The internet is abuzz with news that a woman successfully served her soon-to-be-ex husband divorce papers via Facebook.
“Service of process,” also known as “serving divorce papers,” is one of those things that is extremely important but usually only interesting to lawyers. Its timing is important in Massachusetts because the length of the term of alimony is dependent on it. Otherwise and critically the purpose is to give the other side notice of the divorce. Fairness and due process require this. But in some cases, the other side is missing with no forwarding address or they are deliberately evading service.
In the old days, if you were unable to locate the other party, you could turn to print publications. This meant posting a little legal notice in the back of a local paper where he last lived. Who reads those? Pretty much only local lawyers do.
Then Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper had a great idea. Use social media! A few days ago, I was called on to comment on the situation. The whole purpose of service of process is to notify the other party that the proceedings are beginning – actual notice if possible. Our society has changed so much in the past few years. The old days of newspapers and classified ads are fading. Social media, Facebook in particular, is pervasive. Now it’s uncommon for a person not to have an online profile! Friends share stories and news with other friends, and the ripples spread outward like a stone thrown in a pond.
And, in this case it worked! Kudos to Justice Cooper.