Service of documents
According to the interpretation of judicial practice, “service of documents” is understood as a procedural step taken by a court to notify a party in proceedings, or a third party whose cooperation in the proceedings is required, of the progress of these judicial proceedings. Keeping parties fully and effectively informed of the progress of proceedings is an essential precondition for the proper conducting and conclusion of court proceedings – a court may only act and take decisions on the condition that the parties have been given all documents of which receipt and knowledge is a precondition for the next step in the proceedings, the application of a remedy, procedural defences or protection, and other acts that are only admissible within a time limit laid down by the law or the court. In particular the service of court rulings on the merits is an essential precondition for the conclusion of the case with finality and for the enforceability of the court’s ruling. It is important to understand that in Section 45 et seq. of Act No 99/1963, the Civil Procedure Code (Zákon č. 99/1963 Zb., Občiansky súdny poriadok), only defines the procedural aspects of serving (judicial) documents; the service of an act under substantive law, i.e. including an expression of will in the form of a document, is governed by Section 45 of Act No 40/1964, the Civil Code (Zákon č. 40/1964 Zb., Občiansky zákonník). There is a substantial difference between service under the substantive and the procedural regulations, especially concerning the effect of service, the completing of the process of serving, and the initiating of legal consequences.
The existence of specific rules for the service of documents
The purpose of the specific rules for the service of documents in the Civil Procedure Code is an attempt by the legislature to uphold the principle of equality of arms and the adversarial system in judicial proceedings. No one in judicial proceedings may be disadvantaged, and each party must be equally informed of the progress of judicial proceedings. The parties must have an opportunity to provide the necessary cooperation in the proceedings, and to familiarise themselves with the other party’s statements and evidence, any procedural acts by the court relating to the proceedings, and the substance of the case. The principle of equality of arms and the adversarial system in proceedings is a fundamental and defining element of the right to a fair trial, which in the Slovak Republic is a constitutional right (Articles 46-48 of the Constitution or Ústava Slovenskej republiky) based on Article 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Broadly speaking, all service effected in accordance with the Civil Procedure Code can be considered formal service, i.e. (1) ordinary service (Section 46), (2) personal service (Section 47) and (3) service by posting on a court’s notice board (Section 47a). In the narrower sense, formal or official service only refers to the personal service of judicial documents.
A court uses the procedure laid down for ordinary service for documents for which the law does not require personal service.
A court uses the qualified method for service (i.e. personal service) if required by the relevant provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, or if in view of the specific circumstances the judge orders this method – a typical example would be a written summons to a hearing, where the law does not state that personal service is obligatory, but a judge will generally order this form of service. By law, personal service is required for information on the possibility to request that documents be served to an alternative address (Section 49(5)), a motion for the commencing of proceedings with annexes (Section 79(4), Section 114(2)), an order on the commencing of proceedings on the court’s own motion (Section 81(3)), an amendment motion (Section 95(1)), an order on the defendant’s obligation to provide observations on the motion (Section 114(4)), a judgement (Section 158(2)), an order for payment served on the defendant (Section 173(1)), a European order for payment served on the defendant (Section 174a(2)), an order for satisfaction served on the defendant (Section 174b(4), Section 173), an order to pay a bill or promissory note (cheque) served on the defendant (Section 175(1)), certain types of orders in probate proceedings (Section 175a(3)), information on the consequences of renouncing an inheritance (Section 175i(2)), an order in proceedings on safe-keeping (Section 185a(3)), an order in proceedings on the redemption of instruments (Section 185j(2)), an order to enforce a ruling by means of attachment of earnings (Section 282(2), Section 294(3)), an order to enforce a ruling by ordering payment from a bank account, and notification of the finality of this order served on the bank (Section 306, 307(1)), and an order to enforce a ruling by means of a third party debt order (Section 313(2)).
A court uses service by posting on its notice board if the law so provides and the parties to the proceedings or their whereabouts are not known the court.
The authority responsible for serving judicial documents is the court, which primarily serves judicial documents itself (either directly at a hearing or by court officers) or by post. However, the law also allows the court to serve documents by means of a bailiff, a municipal authority, the relevant department of the Police Force (Policajný zbor) and, in cases specified in the relevant regulation, the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic (Ministerstvo spravodlivosti Slovenskej republiky) (for persons enjoying diplomatic privileges and immunity, or others who are in these persons’ places of abode or on whom documents are to be served in buildings or rooms protected by diplomatic immunity; the Ministry is also used for service in other countries unless an international convention, a bilateral treaty on legal assistance or a Council (EC) regulation sets out another legal regime).
Service on persons who are serving prison sentences or have been taken into custody is effected by the penal and custodial institutions into which they have been placed. Service on persons in institutional protective medical care and persons placed in medical institutions is effected by the management of the relevant medical facility; the same procedure is used mutatis mutandis for residents of young people’s homes and other collective facilities for young people. Documents for members of the Slovak Republic’s armed forces performing extraordinary service, and for professional soldiers performing state service, may be served by their respective commanders. Documents for members of the armed forces who do not have accommodation in buildings owned by the armed forces are served directly.
In such cases the Slovak courts always actively try to establish the addressee’s present whereabouts, primarily by referring to the Register of Inhabitants of the Slovak Republic (Register obyvateľov Slovenskej republiky), which is connected electronically to courts’ information systems. The court can promptly establish the place of permanent or temporary residence listed in this register (if such an address exists). The Social Insurance Agency (Sociálna poisťovňa) also cooperates electronically with Slovak courts via the court register, and a court may request certain information recorded by the Social Insurance Agency, in particular the address of a party to the proceedings as listed in the Social Insurance Agency and the name of the party’s present or former employer (via whom in some cases the party’s present whereabouts can be established, or a document can be served directly at the workplace if the circumstances of the case permit). If authorised by law, a court may request the cooperation of municipal authorities, local authorities of state administration, the police and other public authorities and legal persons and natural persons holding business licences in order to establish the present whereabouts of a party to the proceedings (the addressee). If possible the court also asks other persons (e.g. relatives) who may know the addressee’s whereabouts.
As stated above, via the court register the Slovak courts have direct access to the data listed in the Register of Inhabitants of the Slovak Republic. Parties to judicial proceedings have the option of requesting data from the Register of Inhabitants of the Slovak Republic (the issuing of confirmation or written notification of a person’s whereabouts) for an administrative fee of five euros.
According to the information available to the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic, the Slovak courts generally accept such requests and take steps to establish such a person’s current address and thereby satisfy the request. To this end they use the procedures described in the preceding points.
As stated in point 3, a court primarily serves documents itself or by post, but the law also permits a court to serve documents by means of a bailiff, a municipal authority, the relevant department of the Police Force or the Ministry of Justice. Service on persons in collective facilities may be effected by these facilities, while service by commanders is used for members of the armed forces and professional soldiers.
A court decides on the procedure for serving documents depending on the type of document and whether the addressee and the addressee’s whereabouts are known. Here the Civil Procedure Code distinguishes between ordinary service, personal service and service by posting on the court’s notice board. Courts serve the greatest quantity of documents by post, either registered letters (ordinary service) or official letters (personal service).
In ordinary service the court serves the document at the place of abode, registered office (place of business), workplace or wherever the addressee can be found. As stated in point 2, the court uses personal service if this form of service is prescribed by law (e.g. for a judgement) or ordered by the judge or the presiding judge (usually for a summons, etc.).
For service by posting on the court’s notice board, a document is deemed served on the fifteenth day of posting. The Civil Procedure Code obliges a court to serve by posting on its notice board in probate proceedings if they involve a call for creditors to register their receivables within a fixed time limit (Section 175n) or an order ordering the liquidation of an inheritance (Section 175t(2)), or if property is to be delivered to another country (Section 175z(2)), and in proceedings on safe-keeping if they involve an order that the subject of safe-keeping be escheated to the state (Section 185g(1)), and also in proceedings on the redemption of instruments if they involve an order containing a summons for the holder to report to the court and present the instrument or file objections (Section 185m(2)), and when a letter containing a decision on a motion for delivering an interim injunction under Section 76(1)(g) is returned from the address given by a party to the proceedings who has been expelled from shared accommodation.
Alternative methods other than substituted service
The Civil Procedure Code also defines specific extraordinary methods for serving documents on natural persons, namely:
1. Service of documents by placing them in the case file under Section 48(4)
If a document cannot be served on a natural person (who is not a sole trader) at the address of this person’s permanent or temporary residence, and it is not possible to establish where this person takes delivery of documents, nor is it possible for an appointed guardian to represent the person, the court decides in an order that documents addressed to this person shall be served by placing them in the case file; all of the reasons listed must apply for the duration of the proceedings (the court can overturn the order on service in the case file on its own motion). The order is posted on the court’s notice board until the conclusion of the proceedings with finality. Documents served by placing them in the case file are deemed to have been served when seven days have elapsed since they were drawn up.
2. Service of documents by depositing them at the court under Section 49(3)
A court is obliged (usually at the opening of proceedings) to inform a party to the proceedings of the options:
- to request that documents be served at an address in a town or city in the Slovak Republic other than the one listed as the party’s permanent or temporary residence;
- to appoint a representative for service;
- to deposit documents at the court with the effects of service if a process for personal service is returned as undelivered from the place the party designated for service, or from the party’s place of abode as listed in the Register of Inhabitants of the Slovak Republic, or from the chosen representative for service.
If following the lawful serving of this information (substituted service is proscribed; written information must be served personally), a process for personal service is returned as undelivered from the designated place or from the appointed representative, the court may deposit all of the subsequent documents at the court with the effects of service, other than documents for which substituted service is proscribed. In order to protect such a party, the law requires the court to send the party a duplicate of each process together with notification that the document is deemed to have been served by its depositing at the court with the effects of service on the seventh day after it was dispatched. This procedure may also be used if a process for personal service is returned from the party’s permanent or temporary place of residence as listed in the Register of Inhabitants of the Slovak Republic; however, in practice this procedure is rarely used given the risk of depriving the party of the opportunity to present his or her case in court – with this method of service it is of no legal relevance whether the party was residing at or using the address for service, and so when this method of service is used, it may be debatable whether, in the interests of safeguarding the party’s right to be informed of the progress of proceedings, it would not be more appropriate, in the event that a process is returned, to use the institution of substituted service (for which the question of whether or not the addressee was residing at or using the address for service is relevant). Generally the application of this institution for service is possible for natural persons who are not sole traders; they cannot be persons serving prison sentences or in custody, or persons placed in facilities for institutional and protective care. It is also proscribed for persons enjoying diplomatic privileges and immunity, or others who are in these persons’ places of abode or on whom documents are to be served in a building or room protected by diplomatic immunity.
A court may also serve documents electronically if requested by the party, who must notify the court of the address for sending documents electronically. A document is deemed to have been served on the fifth day after it was dispatched, even if the addressee has not read it. Such service is proscribed for judicial decisions, summons, application notices and witness summons and documents that are served personally. This method is not therefore restricted by the type of proceedings or who the addressee may be, but by the type of document served.
The law also permits parties to file submissions with a court electronically, guaranteed by an electronic signature (Act No 215/2002 on electronic signatures, amending certain laws, as amended) that reliably identifies the person who created this guaranteed electronic signature. There is a fee for this method of serving documents on a court by parties in proceedings (0.10 euro for each page, at least ten euros for a motion for the commencing of proceedings with annexes, and at least three euros for other submissions with annexes).
As stated in point 5, a court uses service by posting on its notice board if provided for by law and the parties to the proceedings or their whereabouts are not known to the court. In this case the document is served on the fifteenth day of posting.
Substituted service for documents served ordinarily
If the addressee could not be found at his or her place of abode, registered office (place of business), workplace or other place, despite residing at or using the address for service, the document may be served on another adult living in the same apartment or house, or employed at the same workplace, provided this person is willing to ensure the document is passed on and has no conflicting interest in the case the document concerns. If the document cannot be served in this way, it is deposited at the post office or municipal authority and the addressee is invited in an appropriate way to collect the document. The document is deemed to have been served on the day it was returned to the court, even if the addressee was unaware of this.
Substituted service for documents served personally
A document for personal service cannot be served on another person for the purposes of passing it on to the addressee. If the addressee of the document could not be found despite residing at or using the address for service, the process server notifies the addressee in an appropriate way that the process server will return to serve the document again at a time and date specified in the notification. If this new attempt to serve the document is also fruitless, the process server deposits the document at the post office or municipal authority and notifies the addressee of this in an appropriate way. If the addressee does not collect the process while it is deposited, it is deemed to have been served on the day it was returned to the court, even if the addressee was unaware of this.
A precondition for effective substituted service is that the addressee must reside at or use the address for service; this should be understood as a situation that allows the addressee to take delivery of the process immediately after substituted service has been effected. The addressee cannot be considered to be residing at or using the address for service in the case of longer-term absence from the address for service, or even any temporary, short-term residence outside the place of abode, e.g. vacations, business travel, etc.
The Civil Procedure Code sets out a specific legal regime for service on legal persons and natural persons who are sole traders, who bear strict liability for the address recorded in a specific register: in this case it is entirely irrelevant whether or not the addressee was residing at or using the address for service at the time of service. If a document cannot be served on a legal person at the address listed as the legal person’s registered office in the Business Register (Obchodný register) or another register in which the person is listed, and no other address is known to the court, the document is deemed to have been served three days after the unserved process was returned to the court, even if the addressee is unaware of this. The court applies the same legal regime for natural persons who are sole traders on whom it serves documents at the address listed as their place of business in the Business Register or another register (most often the Trade Register, Živnostenský register) in which the person is listed.
See the responses to questions 7.1 and 5 – alternative methods of service
The process server informs the addressee that the process has been deposited at the post office or municipal authority by leaving written notification in the addressee’s (home) letterbox.
If the addressee refuses to accept the document without good reason, the document has been served on the day its acceptance was refused; the process server must inform the addressee of this. If service was not effected legitimately (e.g. the process server did not inform the addressee of the consequences of refusing to accept the document), it has no legal effect.
If acknowledgement of receipt is required, the post office (Slovenská pošta, a.s., as the traditional postal services provider) only delivers the letter if the addressee or an authorised recipient (if the letter cannot be delivered to the addressee) presents proof of identity when taking delivery, allows the number of the identity document to be recorded and acknowledges receipt. Authorised recipients for process addressed to a natural person are the addressee’s spouse and any persons aged 15 or over who live with the addressee in the same house or flat. However, a process for personal service cannot be delivered to these persons.
In this case the postman leaves written notification in the addressee’s (home) letterbox that the document has been deposited at the post office. The addressee or an authorised recipient may take receipt of the document within a time limit of 18 calendar days. This time limit can be extended at the addressee’s request. If the document is not collected within the time limit it becomes undeliverable, and the postal service returns the undeliverable document to the sender.
The time limit is 18 calendar days and can be extended at the addressee’s request. The addressee is informed by means of written notification in the addressee’s (home) letterbox.
Yes, an acknowledgement of receipt, which as proof of the serving of a judicial document is a public instrument. The information in the acknowledgement of receipt is considered true unless there is evidence to the contrary. A party who disputes the accuracy of the information in the acknowledgement of receipt (arguing that the lawful procedure for service was not followed) is obliged to provide evidence for the court to establish these claims. If the court serves a document at a hearing, a note is made of this in the transcript of the hearing.
See points 5, 7.1 and 7.4 for options for alternative service. If service has been effected contrary to the law, new service of the document is necessary: Slovak law does not provide for the possibility of validating invalid service. Any service of judicial documents effected by a method other than the lawful methods is not legally effective and does not produce the statutory legal effects.
There is no charge for the service of judicial documents, other than in cases where the court, at the request of one party in the proceedings, serves judicial documents on the other party by using the services of an appointed bailiff. The costs incurred and remuneration for the bailiff are borne by the party who requested service by the bailiff, and there can be no reimbursement based on the outcome of the proceedings. The costs of service comprise a flat rate of 6.64 euros for each judicial document served.
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