The Peace Palace, centerpiece of The Hague.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what that query truly means, because some variation of it pops into my inbox at least once or twice a month, from litigators in both the U.S. and Canada.  There’s a lot to unpack in those eight words, and a few things need to be clarified to get to the heart of the question, but the quick answer is… yes.

So what needs to be clarified?  Well…

  • What do you mean by “the Hague”?  Usually, the person posing the question means the Hague Convention– or more accurately, the 1965 Hague Service Convention.  It’s critical to name the Convention precisely, because rather than “the” Hague Convention, there are about three dozen of them.  Ninety percent of the questions I field like this refer to serving, but there are other important treaties, all signed in the Hague, that pertain to litigation issues.
  • What do you mean by “go through”?  We don’t send Hague Service Requests to the capital city of the Netherlands.  If the defendant is actually in the Netherlands, then we could, although I don’t recommend it (sit tight for why that is).  Instead, we send requests to the appropriate Central Authority wherever the defendant is to be served (that is, in his/her/its particular jurisdiction).
  • Taking that idea a bit further, if by “go through” you mean “go ‘through’ the Central Authority” it depends.  In places like Germany, England, Mexico, and Korea… yes.  Article 5 is your only avenue to service, so your request must be directed to the appropriate Central Authority.  But in countries like Canada, Ireland, and the Netherlands, we can go around official channels and directly engage a “competent person of the State of destination” to effect service.  (In the upper right hand corner of this page you’ll find a search bar– type just about any country and you can determine pretty quickly where you stand.)

Hopefully that clears things up in terms of this common question.  My stock answer is this:

Yes, you have to comply with the Hague Service Convention– but depending on where you need to serve, you may not have to ask the Central Authority to effect service for you.