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What Should I do If I Need an International Divorce and/or International Service on My Spouse to Commence the Case?


First, it is important that you hire an attorney who has experience in seeking international service. If you do not work with an experienced attorney, he or she will not know how to begin researching to take the steps to get this accomplished. Even with an experienced, knowledgeable family law attorney, it is possible that service can take a very long time, generally a minimum of six months but in some cases, depending upon the procedures of the service country, it can take up to eighteen months. Generally, to try to expedite the service process, it is best to hire or work with an attorney who practices in the country where you wish to obtain service. That allows the attorney in that country to give appropriate guidance about the steps necessary, assist with resources for translation if needed and generally ensure that the process is moving forward. In many cases, attorneys for the relevant host country can be found on the International Academy of Family Law Attorneys (IAFL).

It is also important that your knowledgeable, experienced family law attorney understands the ever-evolving and changing law regarding service of process in international countries. For example, recently in Germany, there was a case holding that service through the What’s app messenger platform was not effective even though the party served the paperwork in this manner wrote back and acknowledged having received it. The Hague Convention on Service Aboard (1965 Service Convention) generally outlines the rules for process service in other treaty-signing/participating countries. Similar to the requirements of the Hague Convention on the Abduction of children, if a particular country has not signed and joined the treaty related to service, they are not bound by it. Treaties, of course, are not law, they are simply an agreement among member nations as to the basic tenets of service that will be required. However, even when a country is a signer of the Hague Convention on Service, it is important that your family law attorney research to determine the service country’s own nuances and requirements.

For example, Article 10A of the Hague Convention on Service Abroad provides for service by appropriate postal channels, but at least half of the member countries have objected or opted out of that provision. One upside to using the postal channels, when available and permissible in a service country is generally, they do not require some of the other normal formalities for effecting service such as getting a translation of the paperwork. However, obviously, if you attempt to use postal service channels and the service country has opted out of that service option, your service will be ineffective.

In addition to hiring an attorney in the service country to assist, if the location of the person to be served is not known, you may be required to hire a private investigator in that jurisdiction or country to effectuate service.

If you need to get service in other countries, such as Mexico, the Inter-American Service Convention may apply.

In lieu of all of these sometimes extensive efforts, in some circumstances, it may be worthwhile to ask the other party (where service is required in another country) to sign the acceptance/waiver of service acknowledgment. Obviously, some parties will not cooperate for strategic or other reasons, but in some circumstances, it ends up being the fastest, most cost-effective and expeditious way to effect service of process. However, if you communicate to the other party that you intend to seek attorney fees and costs associated with service if they will not cooperate with signing the voluntary entry of appearance/waiver of service of process, it may be possible to obtain cooperation.

If you have a case or a situation where you believe that International Service may be required, call Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130. Put our knowledge regarding international service to work in your case or situation!