When initially speaking with an attorney in regard to obtaining a divorce, or immediately following retention of counsel, a husband or wife is usually advised to be wary of what he or she posts to social media sites. Such posts could potentially be used against the husband or wife if he or she admits to extramarital activities while separated, or the posts portray the spouse as a parent who is less capable of caring for the parties’ child(ren) (e.g. posts mentioning drug use or alcohol consumption).
However, are there instances in which social media sites could be of indispensable value to a husband or wife wishing to pursue marital dissolution? The answer is “yes” if you are on the “serving” side of the legal dispute.
The first step in obtaining a divorce from your spouse is to file a complaint for marital dissolution with the Court. Upon filing of this legal document with the Court, the complaint must be served upon the husband or wife, or put simply, a copy of the complaint must be given to the spouse. Yet there are many instances in which a spouse cannot be found. What method of service do you turn to if you are physically unable to locate your spouse? Typically, the solution is divorce by publication. This is a process in which you publish notice of your divorce proceeding in a newspaper of general circulation in the county of your spouse’s last known residence.
But, given the age of technology, it is not very often that individuals read the newspaper. Why pick up the newspaper when you can pick up your phone to learn the news? That being said, as we become more reliant upon technology, our laws and procedures tend to follow suit, and in recent decisions courts have become more lenient in the methods in which a lawsuit can be served upon a spouse- the most recent development being service by Facebook.
A New York Court recently allowed a wife to serve a complaint for divorce upon her husband via Facebook. Of course, serving a complaint via social media is not easy. In this particular matter, there were additional measures that had to be taken when serving the complaint. For example, confirmation was needed to validate that the account in which she intended to serve the complaint officially belonged to her spouse. While this process seems like a relatively simple task, it can be very difficult at times, as many people create profiles under false names and do not post personal pictures. Secondly, the wife had to provide documentation that the husband logged into the site regularly and would see the complaint. These requirements were met by providing documentation of the private messages the wife exchanged with her husband.
It is important to keep in mind that the court will decide if service by Facebook will be the sole method in which a spouse is required to provide a copy of the complaint. In previous situations when service by Facebook was allowed, the courts often required service via email or mail in addition to service by Facebook.
Although service by social media is atypical, novel, and non-traditional, the purpose of any form of service is to provide a copy of the complaint to the spouse and to verify that the spouse is aware of the lawsuit filed against him or her. Service by Facebook does just that. So, while Facebook can be the enemy, it can also a friend. Be wary of what you post to social media sites, but also keep in mind how valuable these sites could be to you. Perhaps service by social media will become the trend for the future.
If you or a loved one are in a situation in which you cannot reasonably locate a spouse (for example, the spouse has moved and left no forwarding address), please contact a divorce attorney at Cole Law Group (615) 490-6020 so we may discuss possible measures that can be taken to help you obtain a divorce.