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U.S. Marshals Service

Service of Process

Writ of Attachment

A writ of attachment is a form of prejudgment process in which the court orders the seizure or attachment of property specifically described in the writ. Such property is seized and maintained in the custody of a designated official, usually the U.S. Marshal, under order and supervision of the court. A writ of attachment is commonly used by a plaintiff to secure a contingent lien on a defendant's property in the event that the plaintiff obtains a judgment against the defendant.

There are various types of attachments including garnishment, sequestration and replevin.

Territorial Limits:  The writ is normally limited to execution within the state in which the district court is held unless extended by federal statute, rule or court order.

Issued By:  The clerk of the U.S. District or Bankruptcy Court issues a writ, under seal, at the request of a party, upon order of a judge.

Served By:  The writ is served by a U.S. Marshal or another person, presumably a law enforcement officer, specially appointed by the court under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4.1(a). 

Manner of Service A U.S. Marshal will serve a writ according to the instructions contained in it and in accordance with state law, which governs procedures for attachment.  The requesting party may be ordered to provide an indemnity bond and an advance deposit to cover the U.S. Marshal's estimated out-of-pocket expenses.   The requesting party should accompany the U.S. Marshal in executing the writ in case questions arise during the execution.  Generally, the U.S. Marshal will maintain custody of the attached property under court supervision. Alternatively, the requesting party may be named substitute custodian for the U.S. Marshal and maintain direct responsibility for custody of the attached property, either by court order or by written agreement with the U.S. Marshal. If the requesting party has arranged for moving or storage of the property, he or she must provide the U.S. Marshal with written proof that the storage fees have been paid and adequate insurance against loss or damage has been obtained as evidenced by an insurance certificate. In addition, if the requesting party is named substitute custodian, he or she must provide a custodian, and he or she must provide the U.S. Marshal with a signed statement holding the U.S. Marshal harmless for any damages incurred as a result of the seizure while the property is in his or her custody.

Return:  The individual who effects service will provide proof of service by recording on the writ a description of the action taken according to the instructions contained in it.

Note:  The information related to the service of court process that is contained on this web site is general information and not intended to be an exhaustive or definitive explanation or depiction of Federal rules of procedures for the service of process.  Readers are directed to the Federal Rules of Criminal and Civil Procedure; personal legal counsel; the United States Code, Titles 18 and 28; their local U.S. Attorney's Office and District Court for specific, authoritative guidance. is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice