Friday, May 6, 2011

How Lawyers Violate the Law in Foreign Service

It is easy for an attorney to unknowingly violate the laws of a foreign nation when serving legal documents abroad. Many lawyers do not realize that some countries have significant restrictions related to service of process. The consequences can be serious, including civil and criminal penalties.

The Hague Service Convention is the primary treaty between participating nations related to service of process. Some nations have made reservations to the Convention when they became a signatory to the treaty prohibiting service by any means other than service through their Central Authority. The most common prohibition is against the use of private process servers.

These Hague nations prohibit service by private process server: Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Norway, Slovenia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Turkey and Venezuela.

China, Germany, and Switzerland consider service that is in violation of the Hague Service Convention an infringement on their sovereignty and impose criminal penalties against all parties in the service chain, including the plaintiff, plaintiff’s attorney, and process server. In addition, civil penalties may be imposed on the same parties for violating the terms of the treaty.

The solution is simple: Consult with a reputable international process service company for guidance as to applicable laws in the country where service is being contemplated. They will keep the attorney, and their client, in safe waters.

Nelson Tucker is CEO of Process Service Network, LLC that specializes in international service of process. He can be contacted at or through the firm’s website at


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