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New York Court Allows Woman To Serve Divorce Papers Through Facebook

Daniel Noffsinger - Sunday, July 12, 2015

Under the United States Constitution and state constitutions, individuals have a fundamental due process right to have notice of legal proceedings filed against them. This is known as service of process. Typically, service of process involves the delivery of a summons and complaint on the individual defendant. This is often done by personally serving someone with legal papers through a third party.

If personal service cannot be obtained then service must be carried out through additional means, such as through notice by U.S. mail, notice by publication, or notice by substitute service on another individual. One court, however, has allowed a novel approach to alternative service of legal documents: service through Facebook.

New York Court Allows Service Through Facebook

Earlier this year, a Manhattan Supreme Court Justice issued a decision that allowed a New York woman to serve divorce papers using a private message on Facebook. According to the court’s decision, “plaintiff's attorney shall log into plaintiff's Facebook account and message the defendant by first identifying himself, and then including either a web address of the summons or attaching an image of the summons.” This process must be repeated once a week for three consecutive weeks, or until acknowledged. What’s more, the plaintiff and her attorney must also call and send a text message to the defendant.

The judge believed that service through Facebook in this case did not violate constitutional due process protections and would be reasonably expected to give notice to the defendant that he was being sued for divorce. As an initial matter, the court held that plaintiff adequately demonstrated that she exhausted her efforts to effect personal service on defendant. The court believed that personal service was effectively impossible because the defendant had no valid address where he could be located.

Furthermore, the court did not believe that other methods of alternative service—publication, mail or substitute service—would be reasonably calculated to effectuate service. Rather, given today’s technological age of e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter, the court thought Facebook would provide a method reasonably calculated to inform the defendant of the divorce proceeding.

Serving Divorce Papers In Colorado

Under Colorado’s Rules of Civil Procedure, service of legal papers—including divorce papers—must be served on individuals by personal service. If personal service cannot be obtained, on approval of the court, substitute service through a local newspaper or service by registered mail may be authorized. To obtain permission for substitute service, an individual must file an affidavit with the court stating the efforts made to obtain personal service, the reason that personal service could not be obtained and further attempts for personal service would be to no avail. Certain types of proceedings, however, cannot be accomplished through substitute service. For example, a court will not order child support or money payments, unless personal services is obtained.

Contact a Colorado Springs Divorce Attorney for Advice

If you are going through a divorce and have questions regarding the process, a Colorado Springs divorce attorney at Noffsinger Law can help. Our experienced Colorado Springs divorce attorney can provide legal advice in a variety of divorce matters, including marital property, child custody, and spousal support disputes.

Contact a Colorado Springs family law attorney today at Noffsinger Law for help with all your family law needs. Call us today at 719.368.3688 for a free consultation or visit our office at 545 E. Pikes Peak Ave., Ste. 205, in Colorado Springs.