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Can Facebook Be Used to Serve Divorce Papers?

In the first week of April, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper granted permission to a 26-year-old woman to serve divorce papers to her husband via Facebook message. The somewhat controversial decision marks the first time in New York that the social network has been legally recognized as an official means of communication for divorce proceedings.

Of course, this doesn’t yet mean that Facebook messages are a universal means of courtroom communication. But there have now been a few similar cases to this across the country, which means that the tide could be beginning to turn in the way that social media is used for official court purposes.

What is interesting about this decision is that emailing or faxing divorce papers doesn’t legally count as proper notification. Most of the time, you are required to either mail the documents to the recipient’s last known address, or to physically hand them to that person. Justice Cooper’s decision likens Facebook messages to postal mail, but indicates that the transmission of the messages must be repeated every week for three consecutive weeks by the plaintiff’s attorney, or until the messages are acknowledged. The fact that Facebook messages are now marked as “read” whenever they have been viewed by the recipient means that courts can prove acknowledgement of the messages, even if the recipient did not respond.

In this case, the use of Facebook was a last resort, as the woman’s husband’s whereabouts were unknown. He had, however, communicated with his wife via phone and Facebook.

For now, the most effective means of serving divorce papers remains in person or through postal mail. But it will be interesting to see if this decision leads to an increase in online paper-serving methods.

To learn more about what you need to do to begin the divorce process, speak with a skilled lawyer at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP.

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