The way it goes, in past history, is that to start a lawsuit (or notify someone you want a divorce, which is a lawsuit) you needed to personally serve somebody with the papers. Like, one of those “you’ve been served.”
But with social media taking over and people living in different states and countries, the service process has become much more difficult. So now, some judges are ruling ruled that courts have to allow service of process or notice by email or Facebook, or other forms of social media, including Instagram messenger.
Peter Walzer, founding partner of family law firm Walzer Melcher LLP, says there are a few ground rules before posting to someone’s Facebook wall that you want your relationship to be terminated. “You have to attempt personal contact, if you can’t find someone by usual means of services, you can start a lawsuit using social media,” Peter explains. “You also have to determine that they use their Facebook page, wall or messenger.”
Peter says that’s easy to prove in court, since people are constantly updating their statuses and posting pictures and using location services, so it’s become pretty difficult to claim you didn’t see the notice on your social media page.
The traditional rules of service of process are being addressed by the courts on a case to case basis, Peter says, because most people now use their mobile phones and no longer have landlines. Many people and businesses also operate not in one location any longer, with many employees of one company spread out all over the country. It’s become very effectual to reach people my means of social media.
So far, New York has ruled in favor of serving papers through social media. “It’s cutting edge,” Peter says. “Ten years ago all the evidence in divorce cases was handwritten. Now people are showing texts in court, I see it every day. I’ve used Facebook posts [as evidence], he was in a bar, you’re supposed to be home with your kids. It is so common. These are sophisticated people, career people, sending threatening texts.
“Starting divorce proceedings this way is the wave of the future.”
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