“Dislike”: Getting Served with Divorce Papers on Facebook

June 2, 2015

Facebook may soon need to add a “Dislike” button because some users will not “Like” it when their ex-spouse posts divorce papers on their timeline. One man may soon hit the “Dislike” button after a New York judge recently ruled that his wife could serve him with divorce papers through Facebook. The man, Victor Blood-Dzraku, has been evading his wife’s efforts to track him down for years, refusing to provide her with his address and place of employment. In response, the wife, Ellanora Baidoo, sought permission from the court to serve him with divorce papers “by alternate means” using his Facebook account.

Justice Matthew Cooper approved the request after Ms. Baidoo provided proof the Facebook account belongs to her husband, that he consistently logs onto the account and presumably (in between games of Farmville) would likely see the divorce papers. Ms. Baidoo’s attorney was authorized to use the Facebook Messenger feature on Facebook to serve him with the papers. Once a week for three consecutive weeks, or until acknowledged, the attorney must identify himself in the private message and then include either a web address of the paperwork, or attach an image of the paperwork (tagging the husband, of course). Additionally, after the first private message, Ms. Baidoo and her attorney must call and text message the husband to inform him the divorce papers have been sent to him via Facebook.

In Wisconsin, after filing for divorce, you must serve your spouse with the divorce papers (including the Summons and Petition) within ninety days. Your spouse must be personally served, which means either the sheriff or a private process server must hand-deliver the papers to your spouse. Alternatively, the court will allow you to serve the paperwork yourself, but only if your spouse cooperates in signing a form acknowledging that they received the paperwork from you.

When efforts to personally serve a spouse are unsuccessful after “reasonable diligence,” courts may grant permission to serve notice of the divorce by publishing it in the local newspaper. “Reasonable diligence” typically requires proof that additional measures were taken to locate someone, such as contacting other relatives, friends or co-workers, or that multiple attempts at personal service were made.

If granted permission to serve by publication, the newspaper must be qualified to provide legal notices and must cover the vicinity that is likely to give notice to the other spouse. The notice must be published three weeks in a row. In addition to service by publication, you must also attempt mailing a copy of the divorce papers to the spouse’s last-known address and file an affidavit with the court detailing your efforts to locate the absent spouse.

Serving legal documents using social media, e-mail, text messages, tweets, memes, instagrams or snapchats have not yet caught on in Wisconsin, but it’s only a matter of time before the law catches up with technology (and Millenials start getting divorced). Social media is replacing newspapers as the primary source of news. Internet access on smart phones and tablets now allows people to receive documents and information wherever they are located, even if away from home or work. Tracking someone down in person is no longer necessary or optimal to ensure that a person gains awareness of a lawsuit. Be prepared to “Dislike” your smartphone if text alerts, Facebook posts or tweets become the new way of getting served with divorce papers from your spouse.

My advice to avoid being served on social media? Create a MySpace account – no one will find you on there.