Facebook is a great tool for reconnecting with old friends, keeping up with what is going on with far away family, sharing pictures of special moments, learning about potential job opportunities, and now… serving your spouse with divorce papers. Judge Matthew Cooper, Manhattan Supreme Court, ruled that a Brooklyn nurse was granted permission to serve her soon-to-be ex a divorce summons using Facebook’s private messaging option.
In 2009, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku and Ellanora Baidoo married in a civil union ceremony. The union began dissolving after Blood-Dzraku refused to follow the private ceremony with a traditional Ghanaian wedding where their families could be present. He has been living in obscurity from his wife ever since; he left his residence, has no definitive workplace or DMV record. The only contact Blood-Dzraku has maintained with his wife is on Facebook and telephone periodically.
Strangely enough, the couple has never lived together nor consummated their marriage, but Blood-Dzraku wants to maintain married status. He continuously refused to avail himself in order to receive the divorce summons. Baidoo’s lawyer, Andrew Spinnell, said they have tried everything, including utilizing a private detective, but have come up with nothing. The USPS has no forwarding address for Blood-Dzraku and he uses a prepaid cell phone with no billing address attached.
Cooper ruled in Baidoo’s favor and has allowed her attorney to “serve” the divorce summons via social media. The ruling states:
Transmittal shall be repeated by plaintiff’s attorney to defendant once a week for three consecutive weeks or until acknowledged by the defendant. Additionally, after the initial transmittal, plaintiff and her attorney are to call and text message defendant to inform him that the summons for divorce has been sent to him via Facebook.
Just about a decade ago it was considered cutting edge for a court to allow a divorce summons to be served by email. Today, email has nearly replaced regular mail as a channel for written communication. Although government has not deemed email a standard authorized procedure, courts have routinely permitted it as an alternative method of service.
Now, with social media such as Twitter and Facebook being so prominent in people’s lives it appears the legal system is making the necessary adjustments to incorporate the avenue of social media into its list of options. It makes sense, as social media continues to progress, that law makers would advance the legislature to extend the service of process to include platforms of social media as forums by which a summons can be “announced” or delivered.
The method of first choice or deemed the standard method for serving a divorce summons is still personal delivery to the defendant. This reflects the great emphasis that the state of New York places on insuring that a person who is being sued for divorce, given the immeasurable financial and familial consequences, can be made aware of and given the opportunity to appear in the action. The problem which continues to surface with personal service is that it in order for it to be accomplished, the plaintiff must be able to locate the defendant.
Even an instances where the whereabouts of the defendant are known, there are times when it is difficult, if not impossible, for a process-server to get close enough to the defendant for personal delivery. The current advancement in technology is making headway in bridging the “unavailability” gap couples have suffered in times past.
Although Baidoo cannot change her official status from married to single just yet, the first Facebook message has been sent to Blood-Dzraku. He has yet to respond, but the process has at least began thanks to Judge Matthew Cooper. A ruling was issued in favor of the 26-year-old woman who is seeking legal and final separation from her absentee spouse.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Top Image Courtesy of Jo Christian Oterhals – Creativecommons Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Giovanni Saccone – Creativecommons Flickr License
Inside Image Courtesy of Chris Messina – Creativecommons Flickr License