Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Serving Divorce Papers by Facebook in New York

This week’s news coverage has focused on Ms. Ellanora Baidoo, a Brooklyn woman who sought permission to serve divorce papers on her husband by using Facebook. (Washington Post) According to the new coverage, Ms. Baidoo was unable to locate a postal address for her husband, no billing address for his cell phone, no DMV records and a private detective was unable to turn up information on his whereabouts. After all this effort, the Court allowed her to post a link to the divorce documents for three consecutive weeks or until her husband acknowledges receipt of the messages.

This ruling is a twist on the traditional request by a party to serve their spouse by publication. In the more typical case, the party who is unable to locate their spouse requests that the Court allow them to publish the divorce documents in a local newspaper where their spouse is believed to be living for a period of time to give them notice of the divorce action. Years ago, when newspapers were more ubiquitous, this system probably did give people notice of the divorce actions. In these more modern times, utilizing Facebook to send messages to your spouse may be more effective to locate a spouse.

When this ruling first hit the news, I was particularly interested in the issue as I have been working on a case where we were trying to locate my client’s spouse. However, unlike Ms. Baidoo’s matter, the private investigator I use is excellent and he had been able to locate an address for the spouse using information from the late 1960’s. But once we found the address, the next challenge was to get the spouse to actually respond to the documents that had been sent.

Just as I was getting frustrated and was considering a motion for publication like Ms. Baidoo, the spouse called my office out of the blue, saying that the papers had been received and that they would be happy to sign off on an uncontested divorce (like Ms. Baidoo, my client and the spouse had not lived together as married couple and had not seen each other in over 40 years).

From all of this, I took two lessons going forward: 1) service by Facebook may be an option in the future and 2) make sure you hire the right private investigator.

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