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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.

by

Andrew D. Wheeer is a family law, elder law and appellate attorney, and the founder of The Wheeler Firm, PA. Andrew only take cases in those practice areas in order to focus on those special areas of the law. With offices in Fort Walton Beach and Miramar Beach, Andrew represents clients throughout Okaloosa and Walton counties, and has represented more than 2,000 clients over the course of the past 15 years. Andrew attended the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, and graduated with a Juris Doctorate of law in 2002. While attending law school, Andrew was active in numerous legal writing opportunities, won awards for legal writing and was selected as a member of the Cumberland Law Review. Andrew was then accepted to the Cumberland Study Abroad Program and attended Durham University in Durham, England. Andrew also worked as a research assistant and intern for Chief Magistrate Judge John Ott in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Over the next 15 years, Andrew represented thousands of clients in divorce, adoption, custody modification proceedings, child support contempt actions, probate litigation, and counseled clients on elder law rights, including long-term care planning and general estate planning. Andrew believes clients desire representation from attorneys who have a thorough understanding of their specific legal issues. Therefore, after beginning his career as a general practitioner, Andrew chose to focus his career on a few specific areas of law - those that affect the family. He continues to concentrate on those areas today. Andrew regularly interacts with the public by speaking to groups of people on family and elder law topics, including long-term care planning and techniques to avoid probate litigation. In 2012, Andrew began teaching seminars on adoption law through the National Business Institute, providing guidance to other attorneys on proper procedures to secure adoptions of children. Andrew is married to Regina Wheeler, with whom he has a son, and the family resides in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Andrew serves as President of the Destin Kiwanis Club and is active in the local chambers of commerce.

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