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Service of process and…Facebook?

In order to begin a divorce, a Summons must be served on the other spouse. This puts them on notice you are persuing dissolution of marriage. Service of these documents cannot be completed by you or someone under 18. Typically a process server conducts this process, which requires them to locate the person to be served at home or at work in order to hand them the documents.

When a spouse cannot be found because they have left no forwarding contact information or simply do not want the divorce and are evading service, this process can be completed through publication-typically in a newspaper under the legal notices section. However, in order to do so, a motion must be made to the court seeking permission for publication and showing every effort has been made to find and serve the other party.

Interestingly, on April 6, 2015, a judge from Brooklyn allowed a woman to serve her husband via Facebook because he had no known physical address for home or work and only communicated with his wife through Facebook or phone. Additionally, he refused to make himself available to accept service. The wife and her attorney even went as far as hiring a private investigator to locate him. Unfortunately, their efforts turned up nothing.

Given their attempts, the judge ruled that the plaintiff could have her attorney log into her Facebook account (because she cannot effectuate service herself) to serve the Summons via a private message. The attorney was ordered to first identify himself as the person representing the wife in a divorce proceeding and provide the husband with a copy of the Summons via a web link or by attaching an image.

In order to complete this process, the wife’s attorney was required to repeat this process once per week for three weeks or until the husband acknowledged he had received the Summons. Additionally, they were ordered to call or text the husband to let him know the Summons was sent to him via Facebook Messenger.

While this is not typical or common practice, it is one way the courts are adapting to the future and technology. It’ is also just another way Facebook can creep into a divorce. All too often, posts made by one party or the other find their way in as evidence which causes the process to escalate into a high conflict divorce.

Just remember to keep any comments or remarks about the other party off of Facebook and contact an experienced family law attorney to assist you with any questions you may have about the service or divorce process.