How to Serve Divorce Papers Out of Country


Most states require you to take all necessary measures to serve your spouse with divorce papers. Serving these papers to someone who is abroad can be complex because of foreign laws. The international law involved may not be applicable to all countries. There are different options that you may take to serve divorce papers out of the country. Any of these options depends on your circumstances such as the immediacy with which you wish for the papers to be served.

  • Locate your spouse if you do not know where he is by contacting the Overseas Citizens Services. Furnish the office with your name and contacts, the name of your spouse, his date and place of birth, passport number and the reason you would like to know his whereabouts. Reach the office at 1-888-407-4747, if you are calling from the U.S. or Canada and 202-501-4444 if you are calling outside these two countries.

  • Find out if the country your spouse is in is a member of the Hague Service Convention, a multilateral treaty dealing with international service of legal documents. Consult the U.S. Department of State website to find out which countries are members. Use this information in serving the documents through the letter rogatory or the central authority methods. The letter rogatory is a letter of request written by your state court to the court in the country where your spouse is. It requests the court to serve the divorce papers to your spouse. The central authority method is when a central authority, such as an attorney, in the country where your spouse is, serves your spouse with the divorce papers.

  • Ask your state court to write a letters rogatory or a letter of request. Indicate to the court that your spouse is overseas and you need assistance with serving him with a divorce summons. This method is used if you need assistance with the courts and do not want to be billed serving costs.Provide the court with information about the location of your spouse and personal details such as name and address. The court will request the appropriate overseas court to serve your spouse with the divorce summons.

  • Request the form USM 94 from the U.S. Marshal's Office to serve the papers using the central authority method. Complete the form and send it together with two copies of the divorce papers to the Department of State, Office of Policy Review and Inter-Agency Liaison. This office will transmit the documents to a central authority (such as the attorney general) in the overseas country. The central authority will serve the papers to your spouse. You will be billed for the service when using this method.

  • Ask your local post office whether the country your spouse is in accepts international mail. Fill out the international registered mail form with the post office and send the documents to your spouse. Receive a receipt as evidence that the documents were delivered. File the receipt with the court as proof that you served your spouse with the divorce papers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ensure that all documents are translated to the language of the country your spouse is in, if this is a requirement.

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