This page is now obsolete. The update is currently being prepared and will be available in the European e-Justice Portal.
Service means the handing over of a document to a recipient for his attention. Service is to be effected in accordance with the law and documented as need be. The service of documents is governed by its own special rules in order to safeguard important rights of the addressee concerned. A necessary precondition for the safeguarding of these rights is that the addressee must be aware of legal proceedings, their subject matter and their outcome.
Important documents relating to court proceedings are served in a special way: with documentary proof of service and, if need be, on a particular person. These documents comprise the statement of the claim and the decisions of the court, as well as all those documents whose service results in particular legal consequences or in a deadline, either of which the court requires to be observed of its own motion.
Service of documents is usually effected by the postal services. However, under certain circumstances it can be effected by servants of the court or by the local authority.
There are different types of service depending on the different types of documents to be served. Sometimes the court has discretion to choose between various types of service. Service by post or court officers is possible, but it is also possible to make a public announcement (decree or public notice by wall-poster). There is service exclusively to the addressee, service into the addressee's own hand or that of a particular person authorised to deal with the post and service to the addressee or his substitute. Service to a restricted number of participants via electronic media is also possible under certain circumstances.
It depends on the nature of the service and the obstacle impeding it. One possibility is to inform the absent addressee of the fact that an unsuccessful attempt at service has been made and to fix a time for a renewed attempt at service. Another is to hold the document at the post office or the court for the addressee to fetch it. Further possibilities are the handing over of the document to a substitute recipient or a renewed attempt at service to another address.
In principle, there is no separate proof of the service of a document. Documents whose service results in particular legal consequences or a deadline are served with written proof of service (“acknowledgement of service”). In these cases, the person serving the document fills in the acknowledgement, which he returns to the court after he and the recipient have added their signatures.
If the services infringes the regulations governing service, then the service is as a matter of principle invalid and must be carried out anew. However, some regulations do not cover or protect an individual's rights. They are merely administrative rules, whose violation does not impinge on the validity of the service. There are other cases too in which additional circumstances can remedy the temporary invalidity of the service. This is particularly the case when the object of the service is accomplished by different means and the addressee's rights have been upheld.
Normal services by post within the framework of court proceedings are discharged as a lump sum as part of the fees to the court. If any expenses for particular service of documents arise in addition to this, they have to be dealt with eventually according to the rules governing reimbursement of costs and expenses.
Statutory provisions relating to service of documents (Law on Service of Documents (Zustellgesetz) , Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO) , Rules of Procedure (Geo) ) can be obtained from the “RIS” legal information system.Top
Last update: 03-05-2005