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Resources for family law cases subject to Hague Convention

Family law litigants serving documents abroad must make sure they do so in compliance with an international convention on the subject, Brampton lawyer-linguist Suzanne Deliscar tells

Deliscar, principal of Deliscar Professional Corporation, a law firm that offers services in English, French and Spanish, explains that a landmark 2016 Divisional Court decision confirmed that family law litigants in Ontario are subject to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters (Hague Service Convention).

She says that cross-border mobility means that an increasing number of her family law cases have an international dimension, with the bulk of them featuring a party based in the U.S., a signatory of the Hague Convention.

“Canada is also a signatory, and it’s very important to ensure that documents are served in accordance with the procedures the convention sets out,” Deliscar says, adding that Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has created a number of resources to help lawyers and litigants with compliance, in partnership with the province’s Ministry of the Attorney General.

Each country has its own specific rules for service, with some requiring court documents to be delivered via a central forwarding authority. Other nations may allow different forms of service, including by mail, according to LAO.

Deliscar says the LAO should also be praised for developing a database of blank court documents that have been translated into languages other than English and French. 

She notes that there is a long history of U.S. courts providing documents in Spanish, despite the fact it is not an official language, to reflect the fact that around one-fifth of the country’s population is Hispanic.

“It’s a great development because it acknowledges that there are linguistic issues arising here in Canada,” Deliscar says. “If you want to serve someone who doesn't speak English or French, it’s going to be very helpful to have a form in their own language so that they know what they are being served with."

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