Serving Documents to International Parties on Civil and Commercial Matters

Suppose you have a civil or commercial dispute with an individual or entity located in a different country. How would you go about serving pertinent documents to them? Dozens of countries have attempted to address this issue by signing a multilateral agreement, The Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, more commonly called the Hague Service Convention commonly referred to as the Hague Service Convention, to streamline this process.

The first meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, occurred in the 19th century and addressed international adjudication of war crimes. Since then, signatory countries have addressed a number of issues, including international custody of children, drug control, and protection for cultural architects in the event of war. The treaty that deals with serving documents concerning civil and commercial matters (but not criminal matters), referred to as the Hague Service Commission, was established in 1965. The United States was one of the first signers of that treaty, along with Germany, Finland, the United Kingdom, and other early adopters.

Routine Service of Documents

Prior to the Hague Service Convention, litigants would need to sign a letter of rogatory to serve a legal notice in another country, which would take a significant amount of time and involve many intermediaries. The Hague Service Convention’s aim is to streamline this process by giving litigants a more effective way to serve documents. In the case of most countries that have adopted the Hague Service Convention, the documents intending to be served would be sent to a designated central figure who would then forward the materials to the appropriate legal authority in the appropriate jurisdiction.

Forms used by Hague Convention countries are somewhat uniform, which helps simplify the serving process. Letters of rogatory differ wildly and require more time to process. A third benefit of the Hague Service Convention is that the items are cheaper than other, older methods of service. 

India’s Declarations to Hague Convention

Every country differs slightly on its terms under the Hague Service Convention. India, home to 1.3 billion people and the world’s largest democracy, has been part of the Hague Service Convention since 2007. There are a few special conditions to the Hague Service Convention that India designated as follows:

  • Documents for service must be written in the English language or accompanied by a translator.
  • Documents cannot be served via mail.
  • Documents must be served in India indirectly via the proper authority.
  • Documents under the Hague Service Convention cannot be served directly to the defendants in India by a private judicial officer.

What this Means for You

Do not make a mistake. If your spouse is overseas, and your country of origin is covered under the Hague Convention, then you must serve properly under the Hague Convention. For example, if you are from India, and you have the spouse served through a friend or by mail, then the service is deemed improper. 

The Hague Service Convention streamlines the process of serving documents to parties living in another country. However, it is still important to enlist experienced legal guidance for your civil or commercial dispute. Please contact Madan today to get started with a consultation and see how he can help alleviate your situation.