Frequently Asked Civil Process Questions

question-marks2Why wasn’t I called and notified when service was made?

With the volume of papers served by the Sheriff, it would be impossible for us to notify all parties after service has been made. However, the plaintiff may attach a self-addressed, stamped postcard if he wishes to be notified after service. A sample copy of the postcard has been provided.

I had papers issued out of the Hopewell General District Court and want to know if they’ve been served yet?

An inquiry of your computer system indicates the Sheriff has not received any process for the individual in question. Territorial jurisdiction is very important here. The process will be served by the Sheriff where the person resides, regardless of which court issued the process. Let’s say the person being served lived in Roanoke but the Hopewell General District court issued the process, the plaintiff would call the Roanoke Sheriff’s Office to inquire about service.

Why does the Deputy keep coming back to my house when I have repeatedly told him the person he was looking for doesn’t live here?

There are a couple of reasons. If the person to be served is a relative, we would have to go back to confirm the relative still doesn’t live there. In this day and age, many children move back in with their parents or siblings, so we cannot assume the relative no longer lives there. While a deputy is assigned a specific area (sector) of the county to serve, he or she may not necessarily work exclusively in that sector. Deputies often cross zones to provide timely, efficient service, especially when their partner is off. Therefore, you may have told another deputy that the person he is seeking doesn’t live there but the current deputy would have no knowledge of the conversation. We very much appreciate it when the resident/occupant calls to provide us with this information.

I heard there was a Warrant out for my arrest. Can you tell me if this is true?

If it is a Warrant for Arrest in a criminal matter, the Hopewell Police Department would handle that service. The Sheriff would also serve a civil Capias, usually for failure to appear in court or obey the court’s directives. In either case, the sheriff will not provide this information over the phone. If you believe there is an outstanding warrant for your arrest, it is better to go to the Sheriff’s Office to inquire.

I received a 72 Hour Notice to Vacate but I filed a Motion to Rehear, so how do I make sure the Sheriff will not come out on the date of the scheduled eviction to put my property out?

A motion to rehear does not stop the eviction process. There are a couple of remedies available to tenants. Therefore, the tenant should seek the advice of an attorney.

I have received my judgment in court for the money owed me, why haven’t I received my money?

Obtaining judgment and enforcing judgments are two different actions. While the plaintiff may have won his case in court, it is up to the plaintiff to pursue collection remedies. The method of collection will vary according to each case and the assets and information available. One method of collecting your money is through the Writ of Fieri Facias process also known as the Writ of FiFa. We refer to this as the levy process. The Writ of FiFa authorizes the Sheriff to levy (inventory) property owned by the judgment debtor which is later sold at public auction to recover the debt. This is a time consuming and sometimes costly process. If you know where the debtor works or where his bank account is located, you may ask the clerk of the court where you obtained judgment to issue a Garnishment Summons. This requires the third party debtor (employer or lending institution) to pay the money owed to the court who will later disburse to the plaintiff.

I need to have a divorce process served in another state but it is issued out of a Virginia court. How do I go about this?

Every Sheriff should have a directory of all Sheriff’s in the United States. You could contact your local sheriff either by phone or by E-mail and request the address for that jurisdiction. Or via the Internet, contact the National Sheriffs’ Association at or write to 1450 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314-3490 (703)-836-7827. For locating Virginia Sheriff’s, you can contact the Virginia Sheriff’s Association at or by writing to 701 East Franklin Street, Suite 706, Richmond, Virginia 23219 Phone(804) 225-7152 Fax (804) 225-7162

My child support payments are taken out of my pay check but the Deputy came by with Department of Child Support Enforcement papers. I am not behind on my child support payments, why is DCSE serving me with papers?

From time to time DCSE updates their files. They use the Sheriff’s services for notification because it is free. If you have questions about your payments, or notice a discrepancy in the amount of payments, you should contact your local DSCE office for correction.

A notice was left on my door for my relative who doesn’t live here. What’s this all about?

As much as we would like to tell you, we are prohibited from discussing the process with anyone other than for the person to whom it is issued. Think of it this way, would you like the Sheriff discussing a process for you with a neighbor or separated spouse? What you can do is either provide us with a phone number and address so that we can contact them, or have the relative call us.

A Deputy left a notice on my door telling me he had to serve me a show cause to explain why I didn’t appear in court. My attorney told me I didn’t have to go to court because I filed bankruptcy. I thought when I filed bankruptcy I wouldn’t have to deal with these collection matters anymore. Why do I have to go to court now?

Filing of bankruptcy protects the debtor from any creditor process, i.e., collection of debts. However, the court would not have any knowledge that a debtor filed bankruptcy. This is why it is important to appear or notify the court that bankruptcy has been filed. Once a show cause has been issued for failure to appear, the process now becomes a criminal matter (contempt of court) and the deputy must serve the process, unless the court recalls the order. If the debtor fails to appear on the show cause, a Capias for the defendant’s arrest will be issued. This could be avoided by taking care of the problem in the beginning.

Why can’t I come down to your office to pick up papers for my spouse?

The laws relating to service of process are specific. If the person to be served is a party to the suit, they must be served in person at a business. Additionally, it may be a process which requires personal service, regardless of where it is served, and service at our office may be more convenient to the individual being served.

If I pay the debt before the court date, do I have to still go to court?

If the process indicates the debtor does not have to appear in court, the debtor may elect to pay the debt and forego going to court. However, the debtor takes a risk in doing so. If for some reason the payment gets lost and debtor fails to appear in court, judgment will be obtained by default. It is more difficult to reverse a judgment than it is to simply appear in court to ensure the debtor’s rights are protected. For this reason, all deputies will encourage a person to appear in court when requested to do so.

I paid my late rent but the landlord had a Deputy post a notice to vacate on my door. Can the landlord still evict me?

There are several remedies available to both the tenant and the landlord. Therefore, it is suggested each party seeks the advice of an attorney. From the Sheriff’s perspective, however, once the Writ has been placed in his hand, it is considered a valid writ and the eviction can take place, even if the rent has been paid. Of course, those remedies mentioned could stop an eviction from proceeding.

I am a landlord who has a delinquent tenant. I went to court and obtained my judgment to have the tenant evicted. However, today the tenant told me he filed bankruptcy. I want them out! Why won’t you go out and evict them like I asked?

Filing of bankruptcy stops all civil actions against the tenant. This includes the eviction process because the debtor’s estate, personal or real, is protected by the bankruptcy court. In order for the landlord to go forward with the eviction, he must obtain from the bankruptcy court, an order granting relief from stay. Without this, the Sheriff will not evict.

I found this paper on the door and this person doesn’t live here. What do I do with the paper?

It is important to understand that the Sheriff is not the only person who serves processes. Private process servers are also permitted to serve process. However, if you should find a process on your door for someone who doesn’t live there, regardless of who may have served it, call our office at 541-2300 and we may send a Deputy to pick it up. When calling us we will need some information, such as who you are, the address where the process was left, if you are related to the person to be served, if there is any forwarding address or phone number, and how long ago the person moved away.

I moved out of the place where I was living and left some of my things there. The person won’t let me in to get them. I need a law enforcement officer to go with me to get my things. How can I arrange this?

Unfortunately, the Sheriff does not assist in recovery of specific personal property unless he has a court order in hand. If the person will not return the property, the owner of the property may have to go to the court to obtain an order called a Writ of Possession in Detinue to have the Sheriff assist in recovery of the withheld property. This takes time, but if the owner believes the property will be sold or removed from the Commonwealth, the owner can go to the magistrate to request a Detinue Seizure Order. This process is more expensive and the party should seek the advice of an attorney to determine if this is the best route for recovery of the property.

I have been given custody of my child but other parent refuses to return the child to me. Will a Deputy go with me to help me get my child back?

Unless there is a specifically worded order in the Officers hands directing him to take custody of a child, he will not. Any custody order obtained in another state other than Virginia is not recognized here and must be filed with a Virginia Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to ensure the foreign order complies with Virginia law.

My neighbor was evicted yesterday and there is a mess in the yard. Who do I contact to get the mess cleaned up?

Any property which is placed to the curb during the eviction process is the property of the tenant. It is considered theft to take that property once placed to the curb. If the property has been there for more than 24 hours, the neighbor should contact the Land Owner for disposal. This is usually the responsibility of the landlord. If, however, the property is placed to an area where it is considered private property, such as, condos or apartments, a person may contact that association or rental office to request clean up.

A Deputy posted a notice on my door saying he was going to break and enter to recover furniture that my friend, family or I own. I have repeatedly told the furniture company that they or I doesn’t live here any longer and took all property furniture with him. How do I stop them from coming into my house?

Once the Writ has been issued, the Sheriff has the authority to use force to execute the order. It is not necessary that you be there; simply have someone available to let the Sheriff and the furniture company in to confirm what you have told him. This should stop repeated contact from the furniture company.

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