Suitable age and discretion

Suitable age and discretion is both a legal definition of maturity (and by contrast immaturity),[1] and an alternate method of service of process by which a process server can leave a summons, subpoena, or complaint with a person living at the residence of the defendant.[1][2]


Minimum ageEdit

The age that adolescents gain legal rights and privileges vary. Generally, those who reach the age of 18 are legally considered to have reached the age of majority, but persons below that age may gain adult rights through legal emancipation. The legal working age in Western countries is usually between 14 and 16, depending on the hours and type of employment. This may be different from the minimum school leaving age (at which a person is legally allowed to leave compulsory education) and the age of consent to sexual activity varies widely between jurisdictions, ranging from 13 to 18 years.

The minimum age for "suitable age and discretion" varies by jurisdiction.

Fourteen years old seems to be the absolute minimum. Under "common law, a female of the age of 14 is at the age of legal discretion, and may choose a guardian."[1] Thus, Minnesota declared 14 to be old enough to be presumed to be of suitable age and discretion.[1] Under the laws of some states, including New York, a child of 14 can get married with permission of a court and a guardian, and marriages of those younger than that are void.[3] A New York official court video transcript states:

The words suitable age and discretion usually mean having someone served at one of those locations who is over the age of 14, and is likely to give the papers to the person intended to be served.

— New York Unified Court System, Personal Service of Court Papers Video Transcript [4]

In California, "an intelligent and mature 16-year-old" is of "suitable age and discretion".[5]

Service of processEdit

Suitable age and discretion is also an alternate method of service of process. Typically that means a child of the defendant, even if the child is only visiting his or her parents’ house, can accept service of process.[1][6]

However, service on the receptionist at the former dwelling place of the defendant was not sufficient for personal jurisdiction.[7]

Jurisdictions that recognize suitable age and discretion for service of processEdit

In the United States, this form of process is recognized by Arizona,[8] California,[5][9] Louisiana,[10] and Michigan.[11] It is also recognized in Minnesota,[1] New York,[2][3] and North Carolina.[6] The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4(e)(2)(B), allows "delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the individual personally or by leaving copies thereof at the individual's dwelling house or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein ...."[12]

Suitable age and discretion service of process is recognized by Philippine law.[13][14][15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Temple v. Norris, 55 N.W. 133, 133–134 (Minn. 1893), found at Google books. Accessed March 30, 2010.
  2. ^ a b N.Y. Civil Law Practice and Rules section 308, found at New York State Assembly website (go to CVP) and JDBar website. All accessed March 29, 2010.
  3. ^ a b NY D.R.L. §15-A, found at New York State Assembly website, go to DOM. Accessed March 30, 2010.
  4. ^ New York Unified Court System, Personal Service of Court Papers Video Transcript, found at New York Unified Court System website. Accessed March 30, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Fred Crane, California Real Estate Property Management, (Zyrus Press, 2007), ISBN 978-1-933990-08-8, found at Google books, accessed March 30, 2010, p. 205, citing Lehr v. Crosby, 123 CA3d Supp. 1 (1981).
  6. ^ a b Glover v. Farmer, 127 N.C. App. 488 (1997), found at North Carolina Courts website, accessed March 29, 2010.
  7. ^ Connelly v. Rodriquez, 73 Misc. 2d 745 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Monroe Co. 1973), found at Google scholar, accessed March 30, 2010.
  8. ^ Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4.1(d), found at website and Rule 5(c) (2) (B) (ii), found at Supreme Court of Arizona website (.pdf). Both accessed March 30, 2010.
  9. ^ California Code of Civil Procedure § 415.46 (c), found at One CLE website. Accessed March 30, 2010.
  10. ^ Louisiana law. Accessed March 29, 2010.
  11. ^ Knopf v. Herta, 180 N.W. 629 (Mich. 1920), found at Google books, accessed March 29, 2010.
  12. ^ Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(d)(1). Cited by National Development Co. v. Triad Holding Corp., 930 F.2d 253 (2d Cir. 1991), para. 18, found at website. Accessed March 29, 2010.
  13. ^ Rules of Court Rule 14 § 7, cited by Palma v. Galvez, G.R. No. 165273 (Republic of the Philippines Sup. Ct., 3d Div. 2010), found at LawPhil Project website, and Madrigal v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 129955 (Republic of the Philippines Sup. Ct., 3d Div. 1999), found at Judiciary of the Philippines government website. Both accessed March 29, 2010.
  14. ^ Philippine National Internal Revenue Code § 208. Procedure for Distraint and Garnishment. Found at Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue government website, accessed March 30, 2010.
  15. ^ Department of Agrarian Reform Rule VII, § 1 (a). Found at Philippine Department of Agrarian Reform government website, accessed March 29, 2010.

See alsoEdit