Asked in Civil Litigation and International Law for Oregon

Q: How do I serve someone who moved to the country of Panama for a court matter in the state of Oregon?

1 Lawyer Answer
Joanne Reisman
Joanne Reisman
  • Portland, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: You will have to figure out what the requirements for international service are for that country. Usually you start by looking to see if that country is a member of the Hague convention and if they are, then you read the rules for service that are part of their agreement/adoption of the Hague convention. You probably will need to consult with an attorney to figure this out. There are companies that specialize in serving papers internationally but they aren't able to give you legal advice, only follow your directions once you know the law. What is going on here is that the Oregon Court requires you to at least attempt personal service on the person but to do that you need to first figure what international laws, agreements, and treaties you need to comply with to do this in Panama. (You have to make sure that your attempts to serve the person don't violate some international law or treaty.) An Oregon Court can also sign an order that allows you to serve the party in an alternative fashion but generally an Oregon Court will only consider doing this after you have made attempts to do personal service and you can explain to the Oregon Court what you have attempted and why it didn't work. Just telling the Oregon Court that you don't want to figure out how to comply with international law is not a good reason.

Another thing to consider is what you are trying to accomplish in the divorce. An Oregon Court will have the power to declare you divorced if you live in Oregon and the Oregon Court will have the power to make orders concerning personal property and real estate that is located in Oregon. An Oregon Court cannot make orders concerning property located in Panama or anywhere outside of Oregon, although there can be exceptions to that rule. An Oregon Court cannot adjudicate issues involving children who aren't living in Oregon or order someone outside of Oregon to pay money unless they still have some connection with Oregon that brings them into the jurisdiction of Oregon even though they are not physically present.

Consequently if your are trying to do anything else besides just get a declaration that you are not longer married, you really need to talk to an attorney and make sure that the things you are asking for are within the power of an Oregon Court to grant.

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