How to Serve Someone Out of State

Service on a defendant who lives in a different state or country outside the jurisdiction of the Court requires special procedures prescribed under the Hague Service Convention if the recipient’s country is a signatory.

Service on defendants in many South American countries and some other countries is effected through the Letter Rogatory process.

A letter rogatory or letter of request is a formal request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance. The most common remedies sought by letters rogatory are service of process and taking of evidence.

Courts may serve documents only to individuals within the court’s jurisdiction. One exception to this rule is states that invoke universal jurisdiction, granting their courts ubiquitous domain. Therefore, a person seeking to take an action against a person in another country will need to seek assistance from the judicial authorities in the other country. This is of course assuming the court in his own country has jurisdiction to hear the case matter.  As a hypothetical example, Alice in the United States wishes to sue Roberto in Argentina. Alice issues her summons in a U.S. court, and must then petition a court in Argentina by means of a letter rogatory to serve the process on Roberto.

The use of letters rogatory for purposes of service of process to initiate court action is now largely confined to the Americas, as between countries in Europe, Asia, and North America, service of process is effected without resort to letters rogatory.

Where a defendant’s whereabouts are unknown, the Court may permit service by publication, usually in a newspaper.

In the past in many countries, people did not have the right to know that there were legal proceedings against them. In some cases, they would only find out when magistrates showed up with the sheriff and seized their property, sometimes throwing them into debtor’s prison until their debts were paid. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution prohibit the federal and state governments from depriving any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Therefore, the process server is “serving” the recipient with notice of their constitutional right to due process of the law.

Today the penalty for ignoring a summons may be entry of a default money judgment that can subsequently be enforced.


If you are needing to find out how to serve someone out of State or Country please give me a call at 337-254-8169 and I will be happy to help answer your questions.

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