That Ship Has Sailed: Serving Your Overseas Spouse with Your Complaint for Divorce

Posted By Law Office of Adelola Sheralynn Dow, PLLC || 14-Jan-2012

As residents of the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area we are truly inhabitants of the "crossroads of the world." It is no wonder that many of us have spouses with ties to other countries, or even spouses who live in other countries. So, what happens when the "ship sails" on your marriage, your spouse has "skipped" the country and you need to serve him or her with your New York or New Jersey Complaint for Divorce?

All documents initiating a divorce suit in New York or New Jersey must be personally served upon the defendant. The "Convention of November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters," also known as "The Hague Convention on Service" is a major treaty which governs service of a person located in another country.

Only 64 states (countries) "participate" in the treaty. Those countries include Mexico, Sweden, Poland, France, Greece, Italy, Malawi, India, Bahamas, Barbados, etc. Only documents originated in a "participating" country and to be served in another "participating" country can be served using the Hague Convention on Service. The documents to be served must pertain to a civil or commercial matter, so documents regarding criminal issues may not be served using The Hague Convention on Service. You must know the address of the person to be served in order to use The Convention.

Now we can get to the "How" of the equation. First, an authorized officer or judicial official of the state of New York or New Jersey (A United States Attorney or Other Judicial Officer) must present a Request for Service form, a Summary of Proceedings form and a copy of the documents to be served to the Central Authority (authorized agency to receive international requests for service) in the foreign country. If the country is non-English speaking, the Central Authority may require the documents to be translated into that country's official language. Second, the Central Authority will arrange for service in the manner requested by the requesting official, or by such other method of service that is authorized in that country. Once the document is served, the Central Authority will prepare a Certificate of Service verifying that the defendant was served.

Timing is a major issue in the international service of an action for divorce. For example, New York requires the defendant to be served within 120 days of filing the action with the County Clerk. The process of having the documents translated by a certified translator, having your spouse served in another country and receiving the Certificate of Service back from the Central Authority can take months. It is important to have your spouse's correct address and to use an attorney familiar with international service before you start this process. I have successfully served overseas spouses for years and can help you complete your divorce. I look forward to hearing from you.

© Copyright 2012, by A. Sheralynn Dow, Esq., the author reserves all rights to the material set forth herein.

Categories: Divorce