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Serving someone in a foreign country

Can I serve someone in a foreign country with court papers?

Yes, but serving someone in a foreign country can be complicated. International treaties may apply and some countries have stated that they object to some service methods. So how you serve someone may depend on where the opposing party is. Also, be aware that the orders or judgment from your case may not be enforceable in another country. If possible, you should speak with an attorney to discuss these issues.

How do I serve the opposing party who lives outside the United States?

There are several ways to serve someone, depending on whether the country where they are has agreed to an international treaty on service and whether the country has objected to a specific method of service. Each method has pros and cons. This website provides information about serving someone by mail which is one of the easiest and least expensive methods. You should speak with an attorney if possible to discuss which method to use.

Can I serve by mail?

You can serve by mail in many countries but some have objected to mail service. Please check the U.S. State Department’s website to see if the country where the defendant lives accepts service by mail. Enter the country into the search box or click on the map and it will provide a list of information, including whether service by mail is accepted.

You should review the U.S. State Department’s website about service of process, to learn about the different options if mail is not accepted.

How do I serve by mail?

You have 2 options. You can use:

  1. the U.S. Postal Service and send by international registered mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested, or
  2. an international express mail company, restricted delivery, return receipt required.

How does the U.S. Postal Service international registered mail work?

  1. Figure out whether the foreign country has mail service for international registered mail. Read the U.S. Post Office International Mail Manual:
  2. At the Post Office, tell the clerk that you’d like to send the documents by international registered mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested. Fill out PS Form 2865, Return Receipt for International Mail. This is a pink card that is attached to the registered mail when it is sent. When the mail is delivered, the opposing party should sign the pink card which will be removed and sent back to you by airmail. The signed pink card provides the sender with evidence of delivery. Be aware that even though you are requesting a signed return receipt, the foreign country’s regulations may not require the addressee's signature. For more information about registered mail and return receipt requests, please read the U.S. Postal Service special services information on the Internet.
  3. Once you receive the pink card back in the mail, hold on to it because you will need to file it with the court to show you served the opposing party.

How much does it cost to send registered mail, restricted delivery with a return receipt?

The U.S. Postal Service website has information on current prices for international services.

What if I don't get the pink card back?

You should consult with an attorney to understand all the other methods for serving someone in a foreign country. If you can’t get an attorney, call the Family Law Self-Help Services who may be able to give you helpful information about your options.

Can I serve by using an international express mail service?

Yes. You can serve by any form of mail requiring a signed receipt by the person you are serving. To find a company that specializes in delivering things to foreign countries, try searching “international express mail” on the Internet. Make sure that the company:

These companies generally cost more than the U.S. Postal Service, but often guarantee quicker service.

Make sure you keep the receipt after the documents have been delivered. You will need to provide this to the court to prove you served the opposing party.

What if the foreign country objects to service by mail?

You should talk to an attorney about the other options for service. Please visit the U.S. State Department’s website to understand the different methods of service.

Do I have to translate the documents that I serve?

It depends. You have to translate the Complaint, Summons and other legal documents into the opposing party’s native language if he/she DOES NOT sufficiently understand English. If the opposing party DOES sufficiently understand English, you may not have to translate the Complaint, Summons and other legal documents into their language. However, the laws of the foreign country may require translation into the official language of the foreign country to be served.

The U.S. State Department’s website has country-specific information, which may including translation requirements.

Can I enforce an Alaska court judgment in another country?

Enforcing a judgment from an Alaska case in a foreign country is usually problematic. It depends on the laws of the foreign country. To help make sure you meet the foreign requirements for enforcement, you should consult attorneys in Alaska AND the foreign country as early as possible in the Alaska court case. You should do this even before filing the Complaint and serving the opposing party. The U.S. State Department has information about retaining a foreign attorney, and also a list of foreign attorneys.

Do I need to tell the court how I served the other party?

Yes. You must show proof of service before the court enters a

You can file the following form if you are serving by mail:

Make sure you attach the proof of service.

How much time does someone in a foreign country have to answer a complaint in Alaska?

A defendant who is in a foreign country has 40 days to file an answer in the Alaska court from the time he/she is served with the plaintiff’s complaint and summons. The defendant also must serve the answer on the plaintiff within 40 days.

If the plaintiff shows that he/she properly served the defendant and the defendant does not file an answer, the plaintiff may ask the court to enter a default judgment.

Where can I get information about a specific foreign country and service of process?

The U.S. State Department’s website has country-specific information, including service information.

Rev. 23 September 2015
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