Service is one of the important first steps in any legal matter and this is especially true in international divorce. When you commence a court proceeding, you are required to serve the opposing party to ensure that they receive the information about the case and have the opportunity to respond. Because of this, if you commence family court proceedings, your ex-spouse needs to be served. This applies even if you are only seeking a divorce and/or do not anticipate your ex-spouse to contest the proceedings.
So, how do you manage an international divorce if your ex-spouse lives in another country?
If the opposing party lives abroad, the manner of service will depend on a couple of factors.
– What country does your ex-spouse live in?
– Do you know the address of your ex-spouse?
Depending on the country your ex-spouse lives in, they may have to be served through a special process outlined in the Hague Service Convention (the Convention). Countries that are party to the Convention must follow specific rules for service.
At present, there are 79 contracting countries to the Hague Convention in various countries all over the world, including:
- United States
- Most of Europe
- Others can be found here
Each contracting country designates a central authority to receive documents for service from other contracting countries. One of the requirements of the Convention is that a competent authority or judicial officer of that country forward the documents using special prescribed application forms. A lawyer is considered a competent authority for this process. As such, a non-lawyer cannot typically send these forms themselves.
What does the application include?
The application forms include a letter of request, a list and description of the documents to be served and a certificate of service for the foreign court to complete and return. Each country also has specific other requirements as well. For example, there may be a fee associated with the service or translation requirements. The Convention does not apply when the address of the person to be served is not known. However, there are other steps that a lawyer can assist you with, such as applying to the court for an order of subservice or the dispensing of the service requirement.
Once your court documents have been filed and served you can then proceed to finalize your family matter.
If you are looking to start a family proceeding against someone in another country; whether you have already filed your paperwork, and just need assistance with service, or are looking for a lawyer to help you complete the whole process, one of our family lawyers are here to help. Please contact us at 204-977-1706 to schedule a consult and learn more about the process and our fees or click here for more information.
Heidi Dyck is an associate at Wolseley Law LLP