How to Prepare and Serve a Summons in a civil case

Step 1. Prepare the Summons Form

A Summons tells a person they are being sued and where and when to respond to the lawsuit.  When you file the Complaint or Petition to open a case, you should also fill out a Summons form.  There are different forms based on the type of case. 

  1. Eviction Summons
  2. Small Claims Summons
  3. Summons Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union
  4. Summons (use if #1-3 do not fit your case type)

E-filing is mandatory with limited exceptions.  If e-filing the Summons form at the same time as other documents, such as the Petition, file the Summons as a separate document and use the "Summons Issued" filing code.

Once the e-file has been accepted, an email will be sent which contains a link to the file-stamped documents.  Print the summons and the document(s) to be served (usually the Complaint or Petition).   

Step 2. Fee Waiver Request (optional)

If you don't think you can afford to pay the court fees, costs and charges in your civil case, you can submit an Application for Waiver of Court Fees either at the same time you file the Complaint/Petition and Summons or at any time during the court case .   A judge will review the application and decide how much you are able to pay.  It may be none of the filing fees, a partial amount, or all of them.   If you make a Fee Waiver Request, wait until the the Circuit Clerk's office contacts you to tell you how much you will need to pay to file the case, if anything.  This will be stated on the Order for Waiver of Court Fees and applies to various court-related fees such as filing fees, service of process fees, publication fees, mediation, guardian ad litem fees, and others listed in 735 ILCS 5/5-105(a)(2)(1)

  • If you don't have to pay any fees and have not yet e-filed the Summons form, log into the e-file service provider and use the "File into Existing Case" option.  Once the e-filing has been accepted, you will receive an automated email containing a link for you to print the documents.  Deliver all the documents, including the Fee Waiver Order, to the Sheriff or private process server as explained below.
  • If you have to pay filing fees, the Circuit Clerk's office will tell you the amount owed when they call and explain the payment options.  Once the fees are paid, you can proceed with having the Summons and Complaint/Petition served.

Step 3. Serve the Summons and Complaint or Petition

Take the Summons and documents to a Sheriff's office or to a private process server, to be served (given to the other party).

Service by Sheriff

If the party to be served lives in Peoria County there a few ways to deliver the Summons and related documents. You only need to use one of these methods.

  • Hand deliver to the Sheriff's office in the basement (Room B-20) of the Peoria County Courthouse.
  • Mail to Peoria County Sheriff's Office, 324 Main St., Room B20, Peoria, IL 61602
  • Fax to 309-495-4965 (DO  NOT USE FOR FORCIBLE PAPERS) 

                       A few other things to note if using the Peoria County Sheriff:

  • All papers brought to the sheriff for service need to be filed with the Circuit Clerk’s office first (either e-filed or in person or by mail if an exemption applies)
  • Besides the summons, there will also need a copy of the complaint or petition (this is the document that tells the other party they are being sued and how to respond)
  • There is a fee for service unless a fee waiver has been obtained.  You will need to provide your mailing address for billing and also your phone number or email in case there are questions or additional information needed.
  • All forcible papers require a Tru-attest seal.  Examples of a forcible paper would be an Eviction order or Replevin order.  In these cases, the Sheriff is directed to use any and all force necessary to cause possession of the premises to be surrendered to the Plaintiff and to ensure that the Plaintiff is able to take possession thereof and securing possession to the Plaintiff.  Therefore, forcible papers can only be delivered to the sheriff for service in person or by mail. Emailing or faxing this type of paper is not acceptable.

If the party to be served lives outside of Peoria County, contact the Sheriff in the county where the other party lives and follow their process for serving a summons.

Service by Private Process Server

Go here to access the Approved Statewide Forms for Preparing a Motion to Appoint a Special Process Server.

Step 4. Proof of Service

Once the papers have been served, the Sheriff or private process server will send you an Affidavit or Certificate of Service as proof the summons was served to the other party.  This document needs to be delivered to the Circuit Clerk's office and put on your case record, either by e-file or in person/by mail if an e-file exemption applies.  This Proof of Service (or sometimes Proof of Non-Service) must be on your case record prior to your next court date.  


If you have any questions about filing your documents with the Circuit Clerk's office, please contact the clerk for the county in which your case is filed.

If you have any questions about filing your documents with the Peoria County Sheriff's Office, please contact them at 309-672-6040.