Once we get past the romantic mental images of bullfights and Picasso and Hemingway running through cobbled streets in a white shirt & red scarf, Spain is rightly seen as a highly industrialized society– one with many of the same problems shared by its Mediterranean neighbors, and much of the same sunny, sophisticated allure. Serving process in Spain 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.
- The roadmap to the overall process—the recipe to our Secret Sauce.
- The structure of the Convention itself is discussed in this four-part series.
- And an absolutely critical note: the Hague Service Convention does not pertain to subpoenas. Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena abroad. You have to file a Hague Evidence Request. Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.
Here’s how service is effected in Spain:
Article 5 Service
- Translate the documents. Spain’s declaration to Article 5(3) sort of 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 Central Authority.
- Sit tight. It may take a while—anywhere from six to nine months, from submission to return of proof.
Article 10 alternative methods
- Mail service may be available, depending on your venue, but it’s a bad idea anyway.
- Service via local counsel is available under Article 10(b)– a procurador (a Spanish attorney, roughly akin to a French hussier de justice**) seeks the assistance of a local court to effect service without the involvement of the Central Authority. It can save a couple of months or more, but the cost in many cases outweighs the speed. If time is of the essence, though, this can be a fantastic option. Just make sure local counsel is adept at Hague issues.
Seriously—that’s all there is to it in Spain, but don’t get excited. Sure, the method is straightforward and simple, but it’s going to take a while, even if you have a lawyer handling things for you in-country. The wheels just move more slowly than they do over here.
Spain’s declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.
* Technically, it’s not an outright requirement. But the declaration is so vague as to essentially make it mandatory. Rather like saying, “yeah, we’re not saying you have to, but don’t expect results if you don’t.”
** I said roughly akin. Not identical, not parallel…