Brandenburg Gate — Ondřej Žváček via Wikimedia Commons.

I say all the time that we ain’t building rockets here.  But we are building an airship of sorts, and if you use the wrong kind of stuff to make it go up, bad things happen.  Do it the right way, and your journey is smooth.  Serving process in Germany is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter.  Some background is in order, if you’re so inclined, before we cut to the chase.

Now, here’s how service is effected in Germany:

Article 5 Service

  • Translate the documents. Germany’s declaration to Article 5(3) requires it and, although the defendant may speak flawless English, omitting translated documents will prompt the Central Authority to reject your request.
  • Fill out a USM-94. Be very careful about ensuring that it is complete and concise, and make sure that it is signed by a court official or an attorney.  If it is not, make sure that the person signing is commissioned by the court.
  • Send to the appropriate Central Authority. This can be a bit tricky, as the Germans have decentralized their Central Authority function (yes, that is counterintuitive).
  • Sit tight. It may take a while—likely 2-3 months from submission to return of proof.

Article 10 alternative methods

  • They simply aren’t available, because Germany objects to them all. Article 5 is the only way it can be done.

Seriously—that’s all there is to it in Germany.  The method is straightforward and simple.  The real trick is in identifying the correct Central Authority, and that isn’t too tough with Wikipedia and Google Maps at your fingertips.

Germany’s declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.

Bonus practice tip… if you’re defense counsel, always question the validity of service effected on your overseas client.  The plaintiff may not have done it correctly.

  • Dan

    I am looking to effectuate service on German defendants. Excellent article. One thing conspicuously absent is the cost of service by the Central Authority. I found the list, found the specific authority for the area my defendants – but is there a fee that must accompany the USM-94 request form?


    – Dan

    • From the Germans’ declarations on that subject: “German offices do not regularly charge fees for service. Should costs incur, e.g. for the use of a return receipt, due to administrative expenses involved, the minimal costs incurred thereby are usually not collected on.”

      In short… no costs.