The Kingdom of Spain ratified the Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, also called the Hague Service Convention, on June 4, 1987, and its provisions entered into force on August 3 of the same year.

US attorneys seeking service in Italy should become familiar with the mandatory character of the Convention as set forth in Volkswagenwerk A.G. v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694 (1988).

Canadian attorneys should consult provincial precedent. Canadian courts take a more nuanced view of the Convention, but effectively reach the same conclusion: its limitations must be observed.

Regardless of forum court requirements, the service rules of the receiving country must be observed, or enforcement of a judgment may become impossible.

Hague Service Issues Unique to Spain

Spain’s Hague Central Authority is relatively inefficient compared to other European countries. Quite lengthy delays can occur particularly during the summer and early fall, as most of the country goes on vacation in August.

Spain has not objected to service directly through a judicial officer, but has peculiar mandates for service not required when serving through the Central Authority — specifically, service via judicial officer must still be sought via a Spanish Procurador (attorney/legal representative). Although service via judicial officer is completed much more quickly, it is significantly more costly than standard requests through the Central Authority under Article 5.

Translation Requirements

Spain’s accession to the treaty does not specifically require legal translation of documents to be served, but it is required under Spanish procedural law. Only in extraordinary cases will the Central Authority or local courts allow service of documents not translated into Spanish. Even in those rare instances, defendants still have a right under European Union law to refuse untranslated documents. In short, translation is effectively required.

Moreover, US notions of due process require that the defendant understand the documents with which he or she is being served. As such, documents served upon a recipient who speaks neither English nor Italian may even require translation into a third language. US practitioners should explore this issue with our legal staff.

Service Through Alternative Channels

Spain does not object to service by any of the alternative channels referenced in Article 10 of the Convention. However, these channels are not highly beneficial to American litigants. While they may expedite the process a bit, they are more costly, and still carry risks that the Central Authority channel does not.

Article 10(a):

In all cases, service via the postal channel should include a signed receipt mechanism (required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4).

Beware, though, that mail service pursuant to the Hague Service Convention is fraught with issues, including the need to have it executed in accordance with the forum court’s local rules, and where service abroad is proper when the destination country has not affirmatively stated that it is not opposed to mail service.

Article 10(b):

Alternative service via a judicial officer requires retaining a Spanish lawyer to obtain a court order instructing a bailiff to effect service.

LLS Can Help

LLS can assist you with service and can help you understand and meet the translation requirements for service of process in Spain. Please call 1-800-755-5775 for more information.