4/10/2015

You’ve Been Served for Divorce – On Facebook!

     Forget about the heartwarming videos of kittens playing and Throwback Thursday pictures.  The next message you get via Facebook may truly change your life forever. 

     A family court in New York (Naidoo v. Blood-Drake) recently permitted a wife to serve her husband solely by sending it as a private message to his Facebook account.  Typically, the standard method for serving a Complaint for Divorce, whether in New York or New Jersey, is personal delivery.  Personal delivery is preferred by the court system because it ensures that a person being sued for divorce is aware of the action.  However, when a spouse who wants a divorce does not know where the other spouse lives, personal service can become very difficult to accomplish. 

     The wife argued that she had no other way to reach her husband other than through Facebook.  Although the parties married in 2009, they never resided together.  The last known address that the wife had for the husband was an apartment he abandoned in 2011.  The post office had no forwarding address for him and the Department of Motor Vehicles had no record of him.  However, the wife was able to show that the husband was very active on Facebook and that it was extremely unlikely he would not read the private messages sent to his account based upon the history of the parties’ communications by that manner.

     Ultimately, the court found that under these specific circumstances, service via Facebook was a method that was reasonably calculated to apprise defendant that he is being sued for divorce.  The wife was directed to have her attorney message the husband by identifying himself and including a web address of the summons or attaching an image of the summons.  The court ordered the transmittal to be repeated once a week for three consecutive weeks or until acknowledged by the husband.  Additionally, after the initial transmittal, the wife and her attorney were directed by the court to call and text message the husband to inform him that the summons for divorce was sent via Facebook.

     Even though this matter was a New York decision, it is probably just a matter of time until the State of New Jersey permits service via Facebook, or some other form of social media, as well.  

Blog authored by Kelsey M. Mulholland, Esq.