09 Apr Serving Divorce Papers On Facebook: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come
In this case, “sharing” is not caring.
Ending a marriage is never easy, but Facebook may be able to streamline the process. The de facto platform for communication for just about everyone, the social network could take on a new role as a place to serve divorce papers.
This week, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper granted 26-year-old Ellanora Baidoo permission to serve papers to her elusive husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, via a Facebook message. People have served legal notices before using the network, but Baidoo’s case is one of the few in the U.S., and the first here that legally recognizes it as a means of official communication in divorce proceedings.
Sounds handy, but that doesn’t mean Facebook messages universally hold up as official courtroom communication. Right now, the rules vary—which may be bad for efficiency, but good for staving off any wacky ideas tech companies could possibly have to monetize our woes.
You Got Served
When it comes to serving court papers, procedures can differ across state and county lines. But in general, they can be rather picky about what constitutes proper legal notification.
Email or fax doesn’t legally count. In most cases, you have to either mail the documents to the last known address or physically hand them to the person (usually through a third-party service). If nothing else works, you can also publish the notice in the newspaper—which is what typically what happens when you can’t reach a deadbeat spouse.
Justice Cooper’s decision seems to put Facebook messages on par with postal mail, but with a caveat: As the judge wrote in the court documents, the “transmittal shall be repeated by plaintiff’s attorney to defendant once a week for three consecutive weeks or until acknowledged,” to prove that the papers have been received.
Invoking the social network was a last resort. Sena Blood-Dzraku’s whereabouts in the real world were unknown. But because he communicated with his estranged wife via phone calls and Facebook, Baidoo knew where to find him online. Her lawyer first attempted to serve Sena Blood-Dzraku through his client’s Facebook account last week. So far, he hasn’t responded.
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