NY woman serves divorce papers via Facebook
Divorce papers can now be served exclusively via Facebook in New York State when that is the only possible option, following a recent court ruling there.
In Baidoo v Blood-Dzraku (NY March 27th 2015) the claimant, Ms Baidoo, said she had been unable to serve a divorce summons on her husband using traditional means of personal service. The couple married in 2009 but had never lived together. The respondent refused to give any address saying he was of no fixed abode and claiming he had no employment. He had vacated his last known address in 2011.
Judge Cooper of the New York County Supreme Court said it was essential that respondents received divorce summons because the proceedings could have huge effect on their finances meaning it was vital they had the chance to take part in them.
He said the claimant had demonstrated that normal means of serving the summons on her husband had failed. She had also been able to show that her husband was active on Facebook – and proven the account in question was without doubt his and not that of any other person – and so likely to quickly receive his summons there.
New Yorkers have various means of traditional service of court papers at their disposal besides personal service. They can “substitute service” by presenting the summons via someone over the age of 18 who lives at the same address as the respondent. Or they can “nail and mail” where the summons is nailed to the door of their home or place of work or use the “publication” method – in the local newspaper. Email is also becoming an increasingly common method of service in the United States.
This case is the first of its kind. Other US courts have sanctioned the use of Facebook as one method of service – but this case is the first where private messaging on the website was the only method used. As recently as 2012-13 US courts were describing the idea of service of court papers in other cases via social media as a novel and unorthodox concept. Whether service by social media takes off remains to be seen.