If you are filing for a divorce here in the United States, but your spouse lives in England, you will have to use international service of process to serve the divorce papers on your spouse. This is required by US law because only after the divorce papers have been personally served on your spouse does the US divorce court obtain jurisdiction over your spouse. Without that jurisdiction, the US divorce court will not have the full authority necessary to order the division of marital assets, make decisions about child custody and order alimony and child support payments. US courts cannot generally order a person to do something (or refrain from doing something) unless and until the court has jurisdiction.
International service of process is generally done through the procedures adopted by various countries that have signed the Hague Service Convention (“HSC”), an international treaty negotiated in 1965. The HSC is the main international treaty that allows international service of court papers across national borders.
If you need help with serving divorce papers in England, call us here at Ancillary Legal. Ancillary Legal offers help with the Hague Service Convention international service of process for England, Wales, Scotland, and other nations. Contact us for a no-obligation consultation. We accept orders over the phone at (404) 459-8006 and via email.
In general, each country that signs the HSC can choose one or all of the options provided by the HSC. Under the HSC, England allows all three forms of international service of process: service via the Central Authority, service via mail, and service via a process server who is supervised by a lawyer — called a “solicitor” in England. We recommend the third option even though it is more expensive. It is the best option for obtaining service that is satisfactory to US courts.
Here is a quick rundown of each process.
Each country that has signed the HSC creates what is called its “Central Authority.” This is the department — usually part of the Ministry or Department of Justice — to which the court papers are delivered for hand-delivery by a local agent. In brief, this is what is to be done:
According to our information, using the English Central Authority for international service of process is not very effective. Instead of a local agent, the English Central Authority sends the court documents through the Royal Mail. But, if the recipient fails to sign for the papers, the service is “no good.” The Proof of Service that is returned will indicate that no service was accomplished.
The second option is service via mail. This is similar to sending a certified-signature-required letter in the US. This might work, but, again, if the recipient fails to sign for the letter, then service will be “no good.”
The best option, then, is to accomplish international service of process via an English solicitor. The packet of US court documents is sent to the solicitor, who then hires a local English company that hand-delivers the court papers. A satisfactory Proof of Service is returned, and that is filed with the local US court.
For more information, contact Ancillary Legal at (404) 459-8006. We have the experience, staffing, and resources to help you satisfy the requirements for proper and valid international service of process. We focus on litigation support domestically and internationally and can ensure that your time can stay focused on the substance of your matter and not procedural technicalities. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.