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Divorce by Facebook: New Development in Divorce Law and Procedure

On April 6, 2015 a New York City Judge gave permission for a woman to serve divorce papers on her husband via a Facebook message. 

Ms. Baidoo, a 26 year old woman who sought to divorce her husband Victor Sean Blood-Dzraku was unable to serve Mr. Blood-Dzraku through normal means.  Normally a divorce is served pursuant to Civil Practice Law and Rules sec 308(1) by handing the papers to the defendant.  However, Ms. Baidoo made herculean attempts through her process servers to locate Mr. Blood-Dzraku.  This is required  before “alternative” service is authorized.  Usually, alternative service is the publication of a notice in the “legal notices” portion of a newspaper.

In this instant case, Mr. Blood-Dzraku vacated an apartment in 2011 and has not had a fixed address or place of employment since.  He made himself completely unavailable and was, more than illusive…he was a ghost.  No one could find him including his wife and her process servers.  After valiant efforts, they asked the Judge for permission to serve by publication.  Usually Judges will allow the divorce to be published in the legal notice section of the newspaper.  However, the criticism in such cases is that the husband/defendant never really reads the legal notice section of the newspaper.  Nobody reads that section.

Justice Matthew F. Cooper of the Manhattan Supreme Court actually designed the permitted publication to be in the only medium that the defendant/husband would actually read: Facebook messenger.  In her application for alternative or publication service Ms. Baidoo states that for years the only contact she has ever been able to establish with her husband was through Facebook messages.  Therefore, rather than bury the notice in a “legal notice” portion of a newspaper, this Judge ordered that the divorce papers be served (and that service be appropriate) if it was messaged via Facebook to the husband on three separate occasions with a week between each attempt.

This sort of publication service is not only creative but it is actually more effective and it is more likely to result in the defendant/husband receiving notice that his wife is attempting to divorce him. If he responds he is able to defend the case and possibly seek maintenance and equitable distribution.  In the last few years his wife has been saving money in her retirement account; accumulating assets; or, alternatively if she was accumulating debts, this should be shared by him as her husband.  Nevertheless, if he does nothing the divorce should go through and it will be legally appropriate because the Judge has ordered the service via Facebook messenger.

This was an excellent decision and a very creative decision that was designed not only to fit squarely within the parameters of the law and also to be most likely to succeed in giving this husband the notice that his wife was divorcing him.

Here at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates we have been incorporating social media into divorce cases for almost a decade.  We have been successful in proving gang affiliation based on veiled and cryptic statements in a person’s profile; and we have been successful in establishing a person’s character by what they post, share and like in custody cases.

Social media is just that: media.  However, social media is interactive and it is not a one way medium.  Therefore, it can show a person’s communications back and forth with other persons and it can be used to communicate.  In this case, it is used to serve divorce papers.  This is an excellent extension of the rules governing service of process and it has the highest degree of probability of achieving its goal: proper notice to this defendant that his wife is divorcing him.

Bryan L. Salamone & Associates is one of New York’s largest and most successful divorce and family law firms and is available for free consultations on selected cases.  Please call 1.631.479.3839 or visit our website at www.divorcelaywerlongisland.com.

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