For the first time ever in the United States, a New York Judge has ruled that a woman may serve her elusive husband with divorce papers via Facebook.
Now why would a Judge allow someone to deliver such important documents through a social media website? To understand the reasoning, it’s important to know the facts of the case.
First, husband and wife had been separated and wife had no knowledge of any contact information for husband, except his phone number and Facebook account. While the private process server could not find the husband, wife could see that he was active on Facebook. The judge was left to decide the following issue: what would be the most likely way to put husband on notice of the pending divorce suit? Rather than publish the divorce in a newspaper that husband would be highly unlikely to read, the judge ultimately decided that messaging him a copy of the divorce papers would be a better option.
The next question is how could this change the law in Texas? Honestly, the laws in Texas are already set up to accommodate service via social media if the individual cannot be personally served. In Texas, if a Respondent is difficult or impossible to find, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure allow a party to request that the Court permit them to serve the Respondent via an alternative method of service. Tex. R. Civ. P. 106. If certain requirements are met, such as multiple attempts and due diligence of trying to find an address for the Respondent, the person initiating the law suit can request that the Court permit service “in any other manner that the affidavit or other evidence before the Court shows will be reasonably effective to give the Defendant notice of the suit.” Tex. R. Civ. P. 106(b)(2).
So what does this mean moving forward? In the simplest of terms, it means that lawyers can always request service on someone via an active social media account if the Defendant or Respondent cannot otherwise be located. The Court has the discretion to deny the request, but at least now there is some authority to support service via Facebook if the person is actively posting and/or messaging through the site.