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Serving Process on Those Living Elsewhere

If you are serving process on someone in your hometown, the procedure is fairly straightforward. However, many court cases involve defendants who live across the country or even halfway around the world. Serving process on such individuals involves much more than simply stopping by their homes or dropping off papers at their place of employment. Although this does not constitute legal advice, here is a guide to some of the issues involved in serving process to those who are not nearby.

Out of State
If the person who will be served lived in another state, the matter may be somewhat complicated. Laws and procedures vary widely, so always seek the advice of a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction prior to proceeding. One of the more common options is to hire a process server in that person's location. If you know where the recipient lives, this may be the easiest option, although it may not be permissible or practical in every situation.

If you have the recipient's exact address, you may be able to serve process by certified mail. Some jurisdictions allow this option more readily more for out of state defendants, but it is still important to check with an attorney to determine the laws in your area.

If you are unable to locate the defendant, you may be able to serve process by publication. This is normally done through publication in the defendant's hometown newspaper. If you do not know the city in which he or she resides, it may be done by publication in a national newspaper such as USA Today. Service by publication is carefully governed by a series of laws and procedures. Proper legal advice must be obtained before choosing this route.

If the person on whom you wish to serve process is living abroad, the procedure is exceptionally complicated. Various countries are party to either the Hague Service Convention or the Inter-American Service Convention. These treaties, in part, govern the service of process to those who live in member countries, providing an expedited means of delivery. In general, service of process is easier in countries that are party to one of the above treaties. However, some of the Hague Service Convention countries do not accept service by mail. This provision is honored as part of the treaty.

If you wish to serve process to someone who resides in a country not covered by either of the treaties, you can generally hire a process server in the location where the recipient resides. Many countries also allow service by international registered mail.

Letter rogatory is a method in which a court in one country sends a letter requesting judicial assistance to a court in another country. While this procedure is often used to gather evidence, it can also be used for process service. In some countries, this is the only allowable means of process serving.

Serving process to someone who lives abroad is extraordinarily complicated. It should never be attempted without the assistance of an international attorney who is well-versed in the laws of the country involved. You can find more general information on the topic at the State Department's website:

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