Finding Legal Help
You are not required to hire an attorney, but legal matters can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. See the Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help.
Como encontrar ayuda legal
Usted no está obligado a contratar un abogado, pero los asuntos legales pueden ser complicados. Considere la posibilidad de hablar con un abogado para hablar de sus opciones. Para información sobre cómo obtener ayuda legal vea nuestra página Como encontrar ayuda legal.
Service of Divorce/Custody Papers in Mexico
This web page is limited to two kinds of cases: Divorce and Child Custody.
Some of the procedures described here may not apply in other cases in which papers must be served on someone in Mexico.
Why you need to serve the other party
A fundamental part of the U.S. court system is that the other party to the case has to be "served" with the court papers in a specific way. Serving papers - also called service of process - means having someone (not the petitioner) deliver a copy of the papers filed with the court to start a case to the person(s) on the other side. (It is like "notificación" in the Mexican judicial system.)
The person starting the case is the petitioner. The person the case is against is the respondent.
The respondent must be notified about the case, get copies of all the papers filed, and be given time to respond. The Petition and Summons must be served on the respondent within 120 days of filing the petition. For more information, see our Serving Papers page.
Why service of process in Mexico can be complicated
Countries are able to choose how court papers from other countries are served upon people within their country. Mexico has chosen provisions of the Hague Service Convention, an international treaty. Under that Convention, if the address of the person in Mexico is known, the papers must be sent to Mexico City and then the courts in Mexico serve the papers to the person. The Utah court has no control over when or how this happens.
Do you need your court order enforced in Mexico?
A court in Mexico may decide to not enforce a U.S. court order. Mexico's process for deciding enforcement is beyond the scope of this website. Contact the Consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City for more information.
In some situations it may be better or easier for to obtain a divorce in Mexico. If the parties have property in Mexico or children living in Mexico, get legal advice from an attorney familiar with the laws of Mexico.
If the person in Mexico agrees with what you have asked for in your Petition
The information provided here assumes you do not have an attorney, and that you are using the Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) to create your documents.
If you are in touch with the respondent in Mexico and they have said they will agree with what you are asking for:
- Send – by mail or email – the Petition to the respondent. If the respondent does not read English, you might provide them a translation into their language.
- The respondent should carefully read the Petition. If they agree with everything in the Petition, they can print the "Acceptance of Service, Waiver of Notice and Consent" form and sign it in front of a Notary Public. If the respondent does not read English, you might provide them a translation into their language.
A Notary Public looks at the respondent's ID and watches them sign the document. They are not "notarios," which in Mexico are high level lawyers. It is best if the respondent signs the paper in front of a Notary Public in a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Below is a link to the U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Mexico. If not, they may be able to sign before a Notary Public in an international bank. If there is no embassy or consulate or international bank, they can sign in front of a notario.
- The respondent must send the original Acceptance of Service form that they signed to you, preferably via a reliable express mail carrier. When you receive the signed form, file the original with the court, and keep a copy for yourself.
If you cannot locate the respondent and cannot confirm they are in Mexico
Many people go to Mexico but leave the country again or return to the place in the U.S. where they have lived. It may be easier to serve them in the U.S. rather than Mexico. Determine whether or not the respondent is in the United States.
- See our webpage on Finding People for Service of Process for tips on ways to find people.
- The Consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City may be able to help you locate a Mexican national.
If you find the respondent in the U.S. but not cannot find their address or another place where they can be served personally, you can ask the Utah court for alternative service including a notice in a newspaper or by email, text, or social media. See the Alternative Service page for more information.
If you know the respondent is in Mexico but do not have their address
If you conclude that the respondent is in Mexico but don't know their address, you can ask the court in Utah for alternative service in Mexico. Mexico allows service by publication in a newspaper.
You will need to determine where the respondent is in Mexico. For example, in which city or state can the respondent be found? The Consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City may be able to help.
You have to ask the court in Utah for permission to serve by publication in Mexico by filing a motion for alternative service. See the Alternative Service section of our Serving Papers page for more information.
Typically service by publication in Mexico is done by publishing an "edicto" in a newspaper once a week for three weeks. You can contact newspapers in the city where the person is living and see if they publish legal notices. If so, confirm the price and how you will communicate with them and pay the fees and how they will provide you a document to file with the court to show that publication has been completed.
If you know the person's address in Mexico and have not been able to confirm they will agree to what you are requesting in your petition (Hague Convention service)
If you know the respondent's address in Mexico, you must serve them following Hague Convention procedures.
If you do not follow these procedures, service is not effective and the respondent can challenge the validity of any resulting order (like a divorce or custody decree) in court.
Improper service can also result in a Mexican court not allowing the Utah court order to be enforced in Mexico. In a divorce case, it could mean the Utah divorce cannot be registered on Mexico's registro civil.
This can have serious consequences: it could mean that the couple is still married under Mexican law and could continue accumulating rights in each other's property under certain circumstances.
- Use the forms on the court's Motions page to create a "Motion for additional time to serve defendant/respondent."
Utah law requires that court papers must be served on the respondent within 120 days after filing the petition. Since service under the Hague Convention to Mexico can take as long as eight months, ask the Utah court for additional time to serve the papers.
- Have the petition translated into Spanish.
Use a qualified translator who understands legal terminology. The opposing party can challenge the case in court if the petition is not properly translated. See the link below for certified court interpreters/translators. Ask the translator to create two original certificates of translation in English, and two in Spanish, both describing the documents translated.
- Create two original Summons forms in Spanish and two in English, allowing 30 days for the response.
- Print out two copies of the Hague Service Convention-Model Form from the Hague Convention website on service and choose Spanish-English-French.
- Fill out the forms in English and Spanish. You must complete pages 1, 3, and 4 of the form. Page 2 is completed by the person in Mexico after service.
- Mexico prefers they be typed.
- List the Applicant as the Utah Clerk of Court where you are filing your case.
- Have the Court Clerk sign them as the Applicant (in blue, not black ink) and, if possible, place an official court stamp or seal on the form.
- Contact the Mexican Central Authority (Spanish website or English website) and ask what, if any, fee there will be and in what form they accept payment.
- Ask the Utah Court Clerk which express mail services (Federal Express, UPS) pick up at their court.
- Choose a service that sends packages to Mexico City.
- Fill out the express mail form, with the Court Clerk as "Sender" and prepay it.
- Make sure the envelope is large enough to containing all the paperwork.
- Address the envelope to:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Directorate General of Legal Affairs
Plaza Juárez No. 20, Planta Baja
México D.F., México
- Put in the envelope (after making a set of copies for yourself):
- Two copies of the Petition in English with translator's certificate in English
- Two copies of the Petition in Spanish with translator's certificate in Spanish
- Two original summonses in Spanish
- Two original summonses in English
- Two originals of the Hague Service Convention-Model Form filled out in English and Spanish
Once you have your envelope ready to send, and paid for, take the envelope back to the court clerk to send.
- The Mexican Central Authority should, within 30 days of its receipt of an application, determine whether the application follows the Hague Convention.
- Check on the status of your application after 30 days by emailing the Mexican Central Authority, or by following these steps:
- Go to http://webapps.sre.gob.mx/rogatorias/Consulta.htm?CONTINUAR=Continuar
- Enter name and last name of the respondent (Demandado) or petitioner (Promovente). Sometimes the search will find the request under just the petitioner's name, other times just the respondent's name
- Select "Ver detalle" for the request you are looking for.
If the Mexican Central Authority determines the documents follow the Hague Convention, it then transmits the documents to the local court in the state where the respondent lives and local court personnel serve the papers upon the respondent, complete the return of service document, and send it back to the Mexican Central Authority via the same route.
Service may take eight months or more. If service is accomplished, the Mexican Central Authority will send the Certificate of Service to the "Applicant"— the Utah Clerk of Court who mailed the paperwork. The Clerk of Court should file the paper in the case file. An invoice for service charges may accompany the Certificate of Service. You will need to contact the Mexican Central Authority regarding payment.
Mexican law may permit other forms of service. Please contact the Consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City.
- Alternative Service
- Child Custody and Parent-Time
- Consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City
- Court interpreters
- Filing Procedures
- Finding Legal Help
- Free Legal Clinics
- Serving Papers
- U.S. Department of State - Mexico
- U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Mexico
The Utah State Courts mission is to provide the people an open, fair, efficient, and independent system for the advancement of justice under the law.