If you have decided to seek a divorce and are the one petitioning for the divorce, you must serve your spouse with divorce papers. You may be wondering how to do this or whether you have the option of serving them via social media. The answer to whether it is legal for divorce papers to be served by social media depends on the specifics of each case, and in what state the case is filed.
Initiating the Divorce Process in California
According to California divorce law (Cal Rules of Ct 5.74)—when you decide to divorce—you must file a petition and obtain an issuance of summons to begin judicial proceedings. In California, a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must be personally served on the other party.
Serving Divorce Papers
As outlined in Cal Rules of Ct 5.68(a), there are four methods petitioners may use to serve divorce papers in California.
- Personal Service
- Substituted Service
- Service by Mail and Acknowledgment of Receipt
- Service by Publication or Posting
A problem that can arise when using any of the methods previously mentioned is they all require the petitioner to be able to locate the recipient geographically. The majority of people seeking a divorce can usually find their spouses. However, there are situations where the petitioner is unable to physically find the recipient because they are purposely avoiding the process for being served or have been out of touch for long periods of time. It is in these situations that a court might consider a request acceptable to dip into the virtual world and allow service of the divorce papers using an approved social media platform.
Social Media for Serving Divorce Papers
California law does not allow the Summons and Petition to be served using social media platforms, and the state has yet to allow a petitioner to serve divorce papers using Facebook. However, that could change.
The Divorce Case that May Pave the Way
In the case of Baidoo v. Blood-Dzraku case in New York, Ms. Baidoo pleaded with the courts for permission to serve papers through Facebook because she was unable to locate her husband. In the case of Ms. Baidoo, the courts of New York decided that Facebook could be considered a service for publication or posting. If the courts had not approved Ms. Baidoo’s request to utilize Facebook, she would have been forced to take out a legal notice ad in the New York Daily News, which would have cost $1,000.
In cases where all other measures for contacting the recipient have been exhausted, the person filing for divorce could petition the court for special permission to use social media. Using Facebook adds a layer of security that you will not have if posting a legal notice in a newspaper because, with Facebook, there is a notification and timestamp identifying when the recipient views a message. It is this detail that may open the door to social media service in CA.
While serving divorce papers through social media is not yet allowed in CA, it may someday be acceptable to use social media platforms to serve divorce papers when all other measures have been exhausted, and the whereabouts of one spouse is unknown.
If you or someone you know needs help with the divorce process,
the Law Office of Julia Ann Brungess can help!
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