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The use of social media in the service of process

Virginia residents who are contemplating a divorce likely know that it is necessary to serve the other spouse with divorce papers. While this may seem like a simple task, in many cases it is not. The spouse's whereabouts may be unknown and finding him or her might exhaust all known resources such as placing notice in a local newspaper. In two recent family law cases, however, judges in New York have allowed the service of legal documents to be made via Facebook.

In one case, a Brooklyn wife tried in vain, despite hiring a private detective, to find her husband to let him know she was filing for divorce. However, the wife knew her husband was a frequent visitor to Facebook. Once the court was satisfied that every other measure had been unsuccessful, the court allowed her to send a notice to her estranged husband's Facebook account. Another case involved a man who needed to advise his wife concerning changes he wanted to make to his child support obligations. Since he was unable to find her using other means, the judge in this case allowed him to contact her via Facebook.

At this time, judicial approval of the use of Facebook as a method of service of process has been limited. However, the widespread popularity of social media might cause other courts to adopt this method. In all cases, the court will likely ask a petitioner to demonstrate that all traditional methods have been tried and proven futile.

When an individual files for divorce, it is necessary to notify the other party of the pendency of the action. If the other party's whereabouts are unknown or if the party is intentionally trying to hide in an attempt to avoid receiving the notice, consulting with an attorney may be advisable in order to determine the next steps to take.

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