De Vere Intel

The Hague Convention and International Process Serving

June 22, 2021


  • The Hague Convention sets out the rules on serving documents in a jurisdiction other than the one in which the documents were issued, for example serving an English Divorce Petition in France or serving a Summons issued by a US Court in the UK.
  • The rules state that any legal document requiring service must be served in line with the laws and guidelines of the country in which service is to take place, for example English Divorce Papers served in France would need to be served in line with French law while a US Summons to be served in the UK would need to be served in line with British laws.

What is the Hague Convention?

The Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters otherwise known as The Hague Service Convention was ratified on 10 December 1965 in Hague, Netherlands. The Hague Service Convention provides the framework for the serving of legal documents in civil and commercial matters upon individuals who are overseas.

Hague Service Commission

The Hague Service Convention is a multilateral treaty that has been ratified by 68 signatories which includes the United Kingdom, United States of America as well as countries in Europe, the Commonwealth and Latin America. This means that if you want to serve judicial documents such as a divorce petition to a respondent who resides in a country which is also a member of The Hague Service Convention, it is not necessary to make a formal request in the form of a letter rogatory to a foreign court in the jurisdiction of the respondent to serve the divorce petition.

Letter rogatory

A letter rogatory or a letter of request is a procedure whereby a foreign court is requested to provide judicial assistance. In the remit of process serving, the judicial assistance will be in the form of serving documents upon an individual within the court’s jurisdiction. The key limitation of a letter rogatory is that formal requests have to pass through diplomatic channels before reaching the foreign court which can lead to undue delay. The Hague Service Convention aims to reduce bureaucracy by providing ‘one main channel for transmission’ of legal documents through the Central Authority of the requested State. In England and Wales, the Central Authority is located at the Royal Courts of Justice and documents would need to be written or translated into the English language.

The Hague Convention has paved the way for the straightforward and expedient service of legal documents between signatory states by strengthening mutual judicial assistance. However, signatory states have reserved the right to impose restrictions on the implementation of the Hague Convention. For example, under the law of England and Wales, a British process server does not fall within the meaning of a “competent person” under Article 10 Hague Service Convention. Therefore, a ruling of ineffective service may be held by an American court if a private process server was used to affect service on the addressee of the judicial document in Great Britain. In 2003, the UK confirmed this position and stated a clear preference for direct service on residents of England and Wales being effected through a solicitor in this jurisdiction. What is not clearly stated is what means the English solicitor may use to serve the documents in question.

Why Use De Vere Intellica

  • We have extensive experience of serving legal papers in the UK on behalf of clients based elsewhere in the world.
  • We often arrange for service to take place outside the UK on behalf of our UK clients. To ensure “good service” takes place we have a network of trusted agents worldwide who are able to ensure service is completed in line with the Hague Convention and can provide suitable evidence of service.

Should you be dealing with a matter which requires (British) legal documents be served abroad or if you require non-UK documents to be served in the UK please do not hesitate to contact us – we are happy to explain the process and provide a quote, both for standard and urgent matters.

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