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Is it legally improper, or just bad etiquette to serve divorce papers through Facebook?

In order to obtain a divorce, the defendant spouse must first be served with a copy of the divorce complaint. Traditionally, this has been accomplished by a sheriff or private process server.  In some cases, this can be completed by certified mail. However, like everything else, the legal system has evolved with the proliferation of email as a preferred method of communication. Now, with the advancement of social media, things may be changing again.

A New York judge has apparently ruled that service of a divorce complaint can be provided through Facebook. And let me be clear: I like the idea! Seems harsh to use a social media platform to accomplish something that certainly will not be “liked”, but this is the method by which many people communicate these days. Indeed, I’ve seen several divorces that were caused due to a spouse’s inappropriate activities on Facebook, so why not serve that spouse with a divorce complaint through Facebook?

To be effective, service should reasonably apprise the defendant of the action that is pending against them.  A Facebook message can accomplish this goal just as effectively as traditional means of service, and far more efficiently than paper ever could.  It certainly will not be proper in every case, but it could be proper under the right circumstances.  I know of no cases supporting Facebook service of a complaint in Florida or Alabama, but don’t be surprised to hear about it soon.

The complete text of the New York decision can be found HERE.

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