Court Allows Wife to Serve Divorce Summons Via Facebook

Laws governing marriage and divorce vary somewhat from state to state. Most aspects of a divorce proceeding are regulated by the local state’s family code, including procedural and substantive matters. In California, like most states, parties are required to follow applicable provisions from the inception of a case to the final appeal. For example, from the outset, the person who initiates a divorce proceeding must adhere to the state’s rules on how to properly serve notice of the complaint on the other party. It is important to keep in mind that these rules are local in nature and may be different depending on where the parties reside. In order to protect your rights and follow the legal requirements in your jurisdiction, you are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney from the San Diego area.

Under California law, the person who serves your divorce papers must be 18 years of age or older and must deliver a copy to your spouse. The server can be a friend, relative, county sheriff, or an official process server. There are two ways that one can accomplish “effective” service: 1) by personal service – i.e., a hand-delivered copy of all the papers, including blank forms, to your spouse; or 2) service by mail with a notice and acknowledgment of receipt.

As with most issues in a divorce proceeding, it is helpful if the spouses are on good terms and cooperating with each other. If one spouse agrees to accept service by mail, it can be a simpler and less costly way to accomplish service. In some family law cases, it may not be so easy to locate your spouse in order to properly serve him or her. In such instances, California law allows you to ask the court for permission to serve your papers “by publication” or “by posting.”

In a divorce case that has attracted nationwide attention, a judge in New York is allowing a woman to use Facebook to serve her husband with a divorce summons. In Baidoo v Blood-Dzraku, the wife petitioned the court, asking for permission to use an “alternative” method of service under local state law. She argued that she had no other way to reach him. Here, the wife was required to demonstrate that: 1) she was unable to personally serve the defendant, 2) it would be “impracticable” to serve him by “substitute service” or by using “nail and mail,” and 3) sending the summons through Facebook could reasonably be expected to give him actual notice that he is being sued for divorce.

The court pointed out that only a handful of jurisdictions have addressed the issue of service of process via social media and, among those cases, there seems to be an even split of opinion. Ultimately, the court allowed service of the divorce summons through a Facebook message. The wife further provided an affidavit stating that the Facebook account belonged to her husband and that he routinely logs in to the site. The court was most concerned with satisfying the Constitutional requirement of affording the parties “due process.” Here, allowing service in this manner seemed to be the most effective way to ensure that the husband received notice of the divorce complaint.

This case is a terrific example of the extent to which different states approach family law issues in varying ways. It further supports the notion that if you are seeking a divorce in California, it is important to consult with a local family law attorney as early in the process as possible. Roy M. Doppelt has been representing parties in divorce matters for more than 20 years. His office serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

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