The following information is a general guide to the process of civil cases in Georgia, provided by the Judicial Branch of Georgia, as a part of its self-help resources:
A complaint or petition is a document filed with the Court to initiate a case by one party against another party for relief. It is intended to give the defendant notice of the claim being made. The fee for filing a civil complaint varies according to the court in which you file your case and sometimes by the type of action filed with the court. The fees are set out in the state statutes. When filing a case, it is a good idea to contact the clerk of the court in the jurisdiction in which the case is going to be filed to obtain an accurate quote of the fees required for filing.
The complaint should be written, filed and date stamped by the Clerk of Court, and a copy of the complaint must be provided to the defendant. Some complaints are required to be verified (sworn to under oath) such as domestic and probate court cases. Notice of the complaint/petition may be served on the defendant by one of the following types of process servers: the sheriff or marshal, an authorized private process server, by publication or by a letter requesting a waiver of service by the defendant. A pro se litigant should consult the statutes to determine the proper mode of service.
If a defendant does not waive service, then the Sheriff or Marshal or a private process server approved by the Court will attempt to serve your complaint on the defendant. You must provide a stamped copy of the filed complaint to the Sheriff, Marshal, or private process server along with an entry of service form. This paperwork should provide the server the name of the person to be served and the address where service should be delivered. You must pay the applicable fee for service. There is also a process for asking the opposing party to waive service found in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 9-11-4
(d and l). If as a defendant you fail to respond to this waiver request you may have to pay the costs of service.
The better the information you can provide the server about the location of the opposing party, the quicker service will be accomplished. The Georgia Code generally states that the Sheriff should make an attempt to serve the complaint within five days of receipt of the copy of the complaint and service form.
If you are unable to obtain either service or waiver of service by the opposing party, your case may be dismissed without prejudice. A dismissal without prejudice does not stop the plaintiff from re-filing the claim and proceeding as long as the claim is made timely (within the statute of limitations) and service can be secured.