Can I be served with a summons for divorce on Facebook?
Daniel E. Clement is a divorce and family law attorney who has been practicing since 1986 and blogging at the New York Divorce Report since 2006. Daniel uses his in-depth experience to provide sensitive representation for his clients during an emotional and challenging time in their lives. Daniel writes and lectures on family law issues, and he is sought after as an expert in the field by print, television and radio journalists. He represents a wide range of clients frequently needing help with a divorce or a pre-nuptial agreement. Daniel focuses on educating his clients on family law so they're empowered to make decisions and understand what they're owed. Full Bio
All cases begin with the service of a summons. In a New York divorce, the defendant must be personally served with the summons, reflecting the importance of allowing a party to offer a defense in a case that could have immeasurable financial and familial consequences.
Problems arise when one spouse cannot be located and, therefore, personally served. Parties could seek permission to make alternative service and, as a last resort, service by publication when, after a diligent inquiry, a party could not be located. The problem with service by publication is that not only is service it expensive, but it is completely ineffective. Defendants rarely get notice of the pending divorce from a newspaper ad. Truthfully, who actually reads the legal classified ads in the Irish Echo?
In a recent New York County case, a wife was permitted to serve her husband by direct message through Facebook after she was able to prove:
- that she was unable to personally serve the summons personally on the defendant;
- that it would be "impracticable" to serve him by "substitute service" (service on a person of suitable age and discretion or "nail and mail"); and
- that sending the summons through Facebook would reasonably be expected to give the defendant actual notice that he is being sued for divorce.
That there was a Facebook account in the defendant’s name was not alone a sufficient basis to permit service through Facebook. The plaintiff had to satisfy the court that:
- That the Facebook account actually belonged to the defendant.
- The defendant logged into the account with some regularity so that he would actually get notice of the divorce.
It will be interesting to see how just how far Courts will be willing to go in permitting service through social media. Will we soon be direct tweeting summons in 140 character messages? Will a picture of a summons on a photo sharing site constitute good service?
This question was originally posted at http://clementlaw.com/divorce/get-served-with-a-summons-in-facebook/. The writer retains all copyrights.