Will service of a divorce petition via Facebook become the norm?

4 June, 2015
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

You may have read in the news recently that a New York City judge granted a wife permission to serve divorce papers on her husband via Facebook. The wife did not know the current address of her husband and he had no place of work, and they had communicated only via telephone and Facebook. The husband refused to make himself available to be served.

As the law stands in England & Wales, the Petitioner in a divorce needs to seek permission from the court to serve a divorce petition on a Respondent via Facebook. The Petitioner can seek this permission when there are no other means of contacting the Respondent (i.e. you do not know their address or their email address) and is especially useful when the Respondent lives abroad. As part of your application, the Petitioner needs to provide proof of attempts made to locate the Respondent. In my own practice, I have sought permission from the family court to serve a petition by email on a Respondent living in Brazil. This was a straightforward application to the court and did not increase the divorce suit costs substantially.

In my view, service of a petition via Facebook is to become more commonplace in the future. This is already happening in the civil courts where service has been permitted to be carried out via Twitter and Facebook. The decision is up to the individual judge and circumstances of the case.