. In my line of work, I have seen a lot of subpoena’s issued. I have also seen a lot of subpoena’s ignored by people I have served them to. If you receive a subpoena, you do not want to just ignore it! This is a legal document that is issued through a court REQUIRING your attendance. If the date and time is bad, most cases you can contact the issuing person and schedule something that works better for both. However if you ignore it, the issuing person can issue a Contempt of Court Citation and explain to the Judge you failed to show up or make notice of failure to show. The Judge will then require you to come to court and explain why you failed to show for the subpoena. If you continue to fail to show the Judge may issue an arrest warrant and you will be picked up by the local police/sheriff booked into jail and will sit there until the Judge can see you.
Those three are the most common types of cases you will receive from a Private Process Server. It is important you do not ignore your papers and pretend you did not receive anything. A Process Server signs an Affidavit every time they hand someone papers stating the papers were received by the proper person and he is not a party to the case. This tells the Judge that the Process Server appointed by the Judge has given you proper notice.