Here’s why you can’t find any Process Servers in Germany

So you are a US, Canadian or British lawyer who needs to serve court papers to a party who is resident in Germany? Since you read this post, you have probably already realized that googling “Process Server Germany” does not get you anywhere. The simple explanation for why you are having such a hard time to find decent German process service providers on the internet: There aren’t any.

Germany has no tradition of instructing private process servers. No German lawyer would use them to deliver domestic legal documents to anyone who is resident in Germany. Because, under German civil procedure rules, they would simply see no need for it.

This post explains why the process server business sector never caught on in Germany and what German lawyers do in order to prove delivery of their legal papers.

Then how do German Lawyers serve Legal Documents?

Firstly, in German civil litigation, the German civil court usually serves the documents to the respective parties, witnesses and experts. This does not only refer to the court orders, but to all correspondence between the court and parties. While direct service from one party to the other is possible under german civil procedure rules, this is the exception to the rule. Since everyone who lives in Germany must be officially registered with the resident’s registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt), everyone — at least in theory — has an official registered private address and can be served with documents by simply sending those documents to said address.

Secondly, legal documents in Germany are simply sent by post. In most cases even by regular mail, not even registered mail (Einschreiben). In other words: Germans still have complete trust in their postal service.

Believe it or not, even in case of registered mail, the small delivery receipt issued by the German Postal Service is all the party sending the registered mail can show as evidence. To complement this delivery slip, the German paralegal or assistant who sent the registered mail, makes a note in the case file on what day which documents were sent. But all this only proves that the law firm has sent the documents. What the mail man has actually done with the documents is not officially recorded anywhere.

In the rare cases where German civil procedure rules demand formal service by way of personal delivery, these legal documents are delivered by a German bailiff (Gerichtsvollzieher).

How to serve Germans with Court Papers from the USA, Canada or the UK?

In common law jurisdictions, Plaintiffs must usually present to the court as evidence of service a more formal document than a simple delivery slip issued by a courier or the German postal service. For a US or British lawyer who needs to serve an official legal document in Germany, working with a German bailiff may, however, be a frustrating experience because German bailiffs are notoriously slow, hard to reach and do not always speak English. Furthermore, they will not be willing to issue an individual proof of service notice, much less in English. Instead, they will use their rather cryptic German service protocol form (Zustellungsprotokoll). This form will in many case not satisfy the US or British courts because it does not contain the necessary information what exactly the German bailiff has done in order to attempt personal service to the German defendant.

Thus, the options are to try to instruct the local German bailiff, hope that he/she does speak English and is willing to issue an actual letter to you as proof of personal service. The costs are usually around EUR 300 net, i.e. plus VAT plus disbursements like translations etc.

If instructing a German bailiff does not work, the alternative approach is to contact an English speaking German lawyer in the area where the defendant lives and explain to said lawyer what you need in order to satisfy the US, Canadian or British requirements for serving official documents. If you are lucky, the German law firm will agree to send a reliable paralegal or intern to the address where the defendant lives to effect a personal service by handover of the documents.

Don’t forget Translations, Apostilles etc

Depending on whether the recipient in Germany is known to understand English, the legal documents must also be served together with a certified translation into German. If such a legal requirement to also serve an official translation of the documents is disregarded, the recipient may be entitled to refuse service of the document. But this is for the US or British litigation lawyer to decide whether the domestic court will require evidence that an official translation has been added. The same is true for the question whether documents must be certified and/or legalized (e.g. The Hague Convention Apostille).

Does Graf Partners LLP serve Documents in Germany?

Well, if there is no other way. In some cases, our firm will indeed serve legal documents for our international clients or partner law firms abroad and provide them with official proof of service, but the costs for this are significant. We charge at least EUR 500 net plus disbursements. If an affidavit of service by a German process server is required, the fee is EUR 700 net plus disbursements.

More on serving court papers and other legal documents in Germany is explained in this post:  SERVICE OF COURT DOCUMENTS IN GERMANY

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For legal advice on German civil procedure and how to successfully litigate in Germany, contact the international litigation experts and trial lawyers of GrafLegal.


Copyright & Disclaimer All posts are copyrighted material. This blog is made available by Graf & Partners for educational purposes as well as to give you general information on German law, not to provide specific legal advice. Simply reading this blog does, of course, not result in any attorney client relationship between you and Graf & Partners. The blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice provided by a licensed professional attorney in a specific legal matter.