Why Would Olivia Wilde Get Served Legal Papers Onstage of All Places? A Legal Expert Explains

A family law attorney weighs in on Olivia Wilde being served legal documents pertaining to her children with Jason Sudeikis while on stage at her CinemaCon event on Tuesday

When Olivia Wilde was served legal documents while on stage discussing her new film at CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Tuesday, it caused something of a public spectacle.

Attendees at the event watched as Wilde, 38, was interrupted while speaking about her upcoming thriller Don't Worry Darling, when a woman approached the stage and tossed a manila envelope towards the filmmaker. The contents of the envelope were later confirmed to be legal documents pertaining to her children with ex-fiancé Jason Sudeikis. (While Wilde and Sudeikis, 46, share son Otis, 8, and daughter Daisy Josephine, 5, the former couple were never married.)

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David Glass, a family law attorney in Southern California, speaks with PEOPLE about how process servers — those who hand deliver legal and court documents such as subpoenas, summonses, warrants and more to concerned parties — go about their work, and whether doing so in public is generally acceptable.

Director and actress Olivia Wilde attends Warner Bros. Pictures "The Big Picture" presentation at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon 2022, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, on April 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage; Jason Sudeikis, winner of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for 'Ted Lasso', poses in the press room during the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A. LIVE on September 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
Olivia Wilde (L); Jason Sudeikis. Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage; Rich Fury/Getty

How Do Process Servers Choose Where to Serve Legal Documents?

"The process server follows the directions of the attorney who hired him or her," Glass says, adding that lawyers generally ask clients where the opposing party is likely to be, in order to facilitate the delivery of necessary documents. (Sources close to Sudeikis insist the actor would never have advocated for this method of delivery, and had no control over the location choice.)

"We always start with the easiest place and we try to do it at a time when the kids are not going to be around," Glass continues. "In fact, before even going with a process server, most times I will send an email to the opposing party and attach all the documents to say, 'Please give this to your attorney and have your attorney contact me.' "

When that doesn't work, process servers become involved. Regarding the law involving process servers approaching the concerned parties, Glass specifies that "they can't be in a private location. They can't climb over the wall to get into your house. If you live behind gates, they can't come into a private club to serve you. But anywhere public, if they can get close to you, they just have to get close to you [and] hand you the envelope, or in this case, sliding across the floor [and] say, 'This is for you.' And as soon as the person says, 'I got it' and picks it up, that effectuates service."

He also mentions that process servers "first have to try to get it to the person themselves," doing "everything you can" to hand off the documents to the concerned party before going to another adult who lives in the same household, or "someone who's identified in the public records as able to accept service." The server also cannot first hand off the papers to the person's attorney, until the attorney "has entered their appearance" — meaning that he or she has officially filed documents themselves or appeared in court in regard to the case at hand.

RELATED VIDEO: Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis End Engagement After 7 Years: 'Their Children Are the Priority'

Why Would The Process Server Choose Such a Public Venue?

Of course, the difference between a process server approaching the targeted party in public on the street or — as in this week's instance with Wilde — onstage at an event is a big one, but Glass says "it's not unheard of."

"Process servers have been known to, you know, hide in bushes and behind garbage cans and jump out and surprise people who were being difficult. And in fact, over almost 20 years ago, I was involved in a case and we had to serve Steve Garvey, the baseball player, who wasn't making himself available," Glass says. "He was hiding, he was always staying inside. And we found out that he was going to be speaking at this seminar. And so my boss at the time had our process server buy a ticket, went into the event and basically the same thing that they did here, walked up on stage and gave it to them. I wouldn't have approved it, but that's what my boss did. And so it's not unheard of, but it's not a frequent occurrence."

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As for the similar situation involving Wilde in Nevada this week, a source close to her ex-partner Sudeikis maintained in a statement that the Ted Lasso star "had no prior knowledge of the time or place that the envelope would have been delivered as this would solely be up to the process service company involved and he would never condone her being served in such an inappropriate manner."

Could This Spectacle Impact Custody?

Glass says it's unlikely even the ugly spectacle of being served onstage would negatively impact Sudeikis' custody rights. (And the papers being served pertained solely to jurisdiction of the custody arrangements, and not a change in custodial arrangements.)

"There are 12 or 13 factors that the court has to look at, [to] determine the best interests of the children, the parenting experience and how much time they've spent with each parent," he says.

"But one of those factors is how do you treat the other parent?" Glass says, adding that "causing embarrassment" could be viewed negatively.

"I don't think it'll ultimately sway those 12 or 13 factors they're going to look at, but it is one factor. And it's not going to be looked on favorably."

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