By: Veronca Henderson
The border between the United States and Mexico serves as the legal dividing line between the two countries. That said, those of us who live and work in a border community know that life and business do not stop at the border. Each day, many people cross the border that runs between Mexicali and Calexico. Just as life and business do not stop at the border, legal matters often transcend the border, and often involve individuals on both sides of the border. For example, a custodial parent requesting child support from a father who lives and works in Mexico must have that father properly served, and may need assistance from the foreign government in garnishing the father’s wages. There are procedures in place for serving a party in a country such as Mexico. What are the acceptable mechanisms for serving legal papers to someone in Mexico?
The two primary mechanisms for serving legal papers to someone in Mexico involve the Hague Convention and the “Letters Rogatory” Process. Mexico is a party to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra Judicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters. Thus, service can be accomplished by following the procedures mandated by the Hague Convention. Requests pursuant to the Hague Convention may only be executed by an attorney or by the clerk of the court.
Additionally, Mexico accepts service of process through the preparation of “letters rogatory.” Letters rogatory are requests from a court in the United States to a court in a foreign country seeking international judicial assistance. They are often used to obtain evidence abroad, but may also be utilized in effecting service of process. The preparation of letters rogatory is somewhat complex, and requirements of what the letters must contain are very specific.
Although there are other methods for properly delivering documents to foreign countries such as Mexico, the Hague Convention and Letters Rogatory processes are considered the most acceptable ways to work respectfully with our neighboring country of Mexico. It is a common misconception that a person initiating a lawsuit in the U.S. can simply mail the documents or have them “walked across the border.” Neither practice is acceptable in most cases.
It is important that the U.S. and its citizens respect the procedures of other countries when asking for cooperation with legal matters. Living so close to Mexicali, it is common for Imperial County residents to need the assistance of the government and judiciary of Baja California. Although tedious and time-consuming, following the processes mentioned here ensures that we maintain a good relationship with our neighbor country.