How to Understand the Return of the Warrant Process

By Legal Editor - Updated June 19, 2017
Man in a suit holding papers

How to Understand the Return of the Warrant Process. After a person is served with court documents, a warrant form is returned to the court to prove that the papers were served. This is often called the return of warrant or return of service, and to fully understand the process you must also understand the execution of the warrant.

Learn About Serving a Claim or Warrant

Speak to your county clerk or small claims advisor about the proper ways to serve a claim in your state. He or she should also be able to help you with the paperwork and provide an informational guide relevant to your case.

Visit the Nolo Web site for information on serving a claim on the person you are suing (see Resources below). You should find a wealth of information in the "Rights & Disputes" section regarding small claims court. Nolo also publishes a line of legal books geared towards consumers.

Call your local sheriff's or marshal's office to discuss the service process. They may be able to offer advice on how to serve defendants who are difficult to find or on alternative ways to serve the claim.

Understand the Return of the Warrant Procedure

Read through every form you file with the court about your lawsuit. Clear directions on the return of the warrant usually appear on a Notice to Serve or Request to Serve form. There may even be a checklist to follow. The person who actually serves the claim must provide information on when and how the warrant was served. Check with the court clerk if you are unsure as to what is required to prove the service.

Head to the Web site of the National Center for State Courts (see Resources below). Besides providing links to local courts, the site acts as a storehouse for legal documents. You should find many examples of the return of warrant process for various legal matters.

Pay attention to the time line for the return of warrant. If the claim is not served or returned to the court on time, the case may be postponed or dismissed. This information is usually found directly on your copy of the Return of Service form.


Keep copies of all documents pertaining to the case, from evidence to proof of service documents. You may need to show the copies during court.


The proof of service must be returned to the court and certified by a clerk before it is official. Be sure to follow up to make sure the entire process was completed.

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