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Can a family law attorney serve papers through Facebook?

In certain circumstances, serving legal papers to an individual is a difficult task. This is often an issue when the individual who is being served is aware of the matter, but wants to avoid participating. The rules regarding legal service differ from one state to the next, but many Florida residents are aware that there have been a few cases where service has been allowed through Facebook, either using the services of a family law attorney or on one's own behalf.

The future of legal service via social media remains uncertain. There have been several notable cases in which a judge has allowed a party to be served through his or her Facebook account. However, a recent case demonstrates that Facebook and other social media sites are not the preferred means of legal service. A woman attempted to serve her husband with divorce papers by sending them to him in the form of a Facebook message. The couple separated just three months into their marriage, and the woman believes that her husband is now living abroad.

Multiple attempts to contact him have been unsuccessful, leaving her with little option other than to try to complete service using his Facebook account. However, the judge in the case found that the wife failed to prove to the court that the Facebook profile in question belonged to her husband. Another issue in the case was whether the husband made use of the Facebook profile to conduct communications.

In this case, the judge stated that divorce is a serious legal matter that requires adequate service. Allowing that process to move forward when service was made solely through social media was deemed improper. For those in Florida who are considering whether their family law attorney can make use of social media to serve legal paperwork, there appears to be no consensus on the matter in this state or across the nation.

Source: New York Post, "Judge rejects divorce papers served through Facebook", Julia Marsh, Dec. 9, 2016

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