In Divorce and Family law cases the statute generally requires that the other party, wife, husband, mother, father, etc, be served in person. That means the divorce papers or family court petition must be placed in the other person’s hands. However, there is a huge problem when you can’t find that other person. Sometimes the person is just ducking or hiding from service. Other times, that person simply cannot be found.
The law does not reward someone who is missing or hiding. In Family Court or Divorce Court you do need the judge’s permission to serve the other people other than in person. This is called substituted service. The Supreme Court allows substituted service along as the served party gets “reasonable notice.”
In a recent Family Court case, Matter of Noel v. Maria, F-00787-13/14B, NYLJ 1202670317766, at *1 (Fam., RI, Decided September 12, 2014)
Read more: In the Matter of a Support Proceeding Noel B Petitioner v Anna-Maria A, Respondent, Support Magistrate Gregory L. Gliedman allowed service on an ex-wife by a notice through Facebook. He found that the petitioner had made exhaustive efforts to find his ex wife to include asking his children. The ex-wife did not update her address information to either the Court or the Support Collection Unit. The court found that the ex-wife was very active on Facebook, and even “liked” a recent post by the petitioner’s new wife. Therefore, he “authorizes substituted service by the following method: the Petitioner is to send a digital copy of the summons and petition to the Respondent via the Facebook account, and follow up with a mailing of those same documents to the previously used last known address. The Respondent can receive communications via social media, whereas her actual physical whereabouts are uncertain. The method detailed here by the court provides the best chance of the Respondent getting actual notice of these proceedings.”
As Magistrate Gliedman noted, there are no other decisions addressing this issue. Based upon the facts, and the prevalence of social media, this decision is a big boon in serving people who don’t want to be served.