Every once in a while, long after a Hague Service Request has been submitted to a foreign Central Authority, the foreign defendant will agree to waive service. That is always good news, because it means everybody is more likely to play well in the sandbox. When it happens, my clients will email me and say “hey, good news– defendant agreed to waive in exchange for extra time to answer. Cancel the service, my good man.”

As much as I’d love to, sometimes there’s no way to pull the thing back, especially in countries that serve more slowly than others. Here’s the normal sequence of events (noting that the sequence does vary a bit by country):

  • Our request package lands at the Central Authority.
  • The Central Authority sends it out to some regional official.
  • The regional official sends it to a local official.
  • The local official assigns the matter to some office within its administrative structure.
  • It ultimately gets handed to a judicial or administrative officer for service.
  • Into the defendant’s hands the documents go.
  • And then all the relevant proof paperwork wends its way backwards, in the same bureaucratic chain, until a Certificate lands on my desk.

Navigating that whole chain of custody is a months-long procedure, and by the time it gets to the third or fourth link, none of the earlier links know where it is. This truly is a bureaucratic quagmire in many countries. Imagine how long it takes to navigate a bureaucracy here… now multiply that several times over, and my earlier post “Things take longer overseas, get used to it” becomes very, very real.

Unfortunately, there’s precisely nada/zip/zero/zilch we can do about it after a certain point, but take heart. When the other side starts working with you, let them know that the request is too far gone to stop, and if service happens despite their willingness to cooperate, it’s only down to delayed action by foreign authorities. It’s not a combative gambit and it’s certainly not a sign of disrespect– it’s a practical truth in transnational litigation, and they should understand that.

Their clients are keenly aware of that truth, I promise.