You Have Been Served… On Facebook

November 3, 2014

In September, a New York court approved service of process via Facebook in a child support case.   The father attempted to serve the mother at her house, but she no longer lived there, and had left no forwarding address.  Neither she nor the children would not respond to phone calls or emails, but she was active on Facebook.  This decision was the first in the United States that included both parties who lived in the country.

There have been other cases allowing service via Facebook where one party lived overseas.  In the Eastern District of Virginia, the court allowed service via social media on a Defendant who allegedly lived in Turkey.  In 2011, a Minnesota family court authorized service via social media where the Defendant had left the country, reasoning that it would be more cost effective and increase the likelihood that the Defendant would see the notice.

Is service via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc the future of law?  It seems likely to me.  With all of the technology available to us – read receipts for emails and notifications for other social media – it seems archaic that we still rely on personal service by a process server or substituted service by mail.

In family law cases, we have the option of service by publication as well.  Where do you think the Defendant would be more likely to see the notice of the law suit – the legal section of a newspaper that they probably don’t read, or through a notification or message through social media?

In any event, the New York decision represents a significant milestone and deserves attention. As Facebook and social media become a major part of our daily lives, I think we can expect to see other judges expanding circumstances where service via social media would be appropriate.

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