Figuring out how to serve process in a foreign country takes a little know-how.
Serving process means delivering legal notice to someone which requires that person to appear in court. When you sue someone, you need to notify them legally that they are being sued and need to appear in court.
In the U.S., serving process is fairly simple - just find the person and deliver the summons. When serving process to someone outside the country, however, it gets much more complex. Different countries all have their own requirements for legal matters, and they must be followed in order to pursue legal action.
Serving Process in a Foreign Country
For instance, if your accountant takes off to France with the contents of your company's bank account, you need to be able to serve process to her (and probably her bank) in France to get your money back. There are several ways to go about this, with varying levels of success and expense.
Hiring someone to find your assistant, then serve process to her is the most direct way to go, but the expense related to service of process in this way is usually prohibitive. Before you can get any satisfaction, you may spend thousands of dollars just to get her into court. Both the summons and instructions also need to be provided in the foreign language, and not all Hague Convention nations accept this type of service of process, so you need to be aware of the regulations in that particular country.
For countries who follow the Hague Convention (France is one), there are two basic options for serving process, along with one that is simpler but less effective.
Serving process through letters rogatory involves having the local court send a formal request to the court in the local jurisdiction to which the defendant has fled. Personnel in that jurisdiction then serve process on your local court's behalf. The summons may or may not need to be translated into the foreign language for this to occur. The letters rogatory process is effective but complicated.
Before a trial or lawsuit against someone in a foreign country can proceed, a summons must be sent to them in that country.
Service by Central Authority
The Hague Convention also provides for a summons to be delivered by the police of that country directly, rather than through letters rogatory from an American court. Such a summons must be translated for the foreign court to be able to understand it. This is a more simple process than letters rogatory, and is accepted by most Hague Convention nations.
International Registered or Certified Mail
It is tempting to use mail that requires the recipient to confirm receipt, but many lawyers are very nervous about this process. It is much less costly than service by a foreign court, but there could be problems if the signature is challenged later.
In most cases, the mail carrier will not be able to identify that the person who signed for the letter is the intended recipient, which means that the defendant could claim that they were never served at all. The chances of getting a foreign mail carri er to testify are very slim, even if they do remember, so using one of the other methods is preferred.
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