“The sheriff left me a note on my door — what should I do?”

“The sheriff left me a note on my door — what should I do?”

"The sheriff left me a note on my door -- what should I do?"This normally means you have been sued by a debt collector (debt buyer) and the sheriff has been instructed to serve you.  When the deputy came by your house, you weren’t there so the sheriff’s deputy left a note or a card for you to call about this.

“What are your options?”

  • Ignore the note
  • Call the number on the note

“Is ignoring the note a good idea?”


If you ignore it, the sheriff will either attempt to serve you again or will ultimately report you are avoiding “service.”

If the sheriff serves you again, it may be at your house.

Or your work.

Or somewhere else in public.

Probably not what you want to have happen.

And if the sheriff tells the court you are avoiding service, this can ultimately result in you being considered “served” even though you weren’t.  This means the clock starts ticking on you to answer the lawsuit.  If you don’t answer in time, you will lose by “default judgment.”

Normally if you are served in Small Claims court you have 14 days to respond after you are served.  Same with District court in Alabama (which is completely different than federal district court).

In Circuit court you have 30 days to respond.

“So what happens if I call the number on the note/card?”

You’ll speak with someone at the sheriff’s office.  They will arrange to serve you or for you to come pick up the lawsuit papers and be served.

This is what I normally recommend as you control the process and you know exactly when you are served so you know what your deadlines are for answering the lawsuit (14 days small claims/district, and 30 days for circuit court).

“What are my options after I get served?”

I don’t suggest you wait — instead learn your options right now.  Give yourself the most amount of time to discover the right option so you can make the right choice.

You have 5 options — read about them and also watch a video on them here.  You can win the lawsuit and you can also settle the lawsuit.  Learn all of your options and then figure out the best one for you.  We’ll be glad to help you.

Give us a call at 205-879-2447 and let the receptionist know you are being sued or you can fill out our contact form here and we will get right back with you.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

-John G. Watts


  1. Wanda D says:

    My husband was served with garnishment papers from an attorney in Birmingham representing Palisades Collections. He has no idea what it’s for. It is dated 2003. We called the attorney’s office but were told that we would have to pay in full and other that that they would not discuss anything. The garnishment is for $3200.00 $1600 of this is interest and fees. They would not tell us what the claim was for. He has just started a new job and is in the 90 probationary period. He immediately borrowed the money to just go ahead and pay, concerned if he is garnished he could possibly lose his job. He mailed the attorney a cashier’s check by certified mail but so far it has not been picked up. Not sure what he should do at this point. I feel like he is getting ripped off.

    • John Watts says:


      Your husband should only receive a garnishment if there is actually a judgment against him. There can only be a judgment if there is a lawsuit filed against him that he lost.

      Does he remember being sued back in 2003?

      Does he remember a judgment being entered against him back then?

      If he was never properly served, then the Judgment can be set aside.

      Ultimately it may, or it may not, be in his best interest to settle the judgment.

      This really depends on how strong the judgment is against him, what are his options in fighting the lawsuit if he can get the judgment set aside, and how much time and effort he wants to put into this.

      If you live in Alabama, feel free to give my office a call at 205–879–2447.

      Best wishes and thank you for your comment.

      John Watts

  2. my ex landlord filed for eviction in July I never received the papers but went ahead and moved out now the sheriff where I work is trying to serve me the papers what do I do I have already moved out. Do I have to respond to the papers?

    • John Watts says:


      I would talk to the collection lawyer — the eviction lawyer — and ask if they are going to pursue the suit or not. They may have also sued for money damages if your case is in Alabama.

      So if they sued for money damages then moving out won’t be enough.

      Bottom line is I would file a response to protect yourself. You may want to let the court know when you moved out, etc.

      Do check with a lawyer to make sure you are handling this correctly. Hopefully, it will all go away very soon for you!

      John Watts

  3. Joselyn says:

    I had public assistant but I terminated my case. Because of this my now fiancé has received a note to pick up papers that he’s being served. But when I spoke to the DCSS they told me the case is closed and there’s no need to go to court hearing. Should he pick up the paperwork and still show up for the court hearing ?

    • John Watts says:


      My suggestion is if there is a court date set, better show up for it. Or call the court to find out if it has been canceled. But sometimes we see confusion but the court thinks the hearing is still set and is not amused when folks don’t show up.

      So better safe than sorry.

      Hope that helps

      John Watts

  4. Debra L. Taylor says:

    I hit someone from behind I recieved the most damage no accident report can I still be sued?

    • John Watts says:


      In Alabama an accident report is common but is not required for the person who was hit to sue you.

      I would consider letting your insurance company know (they probably already do with the damage to your car) so if you get sued you will be protected by your insurance.

      Hope it works out for you.

      John Watts

  5. Wil says:

    I just got a call from my home that the sherif left the note for me on a door to call him. It make me so nervous and I am thinking what I did or what is wrong with me. I am thinking thinking and working on my memory if I did something wrong. I can’t focus at my work. It’s better that he should leave the explanation too. I am worry and getting anxious and my anxiety increasing.

    • John Watts says:

      Most likely it is a lawsuit and the sheriff is just serving. But best to call and find out. Hope it is only a lawsuit.

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