Code of the District of Columbia

Chapter 3. Process and Parties.


Subchapter I. General Provisions.

§ 13–301. Courts to which applicable.

Except as otherwise specifically provided by law or rules of court, this chapter applies to the District of Columbia courts.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 513, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 552, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 142(2).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-301.

1973 Ed., § 13-301.


§ 13–302. Service by marshal.

Subject to the provisions of law or rules of court for service by other persons, the United States marshal for the District of Columbia or his deputy shall serve the process of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 513, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 552, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 142(3).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-302.

1973 Ed., § 13-302.


§ 13–302.01. Service by Metropolitan Police Department.

(a) The Metropolitan Police Department shall execute, upon request, a bench warrant in any case in which paternity establishment or child support is at issue.

(b) The Metropolitan Police Department shall serve civil process in any case in which paternity establishment or child support is at issue and shall serve the process at the request of the IV-D agency in any IV-D case. In a non-IV-D case, a judicial officer may order the Metropolitan Police Department to serve process pursuant to this section or to accompany a private process server upon a finding of danger to the process server or a finding that the respondent is evading service. The affidavit of a private process server shall be considered sufficient evidence for a finding of danger or evasion of service.

(c) A special unit that consists of at least 4 police officers shall be established for the exclusive purpose of performing the duties enumerated in section 13-302.01(a) and (b).

(d) The IV-D agency shall provide funds to the Metropolitan Police Department to pay for the full cost, including administrative costs, of providing the services in section 13-302.01(a) and (b) in all IV-D cases.


(June 18, 1991, D.C. Law 9-5, § 3(b), 38 DCR 2717; Aug. 17, 1991, D.C. Law 9-39, § 3(b), 38 DCR 4970.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-302.1.

Editor's Notes

Section 25(b) of D.C. Law 15-354 provided that the section designation of § 13-302.1 of the District of Columbia Official Code is redesignated as § 13-302.01.


§ 13–303. Service or execution on Sunday. [Repealed]

Repealed.


(June 18, 1991, D.C. Law 9-5, § 3(c), 38 DCR 2717; Aug. 17, 1991, D.C. Law 9-39, § 3(c), 38 DCR 4970.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-303.


Subchapter II. Service of Process; Legal Representatives.

§ 13–331. Service under other laws and rules of court.

This chapter does not limit or affect the right to serve process in any other manner now or hereafter required or permitted by:

(1) other law, including Chapter 4 of this title or, any other provisions of this Code; or

(2) rule of court.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 513, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 552, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 142(4).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-331.

1973 Ed., § 13-331.

Cross References

Attachment and garnishment proceedings, service of process in proceedings, see § 16-502.

Corporations, service of process upon, see § 29-612.

Insurance companies, service of process upon, see §§ 31-4323 and 31-2502.23.


§ 13–332. Service on infants; appointment and compensation of guardian and attorney.

(a) When an infant is a party defendant in an action, the summons and complaint shall be served upon him personally and, when he is under 16 years of age, upon the person with whom he resides, if within the District. The infant shall be produced in court unless, for cause shown, the court dispenses with his appearance. The provisions of rules of court regarding guardians ad litem apply, and whenever in the judgment of the court the interests of an infant defendant require it, the court shall assign an attorney to represent the infant whose compensation shall be paid by the plaintiff, or out of the estate of the infant, at the discretion of the court.

(b) An infant who secretes himself or evades service of process may be proceeded against as if he were a nonresident.

(c) Whoever secretes an infant against whom process has issued, so as to prevent service of the process, or prevents his appearance in court, is liable to attachment and punishment as for contempt.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 513, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-332.

1973 Ed., § 13-332.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 13-340.

Cross References

Condemnation of insanitary buildings, appointment of guardian ad litem in proceedings, see § 6-909.


§ 13–333. Service on incompetent persons.

When a person non compos mentis is a party defendant in an action, process shall be served upon him personally, if within the District, and upon his committee, if there is one within the District.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 513, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-333.

1973 Ed., § 13-333.

Cross References

Condemnation of insanitary buildings, appointment of guardian ad litem in proceedings, see § 6-909.


§ 13–334. Service on foreign corporations.

(a) In an action against a foreign corporation doing business in the District, process may be served on the agent of the corporation or person conducting its business, or, when he is absent and can not be found, by leaving a copy at the principal place of business in the District, or, where there is no such place of business, by leaving a copy at the place of business or residence of the agent in the District, and that service is effectual to bring the corporation before the court.

(b) When a foreign corporation transacts business in the District without having a place of business or resident agent therein, service upon any officer or agent or employee of the corporation in the District is effectual as to actions growing out of contracts entered into or to be performed, in whole or in part, in the District of Columbia or growing out of any tort committed in the District.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 513, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-334.

1973 Ed., § 13-334.


§ 13–335. Service by publication on domestic or foreign corporations.

In an action specified by section 13-336 , when process can not be served upon a domestic or foreign corporation, the corporation may be proceeded against as a nonresident defendant, by notice by publication.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 514, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-335.

1973 Ed., § 13-335.


§ 13–336. Service by publication on nonresidents, absent defendants, and unknown heirs or devisees.

(a) In actions specified by subsection (b) of this section, publication may be substituted for personal service of process:

(1) Upon a defendant who cannot be found and who is shown by affidavit to be a nonresident or to have been absent from the District for at least 6 months;

(2) Upon a defendant who cannot be found after diligent efforts or who by concealment seeks to avoid service of process; or

(3) Against the unknown heirs or devisees of deceased persons.

(b) This section applies only to:

(1) actions for partition;

(2) actions for divorce or annulment;

(3) actions for child custody under D.C. Official Code, Title 16, Chapter 45 [repealed];

(4) actions by attachment;

(5) actions for foreclosure of mortgages and deeds of trust;

(6) actions for the establishment of title to real estate by possession;

(7) actions for the enforcement of mechanics’ liens, and other liens against real or personal property within the District; and

(8) actions that have for their immediate object the enforcement or establishment of any lawful right, claim, or demand to or against any real or personal property within the jurisdiction of the court.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 514, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; Mar. 10, 1983, D.C. Law 4-200, § 3, 30 DCR 125; Apr. 4, 2017, D.C. Law 21-238, § 501(a), 63 DCR 15312.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-336.

1973 Ed., § 13-336.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 13-335, § 13-337, and § 16-4808.


§ 13–337. Personal service outside District in lieu of publication.

(a) In actions specified by section 13-336, personal service of process may be made on a nonresident defendant out of the District, and the service has the same effect, and no other, as an order of publication duly executed.

(b) The service may be made by any person not a party to or otherwise interested in the subject-matter in controversy. The return shall be made under oath in the District of Columbia, unless the person making the service is a sheriff, deputy sheriff, marshal, or deputy marshal, authorized to serve process where service is made. The return must show the time and place of service and that the defendant so served is a nonresident of the District of Columbia.

(c) The cost and expense of such service of process out of the District shall be borne by the party at whose instance it is made and may not be taxed as part of the costs in the case; but where the service of process is made by an authorized officer of the law specified by this section, the actual and usual cost of the service of process shall be taxed as a part of the costs in the case.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 514, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-337.

1973 Ed., § 13-337.


§ 13–338. Prerequisites for order of publication.

An order for the substitution of publication for personal service may not be made until:

(1) A summons for the defendant has been issued and returned "not to be found"; and

(2) The plaintiff proves by affidavit to the satisfaction of the court:

(A) The nonresidence of the defendant or his or her absence for at least 6 months; or

(B) Diligent efforts to find the defendant or that the defendant seeks to avoid service of process by concealment.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 514, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; May 10, 2019, D.C. Law 22-313, § 12, 66 DCR 1627.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-338.

1973 Ed., § 13-338.


§ 13–339. Form of order of publication.

An order of publication shall be in the following or an equivalent form:

United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

AB, plaintiff,

versus          In ____. No. ____

CD, defendant.

The object of this action is to (state it briefly).

On motion of the plaintiff, it is this ____ day of ____, A.D. ____, ordered that the defendant cause his appearance to be entered herein on or before the fortieth day, exclusive of Sundays and legal holidays, occurring after the day of the first publication of this order; otherwise the cause will be proceeded with as in cause of default.

________ Judge.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 515, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-339.

1973 Ed., § 13-339.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 13-340.


§ 13–340. Manner of publication; mailing of copy; default; appointment and compensation of guardian and attorney.

(a) An order of publication shall be published at least once a week for three successive weeks, or oftener, or for such further time as the court orders. In child custody proceedings, as defined in [§ 16-4601.01(4)], or actions for divorce in which service by publication is authorized under this chapter, and satisfactory evidence is presented to the court that the plaintiff is unable to pay the cost of publishing an advertisement pursuant to D.C. Offical Code sec. 13-340, without substantial hardship to himself or herself, or to his or her family, the court may direct that such publication may be made by posting the order of publication defined in D.C. Official Code sec. 13-339, for a period of twenty-one calendar days, in the Clerk’s Office of the Family Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

(b) An order, judgment or decree may not be entered against an absent or nonresident defendant upon proof of notice by publication, unless the plaintiff, his agent, or attorney files in the action an affidavit showing that at least twenty days before applying for the order, judgment or decree he mailed, postpaid, a copy of the advertisement or the order of the publication posted pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, directed to the party therein ordered to appear, at his last known place of residence, or that after diligent effort he has been unable to ascertain the last place of residence of the party.

(c) On failure of the defendant to appear in obedience to the notice within the time stated therein, a judgment or decree by default may be entered.

(d) If the absent or nonresident defendant is an infant, the provisions of the rules of court concerning guardians ad litem and default judgments shall apply, and the court may assign counsel to represent the infant in the manner provided by subsection (a) of section 13-332.

(e) If the absent or nonresident defendant is non compos mentis, the provisions of the rules of court concerning guardians ad litem and default judgments shall apply, and the court shall assign an attorney to represent the defendant, whose compensation shall be paid by the plaintiff, or out of the estate of the defendant, at the discretion of the court.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 515, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1; Apr. 7, 1977, D.C. Law 1-107, title II, § 201, 23 DCR 8737; Apr. 4, 2017, D.C. Law 21-238, § 501(b), 63 DCR 15312.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-340.

1973 Ed., § 13-340.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 16-3706.


§ 13–341. Service by publication on persons unknown to be living or dead and on unknown heirs and devisees.

(a) When a person would be a proper party to a judicial proceeding if living, and upon allegation under oath and proof satisfactory to the court that it is unknown whether he is living or dead, he may be proceeded against as if he were living, and with like effect, if a representative of or claimant under him does not intervene in the action before final determination thereof, after notice by publication as in the case of nonresident parties.

(b) When a person who would have been a proper party to a judicial proceeding is dead, and it is unknown whether he died testate or left heirs, or his heirs and devisees are unknown, the unknown persons may be described as the heirs or devisees of the person who, if living, would be the proper party. Notice shall be given by publication to them according to that description, and the same proceedings shall be had against them as are had against nonresident defendants, except that:

(1) the notice shall be published at least twice a month for such period, not less than three months without good cause shown, as the court orders, and the notice shall require the parties to appear on or before the day fixed in the notice to appear; and

(2) an order, judgment or decree may not be entered against the parties unless the court is satisfied that due diligence has been used to ascertain the unknown heirs.


(Dec. 23, 1963, 77 Stat. 515, Pub. L. 88-241, § 1.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 13-341.

1973 Ed., § 13-341.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 16-3301.

Cross References

Service of process, limitations, see § 13-331.