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You Can't Serve Divorce Papers Through Facebook, NY Court Rules

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 14, 2016 12:56 PM

It's fair to say you've been unfriended if your spouse tries to serve you divorce papers on Facebook, but it's not fair to say you've been served on Facebook.

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Sunshine this week refused to accept service through the social platform in a divorce case. The wife said she couldn't find another way to communicate with her estranged husband, who hadn't updated his Facebook profile in two years.

"Granting this application for service by Facebook under the facts presented by plaintiff would be akin to the Court permitting service by nail and mail to a building that no longer exists," the judge said.

Face It, Not Facebook

The ruling follows other courts in declining to allow service-by-Facebook. However, it has been a confusing question in some jurisdictions.

In Oklahoma, for example, the state supreme court overturned lower court decisions two years ago in deciding that Facebook service was not sufficient notice in a custody case. Even so, it was a split decision.

"Why would Facebook be any less reliable than other forms of electronic communication?" wrote Justice James Winchester in a dissenting opinion, joined by two other justices. "Does the Court require a face-to-face confrontation with witnesses? Face-to-face discussions can be denied; letters can remain unopened; and faxes can be lost."

Disagreements in New York

Maybe you can make service anywhere via Facebook, if you land in the right New York courtroom. Although the Brooklyn judge disallowed it this week, courts in Manhattan and Staten Island have permitted service-by-Facebook in the past.

In 2014, Staten Island Support Magistrate Gregory Gliedman said that process service by Facebook in the case was the first of its kind in New York. In 2015, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper also allowed Facebook service in a divorce case.

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