Serve Divorce Papers... Through Facebook?

It goes without saying that social media can actually cause a lot of problems in any relationship, but now it seems that Facebook might literally be helping people end their marriages.

Divorce Summons via Facebook

In a decision dated March 27, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper has allowed Ellanora Biadoo of Brooklyn, the ability to serve her husband’s divorce summons via Facebook.

According to Justice Cooper, Biadoo can file for divorce from Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku using a private Facebook message. He wrote:

“[P]laintiff is granted permission to serve defendant with the divorce summons using a private message through Facebook. Specifically, because litigants are prohibited from serving other litigants, plaintiff’s attorney shall log into plaintiff’s Facebook account and message the defendant by first identifying himself, and then including either a web address of the summons or attaching an image of the summons. This transmittalshall be repeated by plaintiff’s attorney to defendant once a week for three consecutive weeks or until acknowledged by the defendant. Additionally, after the initial transmittal, plaintiff and her attorney are to call and text message defendant to inform him that the summons for divorce has been sent to him via Facebook.”

The Marriage and Relationship

According to the New York Daily News, Baidoo and Blood-Dzraku are from Ghana and were married in a civil ceremony in 2009. The two started having marital issues when Blood-Dzraku reneged on his promise to also have a traditional Ghanaian ceremony.

According to the newspaper, “As a result, the wedding was never consummated and the husband and wife never lived together, the lawyer said — but Blood-Dzraku apparently still doesn’t want a divorce.”

Attempts to find Blood-Dzraku have failed. According to Andrew Spinnell, Baidoo’s lawyer, Blood-Dzraku has kept in touch with his wife exclusively via phone and Facebook. “We tried everything, including hiring a private detective — and nothing,” Spinnell said.

The first message via Facebook was sent last week, but according to Spinnel, “so far he hasn’t responded.”

How is This Legal?

Serving divorce papers via Facebook might sound anything but legal, but when you consider that divorce can be served via publication, in cases where a spouse cannot be located, it actually makes sense. Many spouses refuse to accept divorce papers. When this happens, they often flee or go into hiding. It’s actually not unusual for public declarations of divorce to be made in situations like this.

Divorce Papers

Divorce papers let your spouse know that the divorce petition has been filed. This paperwork also informs them on the terms of divorce that you are seeking, what is being asked for in terms of child custody, child support,spousal support, and other aspects of a marriage. These papers also provide detailed information on how they should respond to the summons.

Serving Divorce Papers

Serving divorce papers can be difficult. After you’ve filed your initial divorce petition or summons with a court, you will need to serve your soon-to-be ex. The process of serving can be done a number of ways. What’s most important is that the serving of papers is verified, because a family law court will need this to proceed with the divorce.

How to

If you are working with a divorce attorney, he or she will most likely take care of serving the divorce papers. This is actually a very large part of the process and a divorce attorney will already have a means of doing this. For those not working with a divorce attorney, you will need to read up on the options available to you.

Various Ways of Serving Divorce Papers

Here are some ways of serving divorce papers:

Acceptance of Service: A person over the age of 18 delivers the paperwork to your spouse. Once the papers have been delivered, the spouse must sign and date the Acceptance of Service paper and return it to the delivery person. This is verification that he or she has received the paperwork.

First Class Mail, with acknowledgement: The divorce petition can be sent via mail. You will need to add a form during shipping that your spouse will need to sign, date, and return by a certain date, as specified.

Certified mail, return receipt requested: With this process the spouse signs a verification form (attached to the envelope) when they receive the petition in the mail. This “return receipt” is then be mailed back to you, thus verifying they received the paperwork and understand they have been served with divorce papers.

Personal Service by Sheriff or process server: You are legally able to hire a Sheriff or professional process server to deliver your divorce petition. A Sheriff or process server fills out a proof of service form that can be filed in court.

By Publication: If you are unable to locate your spouse you might consider a divorce by publication. During which, the court issues an Order of Publication which permits the publication of the summons. This summons is published in a local paper once a week for four successive weeks. There are at least five days between successive publications.

It now seems that Facebook might become a means of serving a spouse when they are missing…

Proof of Missing or Hiding Spouse

To prove that you need a divorce by publication you will need to convince a judge that you are unable to find the Defendant. This form of serving happens “only after a judge has been convinced, based on a sworn declaration, of the serving party’s inability to find the Defendant after trying hard. Service by publication is commonly used in a divorce action to serve a spouse who has disappeared without a leaving a forwarding address… ”

Diligent Search for Missing Spouse

You will need to prove that you have performed a diligent search. This means the following steps have been taken:

  • search of the phone book and directory assistance in the area where the spouse reportedly lives or is last known to have lived;
  • you have reached out to friends and relatives about the location of the missing spouse;
  • you’ve asked the post office for a forwarding address for the spouse;
  • you’ve checked records from the tax collector and property assessor to see if the missing spouse owns property;
  • you’ve contacted the California Department of Motor Vehicles for auto registration changes of address;
  • you’ve contacted landlords and prior employers;
  • you’ve checked with the registrar of voters;
  • you’ve used private investigators.

In addition to performing these things, you have to provide the court with an Affidavit of Diligent Search that states you have gone through the necessary steps to locate the missing spouse. Then you will need to file an Ex Parte (Without Notice) Application for Publication of Summons; Declaration of Petitioner in Support Thereof; Memorandum of Points and Authorities, and Order of Publication. Once the court approves, it will issue your Order of Publication.

Work with a Divorce Attorney

Chances are that a divorce attorney is your best means of serving divorce papers. They will also be able to advise you should you need to file by publication.

Though Facebook might be helping this woman when it comes to the end of the marriage, but it seems that Facebook can often times be the reason that relationships come to an end.

Facebook Reason for the End of Relationships?

According study done at Boston University, “face-booking” (logging on to Facebook and actively searching through friends, colleagues, etc…) might be causing more people to seek divorce. Sure, Facebook seems innocent enough – you log-in, update your status, check on friends, and then log out – for at least a few minutes, until you log back in…

The BU study, “Computers in Human Behavior,” concluded that Facebook use is directly related to reduced marital satisfaction as well higher divorce rates.

The author of the study concluded: “Although it may seem surprising that a Facebook profile, a relatively small factor compared to other drivers of human behavior, could have a significant statistical relationship with divorce rates and marital satisfaction, it nonetheless seems to be the case. This relationship holds up at both the individual and state levels.”

But Why?

The study conjectures the reason behind this is mainly the result of time spent away from your spouse, or time spent focusing on what other people are doing. Another reason is perhaps people in already troubled relationships turn to social networking sites looking for a distraction, or perhaps looking for another future mate.

Working with a Divorce Attorney

Divorce can be a difficult and emotional process. It can be made even more difficult if you are unable to locate your soon to be ex-spouse. A divorce attorney will be able to help you through various aspects, including decisions on children, determining spousal support, and dividing marital property. They will be able to draft your divorce papers, and work through the various avenues of a court to get them served and finalized. A divorce attorney will able to be able to advise you on all the steps to finally getting your divorce finished so that you can move forward with your new single life, and new “single” status on Facebook.