Our Services: Serving Documents in Germany
As Germany does not have a tradition of using private process servers, often the best approach for those based abroad looking to serve formal court documents in German is to work alongside German lawyers. Employing a local German bailiff (Gerichtsvollzieher) is another option that is pursued in cases where German civil procedure rules demand formal service by way of personal delivery. However, working alongside German bailiffs can often involve time delays and frustration. It is not uncommon for language barriers to play a role, and getting in contact with a local Gerichtsvollzieher can also take a lot of time. Working with German lawyers is often more efficient and ensures that you are fully aware of the process at all times. The lawyers at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte prioritise timely customer service and are your reliable legal partner in such matters.
Working with our German lawyers ensures that you are not limited by location, as is the case with the need to employ a German bailiff in the local area. Our team is available nationwide. In some circumstances, largely depending on how well the recipient in Germany understands English, there may be a requirement to provide a certified translation of the documents in German. Our lawyers will inform you of whether this translation is required and ensure that it is carried out in the correct manner. Furthermore, we will oversee the certification of documents if required.
Service of Process in Germany
If you are serving documents in Germany from abroad, it is usually the Hague Service Convention that governs the requirements. For example, when serving judicial and extrajudicial documents from the USA, the Hague Convention is vital as both countries have ratified the agreement. The Hague Convention outlines that each of the states must have a central national authority for the service of documents responsible for accepting requests for service from abroad and serving judicial documents in the country.
Article 2 of the Convention states:
Each Contracting State shall designate a Central Authority which will undertake to receive requests for service coming from other Contracting States and to proceed in conformity with the provisions of Articles 3 to 6. Each State shall organise the Central Authority in conformity with its own law.
However, there is no one Central Authority in Germany, and instead, all 16 Federal States have their own Central Authority. Working with a Central Authority in Germany involves finding the Central Authority in the state (Bundesland) where the recipient is based. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our lawyers will assist you in this matter, and we are widely experienced in working with the different Central Authorities in Germany. There are differences between how the Central Authorities respond to requests, as Central Authorities in states with lower populations tend to be faster than those with larger populations. It is worth consulting with a German legal partner as Central Authorities can be quite strict regarding the requests they accept. Small mistakes can result in application rejection.
Documents sent from the USA to Germany should have a German translation. Although English is widely spoken in Germany, under Article 5(a) of the Hague Convention, it is required that the translation be sent with the original. Litigants should not simply rely on the reputation of Germans and their language ability. Documents may also need to be translated into additional languages depending on the recipient and their understanding of English and German. The documents need to be reasonably understood by the defendant to fulfil due process requirements.
If the documents are correct and fulfil the necessary conditions under Article 5(a), the German Central Authority will then send them to the recipient by using the postal services. Direct mail from the litigant to the recipient is provided for generally under Article 10 of the Hague Convention (Provided the State of destination does not object, the present Convention shall not interfere with the freedom to send judicial documents, by postal channels, directly to persons abroad…”). However, Germany is not in favour of this method and, therefore, it carries additional risks of recognition by German courts. Not appropriately going through the Central Authority may result in the non-recognition of formally serving the person.
Importance of Serving Documents Procedure
Working with German lawyers is strongly recommended due to the complications in the German system. Regardless of whether you are formally or informally serving documents in Germany, there are certain requirements that need to be followed strictly. Mistakes or issues with the application can lead to lengthy time delays. Furthermore incorrect procedure when serving documents can lead to further complications with the enforcing of judgments and decisions. All of these issues run the risk of costly mistakes in terms of both finances and time. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our lawyers will provide the full support needed in these matters.