Challenges with International Service of Process

Challenges with International Service of Process
June 22, 2017 process

3 Challenges Most Attorneys Cannot Overcome on Their Own
by Nelson Tucker
CEO, Process Service Network, LLC

Remember when you were in law school and you took the class on International Service of Process? Of course, you don’t; it wasn’t offered. In today’s shrinking world and expanding global economy, it is likely that you will soon be faced with having to serve a defendant in a foreign country – what do you do?

Challenge #1: Serving a defendant/respondent with a summons in a foreign nation can appear to be overwhelming. There are treaties, service options, requirements in the other country, limits imposed by your local court, and misleading information on the Internet. Filtering through all of the data is time consuming and expensive. Understanding the restrictions of each formal method and the advantages of one over the other can be quite frustrating.

The 2 basic methods of formal service are the Hague Service Convention, a treaty between nations which have ratified its provisions, and Letters Rogatory, a formal request from the court of jurisdiction to the court of destination seeking judicial assistance in having documents served. This method requires translation into the official language of the country where service is to be made and takes several months, depending on the country.

An option is informal service by private process server. This method normally requires a court order if service is to be made in a Hague nation. It is used when enforcement of judgment in the foreign country is not anticipated and when time is critical. Service in most nations takes a few days or up to one month, depending on the availability of the defendant/respondent. Such service will generally satisfy the local court but not result in an enforceable judgment in the country where the documents are served.

Challenge #2: Taking a foreign deposition or obtaining evidence abroad is even more complicated. While there are two basic methods for making a formal request for production of evidence or taking a deposition, neither may be effective if the witness refuses to comply.

If a country is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters, a Letter of Request is prepared and issued by the court of jurisdiction, then served through the appropriate Central Authority where the witness is located. If the nation where service is to be made is not a signatory, a Letter of Request (Letters Rogatory) is slightly altered and forwarded to the appropriate Central Authority. This process takes several months.

An alternative in many countries is informal service by private process server. However, such service is not enforceable if the witness fails to comply. In reality, no matter the method of service, if a witness refuses to comply there is no practical means to compel compliance due to the time and cost required to enforce the action.

Challenge #3: Enforcing a judgment against a cross-border defendant can be the greatest challenge of all. You will need the services of an attorney who specializes in enforcement of foreign judgments.
The Solution: Contact an international legal support service which will provide free advice as to the appropriate method for service and utilize their services to maximize the result and minimize the cost to your client.

Nelson Tucker is CEO of Process Service Network, LLC located in Chatsworth, California. His firm has been serving the legal profession for 39 years and has affiliate offices in 7 countries. He is an Associate Member of the American Bar Association (ABA), and the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) as a non-attorney member. He specializes in international, hard-to-serve, and celebrity service of process. He can be reached at 800-417-7623 or


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