A Reliable Solution for Cross Border Litigation in Mexico.
When amicable dispute resolution is not possible, our law firm assists immediately with cross border litigation in Mexico.
Can you afford to hire the wrong law firm in Mexico?
- Retaining lawyers that don’t always have the legal knowledge and proper approach for resolving international business disputes effectively in Mexico.
- Retaining big law firms who do not specialize in litigation, wasting thousands of dollars on hourly fees without any potential resolution or settlement in sight.
- Partnering with weak firms with no experience and no track record of success in cross border litigation, thus weakening your image in negotiations and risking a bad deal.
Cross Border Litigation
We know how important being successful
with cross border litigation in Mexico is to
your cash flow & profitability.
HMH Legal’s singular focus is assisting and protecting foreign companies with legal problems in Mexico.
"I selected HMH Legal over other firms because I had prior knowledge of them through industry conferences in the USA over the years, and I felt comfortable reaching out to them. What surprised me the most was how quickly they got a response from the debtor. I was really surprised because our debtor (former client) was blowing me off, refusing to respond to any of our emails or phone calls".
“Dear Romelio. Finally, we have received the last payment from x-Debtor. It has been a really good effort from you in helping us retrieve this amount from them. We do appreciate it so much. Your work has been extremely good, you have been patient, watchful and careful, gentle but firm and your strategy was excellent, giving out whenever needed and holding on when the situation warranted. You could bring the pressure and sustain it over the years on x-Debtor and did a crucial job during the final stages to take it to a good conclusion, which helped both parties. You have been true to your word and faithful and sincere to your job, for which we can vouch for anyone. Thank you so much Romelio for your excellent work. The Board congratulates and sends its appreciation.”
“HMH Legal always made us feel confident that we would get our money back, despite the inefficiencies and complexities of Mexican courts, in addition to an elusive debtor with his team of lawyers trying desperately to avoid paying their debt. HMH Legal delivered at the end, with a full recovery exceeding $800,000 USD.”
Why HMH Legal as your lawyers in Mexico for cross border litigation?
Our singular focus is assisting and protecting foreign companies with legal problems in Mexico.
We have a team of reliable and experienced lawyers to protect your interests through the Mexican courts.
25+ years assisting creditors with cross-border litigation in Mexico, our area of expertise
We do more than litigation. We help you mitigate risk by securing transactions and protecting future business.
Our amicable approach to dispute resolution is more efficient than more aggressive methods and preserves business relationships.
Our proven success in court, combined with a respectful and persuasive approach, ensures resolution and settlement.
Speak with one of our lawyers
HMH Legal’s “RAPID” Legal Action Plan.
Review situation, background history, and supporting documents.
Assess claim and investigate debtor to determine best strategy and action plan.
Present report on strategy, risks, costs, possible timeline, and detailed action plan.
Initiate legal action by filing, sharing pleadings with you.
Decide important issues with you through prompt & often reports on progress of case
Cross Border Litigation in Mexico
Cross border litigation refers to legal disputes involving parties, assets, actions, or laws spanning multiple countries. For example, a claim for breach of contract between a U.S. and Mexican company would constitute cross border litigation. The “cross border” component introduces complexities and challenges not found in domestic litigation.
There are several important aspects that set cross border litigation apart:
- Jurisdictional questions regarding the appropriate court venue across countries
- Serving notice and process on foreign defendants per local rules
- Evidentiary issues spanning multiple countries
- Determining which country’s laws and procedures govern
- Enforcing foreign judgments or arbitration awards locally
The intricacies of cross border disputes means hiring lawyers experienced in this field is crucial. Expert legal counsel will:
- Understand cultural aspects that impact dispute resolution
- Offer strategic advice on jurisdiction, venue, and governing law
- Navigate local court and arbitration processes in multiple countries
- Know international laws and practices for obtaining foreign evidence and documents
- Have working relationships with lawyers abroad to facilitate handling all aspects of international claims
Much of this decision has to do with practical reasons, that is, when will a Mexican court provide for a more efficient and cost-effective litigation for your recovery of debt. Generally, a non-complex contested commercial case will take approximately 1-2 years to be resolved in a Mexican court, without adding an appeal process and any constitutional injunction proceedings (“Amparo”), which could add up another 9 to 12 months. That time could very well double in a complex commercial dispute or a collection case involving a large amount of money. It is probably only in these two last scenarios where you could consider choosing a foreign court or arbitration for resolving your disputes instead of a Mexican court.
Just to get an idea, the following costs should be considered when thinking about bringing a claim to a foreign (judicial) court or an arbitration tribunal:
- Arbitration costs. According to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), costs add up to $5,875 dollars for a $25,000 dollars case, and $13,000 dollars for a $100,000 dollars case, for arbitrator’s fees (one, and not including his expenses) and administrative expenses. In Mexico, the Arbitration Center of Mexico (CAM) charges around $7,700 dollars for arbitrators’ fees (also one, and not including expenses) and administrative expenses for any lawsuit of up to $100,000 dollars.
- Counsel’s fees for arbitration. Lawyers involved in arbitration generally will charge an hourly fee for their services, and not a fixed fee or a contingency fee.
- Costs for service of process. If you are going to bring a case in a foreign court and your debtor is located in Mexico, you will have to comply with Mexican procedure rules for proper service of process in Mexico. That means you will have to go through a Mexican court to serve the defendant properly (through a law clerk and “not” through private process-servers) once a formal request has been done through a letter rogatory from the foreign court. Failure to follow this process will make your judgment unenforceable. This service will require the help of counsel in Mexico, who will generally charge an hourly fee. (It is also recommended to substantially comply with Mexican procedure rules for the service of process during arbitration. Failure to do this could allow a defendant to argue violation of his fundamental rights of due process provided under the Mexican Constitution).
- Costs for enforcing a judgment. Again, you are going to need the help of counsel in Mexico to enforce a judgment. They can charge either hourly fees or a contingency fee. (For additional information about enforcement of foreign judgments please check out or article: “How to Enforce a US Judgment in Mexico: Hidden Rules on Homologation.”)
Adding up all these costs (without considering pre-judgment remedies), you would realize that a recovery for a modest amount of money may not result in a profitable business after all if filing suit outside of Mexico or commencing arbitration. For this reason, we believe that collection cases worth $100,000.00 dollars or less are best pursued directly through a Mexican court.
You should be confident that Mexican courts are each day more and more reliable and efficient, especially for these kinds of cases. Retaining an attorney in Mexico for collection will waive all the above-mentioned costs, since many will be willing to work under a contingency fee.
For detailed information on efficiency of Mexican courts and legal proceedings in Mexico to enforce claims, as well as the legal strategies to overcome challenges, please read our article “A Lawyer’s Guide to Strategic Legal Debt Recovery in Mexico.”
If a foreign company intends to pursue legal action in Mexico or is entering into a formal contract within Mexican territory, a representative must be legally appointed to act on its behalf through a formal power of attorney. A power of attorney to be used in Mexico must be carefully drafted and signed, and must also conform with either one of the following international treaties:
- The Washington Protocol on the Uniformity of Powers of Attorney Which are to be Utilized Abroad of 1940; or
- The Panama Inter-American Convention on the Legal Regime of Powers of Attorney to be Used Abroad of 1975.
Both these treaties provide for a handful of legal requirements and conditions that will have to be strictly complied with in order to have full binding effects in Mexico. Some of the basic requirements include:
- Certification and attests by a Notary Public (that the company granting power of attorney was duly formed and is legally existing; that the individual acting on behalf of the company has proper representation and authority to delegate special and general powers of attorney; etc.).
- Purpose and extent of the power of attorney. It must determine the scope of authority (e.g., for lawsuits and collections, to buy and sell goods, to manage the company’s business, etc.).
- The power of attorney should be prepared in Spanish or provide an official translation of it and of all documents pertaining to the same.
- Authentication and legalization of power of attorney. The notary’s signature and certification must be asserted by a government official as valid, and an Apostille for such official certification must be obtained.
- It is recommended that general powers of attorney are filed in the public registry of commerce, in such city or state where the power of attorney is to be used.
These are just some of the main requirements provided under the international treaties. You should, therefore, seek further legal advice from counsel in Mexico to make sure that every condition and all requirements are met.
Except for the civil summary proceeding described below, all proceedings discussed below concern national or international business disputes, that is, disputes between parties considered merchants under Mexican law. Foreign claimants with a business dispute against a Mexican counterpart must follow any of these proceedings which are considered “commercial” in nature. Both federal and state courts have jurisdiction to resolve and adjudicate these “commercial” disputes. As commerce constitutes a federal matter in Mexico’s legal system, the federal Commercial Code governs business transactions as well as related litigation procedures nationwide. Thus, these commercial proceedings apply to most disputes arising from international trade, sales, loans, investments, and other transactions among companies or businesspeople.
- Ordinary proceeding. Used less frequently due to the expansion of oral proceedings, the ordinary proceeding in Mexico remains relevant for complex cases that fall outside the scope of oral or other specialized proceedings. While theoretically allowing comprehensive evidence discovery, in practice these cases progress slowly, often taking 2-4 years to reach a final judgment. The burden of proof is entirely on the plaintiff to gather and submit evidence to support the claims. Cases turn more challenging for plaintiffs lacking solid documentation like contracts and written communications. While the lengthy timeframes and evidentiary burdens frustrate some foreign litigators, the ordinary proceeding remains the most widely used civil action. Since January 26, 2020, most commercial cases now fall within the scope of oral proceedings. Only cases with no monetary value, such as actions for pure declaratory relief including nullity actions, continue to be handled under ordinary proceedings.
- Oral proceeding. As part of judicial reforms aimed at making the administration of justice faster, less costly, more transparent and, to some extent, more adversarial, Mexico has implemented oral proceedings across most commercial disputes. Whereas ordinary proceedings center on written filings (with secretaries usually sitting on behalf of judges during hearings), oral cases feature witness testimonies and arguments by parties and counsel delivered verbally in front of judges, with decisions rendered orally by judges immediately after a final evidentiary hearing. Oral actions thus increase public visibility and interaction between parties, attorneys, and the judge. While reducing case timelines compared to traditional litigation, oral rules remain vague in places, granting considerable discretion to judges to shape procedures. With open hearings and live witness examinations, oral proceedings now resemble civil trials in the United States more closely than other Mexican proceedings.
Do oral proceedings work? It is still a work in progress. While oral proceedings have delivered speedier resolutions, the quality of justice has at times suffered in the faster process. Whereas judges previously had months to issue written rulings which allowed depth of judicial analysis and justified decisions, now their rulings come immediately after hearings, leading to concerns about well-reasoned judgments losing out to expediency.
- Oral executory proceeding. Oral executory proceedings are a subset of oral proceedings, which apply when plaintiffs hold debt instruments like promissory notes establishing a legal presumption of validity. This shifts the burden to defendant debtors to produce exonerating evidence rather than requiring creditors to prove every claim element. Allowing prejudgment attachment of assets, oral executory cases aim to facilitate decisive enforcement of debts while adopting oral proceedings’ transparency. Contested cases typically conclude within 1-2 years from filing to final judgment, significantly faster than ordinary commercial litigation. At present, only disputes involving amounts ranging from MXN $851,710.18 (approximately USD $51,745) to MXN $4 million (roughly USD $243,000) are subject to oral executory rules. Debt claims that do not meet or that exceed this threshold are required to undergo a written executory process, as detailed below. (There is an important caveat here regarding attachment timing: the order to seize assets is executed only upon proper service of process on debtors is completed. And as previously discussed, meticulous service often proves an imposing initial hurdle given legal formalities. Thus, advanced attachment through preliminary actions prior to pursuing an oral executory proceeding may better position creditors.)
- Executory proceeding. A legacy written procedure for commercial debt collection matters, executory proceedings maintain written filings but still limit defendant defenses and allow prejudgment attachment orders to secure assets pending judgment. Executory proceedings offer quicker, more decisive debt enforcement compared to ordinary proceedings. The essence is facilitating seizure of assets when the plaintiff holds special debt titles (such as promissory notes), shifting most burdens of proof to the defendant, who have limited defenses and objections only related to the debt title and not regarding the underlying claim, with limited exceptions. Executory cases usually resolve in 1-2 years. At present, only disputes involving amounts of at least 4 million pesos (approximately USD $243,000 today) must follow the traditional written executory proceeding. (The caveat referenced for oral executory proceedings applies here as well given initial attachment timing upon notification completion.)
- Special proceeding. Statutory special proceedings delineated in Mexico’s federal codes expedite enforcement in targeted situations like collateral obligations. For instance, the Commercial Code establishes a streamlined judicial process for creditors to swiftly repossess assets pledged as loan collateral through non-possessory pledges and guaranty trusts. Upon filing a complaint meeting all legal requirements, the judge must order the immediate repossession of collateral against the debtor within two days. Attaching the latest account statement furnished to the debtor creates a presumption of the outstanding balance if unobjected to within ten days of receipt, shifting the evidentiary burden of disproving sums onto defendants. Moreover, only a few narrow documentary-supported defenses are permissible, like lack of signature, altered documents, or proven debt cancellation. By concentrating directly on collateral obligations, these special proceedings allow swift prejudgment seizure orders while limiting debtor objections. This facilitates efficient repossession and liquidation of pledged security assets compared to general commercial litigation.
- Stipulated or conventional proceedings. Beyond codified special procedures, Mexico’s Commercial Code enables parties to stipulate tailored expedited actions through agreement. Here, parties can stipulate and customize proceedings with reduced filings, limited evidence restrictions, abbreviated terms or excluded appeals. Resembling arbitration in some ways, stipulated proceedings preserve judicial oversight while granting significant process flexibility over ordinary lawsuits. A wise creditor strategy involves selecting a normally available special or executory proceeding as a model while eliminating unnecessary steps that otherwise invite inefficiency. However, stipulations must still respect “essential” formalities constituting due process rights that cannot be waived or ignored. But within those guardrails, party-crafted protocols can significantly expedite most disputes compared to regular commercial litigation. Though requiring more deliberate crafting and wise customization, stipulated proceedings fosters major efficiency gains, as well as effectiveness.
- Civil summary proceeding. While not commercial litigation, the specialized civil summary proceeding expedites mortgage enforcement for creditors securing debt obligations using collateral real estate. However, mortgage enforcement falls under state law and, thus, creditors will exclusively use state courts, whose efficiency varies significantly across Mexico’s justice system – meaning venue selection strategy is pivotal. Without properly perfected mortgages matters revert to ordinary multi-year civil litigation. Contested civil summary foreclosures typically resolve within 1-3 years instead of 2-4 for ordinary civil litigation in Mexico’s overburdened civil court systems across states. So, if foundational mortgage contracts prove deficient, the accelerated process and supposed advantages dissipate. But when rigorously constituted and customized, registration-perfected mortgages authorize accessing civil summary avenues that streamline foreclosing on secured real estate assets, becoming truly effective when paired with a reliable court.
For detailed information on all available legal remedies and proceedings in Mexico applicable to debt collection claims, please read our article “A Lawyer’s Guide to Strategic Legal Debt Recovery in Mexico.”
According to the Federal Code of Civil Procedure (FCCP)—which most States’ Codes have followed, a foreign court will be recognized as the proper venue (with jurisdictional powers), for purposes of enforcing its judgments, when rules on jurisdiction taken into account by the foreign court are compatible with those provided for under Mexican law. These are the following:
- Forum selection clauses will be valid and enforceable if there is no actual obstacle or denial of justice, considering the circumstances involved and its relations among parties.
- Forum selection clauses will not be valid when the right to select a forum works exclusively in favor of one of the parties.
- If there is no forum selection clause, territorial jurisdiction is conferred to the court of either:
- The place designated by the defendant to be notified or summoned for an action, or where a formal demand is to be made upon him to perform on a contract or obligation.
- The place where performance of a contractual obligation was agreed to.
- The address or place of residence of the defendant.
The Mexican Commercial Code provides for several precautionary measures for commercial matters (cases that arise out of commercial disputes), including the orders for seizure of assets (“embargo”), which has both features of the attachment and garnishment orders. Such remedy (the “attachment order”), will allow us to seize movables assets in possession of the debtor, or to levy on real estate owned by the debtor by an act of recording or filing, and also to levy on the debtor’s tangible personal property in the possession of a third party, or to garnish rights (intangible assets) such as debt owed to a debtor, or funds in bank accounts.
Although the remedy is available to all creditors, there are certain conditions and requirements that must be fully complied with since the measure is granted as an ex parte relief. First, the petition for an attachment order, as a precautionary measure, has to be supported by documents or witnesses showing that: 1) petitioner has a prima facie underlying claim on the merits; and 2) there’s a potential risk that debtor will hide or transfer ownership rights on his real or personal property.
Second, once the attachment order is granted, the creditor must post a bond that will indemnify the debtor for damages if there’s any wrongful attachment, or if creditor does not prevail in his case with a favorable judgment. The attachment will be executed only after the bond is posted. (The amount required for the bond is left to the court’s discretion, and generally ranges from 5% to 20% of the value of the claim).
Third, since the attachment is a remedy ancillary to a lawsuit, the attachment will be ineffective if a complaint is not filed within three days of executing the attachment order. Such term can be extended if the complaint has to be filed and followed in a foreign country.
For detailed information on all preliminary actions (including pre0judgment attachment) applicable to debt collection claims, please read our article “A Lawyer’s Guide to Strategic Legal Debt Recovery in Mexico.”
Like most Civil Law countries around the world, Most Mexican States provide for remedies against the fraudulent conveyance of assets through an action of nullity known as “actio pauliana”. The Federal Civil Code—which many States have followed, provides that any transaction made by debtor to harm or with prejudice of his creditor can be annulled, if there is evidence that proves that: 1) the debtor’s insolvency resulted from such transaction, and 2) the credit that originated the annulment request took place prior to the transaction. If the transaction was onerous, there must be evidence that the transaction was conducted in bad faith(fraud) by the parties involved. However, the creditor will be relieved from this burden of proof when the debtor sold goods (onerous transaction) following either a judgment or an attachment order (embargo) issued against him. In this case, it is presumed that the transfer was fraudulent.
The process involved for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Mexico (called “homologation”), is quite a rigorous one. It is a process in which both local and federal rules of procedure come into play, and one that goes hand in hand with another procedure on letters rogatory. According to article 571 of the Federal Code of Civil Procedure—which most States have followed, recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment will take place only when the following conditions are met:
- All formalities for letters rogatory are satisfied.
- Judgment is not the result of an in rem right (pertaining to real estate).
- The court rendering the judgment had proper jurisdiction to try the matter and to pass judgment on it.
- Service of process has been completed upon defendant in due legal form.
- The judgment must be final and have the force of res judicata.
- There must be no case tried by a Mexican court which is a result of the same legal actions.
- The judgment must not be contrary to Mexican public policy (ordre public).
- The judgment must meet all the formal requirements necessary to be deemed authentic (legalization).
The process for homologation requires that defendant is granted a nine-day period to file an answer to the petition for enforcement and to make allegations or to bring evidence in court. After the court has decided which evidence proposals are admitted, it will set up a hearing date for its reproduction. Once the evidence is fully rendered, the court will be ready to rule either granting homologation or denying it, through formal judgment. An appeal process will be available to both parties, granting them five days to appeal and file their briefs. (For detailed information on how to enforce a foreign judgment, including recommendations, please read our article on “How to Enforce a US Judgment in Mexico: Hidden Rules on Homologation“).
An amparo is a constitutional injunction proceeding that can supersede any other type of proceeding or resolution. An action of amparo can be filed whenever a fundamental human right provided under the Mexican Constitution or under an international treaty that Mexico has subscribed, is allegedly breached or infringed by any government agency or institution, including courts. This is not a legal remedy within a certain civil or criminal case but, instead, it’s a different and independent proceeding. Amparo provides relief across spheres, challenging government conduct including arrest warrants, interim orders, and any final judgment (civil, commercial, criminal, etc.). In the latter cases, an amparo could be thought of as a “third instance appeal,” as it allows challenging a final judgment after an ordinary appeal has been exhausted.
Although discontinued in September 2021, the 2020 Guide on Doing Business from The World Bank (with the most recent round of data collection completed on May 19, 2019) is a good reference point to get an idea on timeframes of contract enforcement. According to its survey and report on judicial contract enforcement in Latin America and the Caribbean, it takes on average 774.2 days and costs 32% of the debt value to enforce contract through the courts in this region. Compare that to the USA where it takes 444 days and costs 30.5% of debt value (on average), and Canada with 910 days and cost of 22.3%. The report also showed that in Mexico it takes on average 341 days and costs 33% of the debt value to enforce a contract. Mexico ranked at #43, out of 190 countries surveyed back in 2019, according to the World Bank report.
Yes. The limitation period in Mexico for enforcement of commercial transactions made within the country is one year for retail sales, and ten years for wholesale. On international or cross-border sales, the limitation period is four years, according to Vienna Convention. For criminal matters where a debtor committed fraud to obtain credit or goods, the limitation period is one year from the time of notice or acknowledgement of such crime, extendable to two years on special cross-border matters.
Besides limitation periods and other legal constraints, collectability has a lot to do with how fast and efficient our actions are, and how fast the claim is pursued when compared with other creditors. The premise “first come, first served,” is proven to be true when a debtor has hit financial crisis. Undercapitalized businesses are common in Mexico (maybe everywhere), so the few assets a company has to pay its debts with will be allocated to those who seize assets first. In addition, it’s common to see debtors in Mexico easily transfer the company’s assets to another business without the proper liquidation process. Although there is legal recourse against a fraudulent conveyance of assets, this road usually carries an additional longer and more complex proceeding that prevents an immediate recovery. Therefore, it is highly recommended to act fast and execute upon debtor’s property as soon as possible.
There are many factors that determine if and to what extent a court will be effective and efficient in enforcing your contract. Unfortunately, corruption is one of those factors in some places and at some levels, but it is NOT a general situation or a general rule. In some places and at some levels corruption is not a factor within courts, but there are other factors that you need to keep in mind. For instance, courts in some places are short staffed, or there are simply not enough courts in that State to entertain the number of cases filed, or to serve remote areas or towns. In other places, personnel at courts (including clerks, secretaries and sometimes judges) are not qualified or well-trained, or they work under heavy pressure from tight deadlines and high volume of cases (such as federal courts), which lowers their performance significantly.
In general, federal courts have improved remarkably in recent years in their fight against corruption, as pursued and lead strongly by the Mexican Supreme Court. Thus, in many places, corruption will be less a factor at the federal courts, although other factors might arise and hinder their performance levels. Similarly, there are some States that are recognized for the good performance levels of their courts, well above other States, and for their minimum corruption levels.
In order to determine the possible best courts to hear your case (which is key for choosing proper forum or venue for your contract or for litigation), you need to consult with a trusted litigation lawyer that has experience throughout the country and understands the problems pointed out, in all the regions and at both State and Federal levels in Mexico.
For detailed information on challenges and performance levels of Mexican courts during litigation in Mexico, please read our article “A Lawyer’s Guide to Strategic Legal Debt Recovery in Mexico.”
Lawyers in Mexico are not required to belong to any Bar Association (whether State or Federal) to practice law in Mexico (including litigation through the Mexican courts). Upon finishing law school through a credited University and completing final examinations and other requirements (as approved by the Secretary of Public Education in Mexico), a student will receive a professional title and a license to practice in their field of study by the Secretary of Public Education. Lawyers in Mexico will be allowed to practice law throughout the country (both in State and federal courts), once they receive their license, which they usually register in State and Federal courts, as required to engage in litigation. The Secretary of Public Education makes publicly available its database of professionals through the following link, where you can search lawyers by their full name. During collection and legal work in Mexico, HMH Legal will only employ or partner with Mexican lawyers who are duly licensed to practice law in Mexico.