Facebook as an Alternative Service Method?
People use Facebook for a lot of reasons, including keeping up with family and friends, promoting businesses and finding old classmates. A New York judge recently approved a new use for the social media site that could potentially spread to divorce proceedings nationwide.
The Washington Post is reporting about a Manhattan Supreme Court judge who recently allowed a woman to serve her husband with divorce papers through Facebook. According to the article, the husband left the marital home without providing any information regarding his whereabouts. With no fixed address or place of employment for him, the woman was left with virtually no means of serving her divorce complaint.
The only communication that the husband maintained was an occasional message via Facebook. The woman’s attorney asked the court’s permission to use the site as a vehicle to satisfy service on the husband. In her decision, the judge stated in part that Facebook is a reasonable method of service as long as there is a good chance that the defendant will receive the documents. In making that determination, the judge posed several questions:
- – Can it be shown that the Facebook account actually belongs to the defendant? The defendant was able to document Facebook conversations between herself and her husband. She also presented pictures from his Facebook page that identified him.
- – Does the defendant regularly check his Facebook account to the degree that it is likely for him to see the complaint? The defendant also used her history of Facebook communications with defendant to prove this point.
- – What backup methods of service are available and should they be deployed? The judge ordered the defendant’s attorney to call the defendant and send text messages to alert him that the documents were sent by Facebook.
What the Florida Law Says
Under Florida law, once a petition for the dissolution of marriage is filed with the court, the petitioner must personally serve a copy on the defendant. This can be accomplished with the assistance of a professional process server or a deputy sheriff in the spouse’s county of residence. Postal mail, Federal Express and email are not acceptable means of personal service under the state divorce laws. If the petition is not served properly, the court may dismiss the case or allow it to sit without resolution.
For individuals who cannot locate their spouses, “constructive service of process” is an option. The petitioner must first complete an “Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry.” This is a sworn statement documenting what efforts were made to locate the missing spouse. Some of the possible efforts may include:
- – Contacting family and friends;
- – Contacting the last known employer;
- – Looking through telephone directories; and
- – Inquiring with the local tax assessor.
Once the affidavit is filed, the court will determine whether adequate measures were taken to allow service by publication. This involves posting a notice in the newspaper on a weekly basis, for a period of four consecutive weeks. If this is done, and there is still no response from the spouse, the case may continue through the courts.
If you are filing for a divorce, but cannot locate your spouse, the attorneys of Vanessa L. Prieto, LLC can assist you in your endeavors. Located in Fort Lauderdale, our office serves Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. Call us today at 954-800-2362 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.