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Social media and the service of process

Georgia residents may be interested to learn about two recent New York decisions in which courts allowed people to serve respondents in their family law matters via Facebook. While no Georgia court has yet allowed service in this manner, many attorneys and other observers expect that such service methods may become increasingly accepted in jurisdictions throughout the country.

Participation in Facebook and other social media sites has become pervasive. In some cases, people who are difficult to otherwise locate are active participants on such sites, and in the two New York cases, the judges ruled that service could be effected through Facebook's messaging platform.

In the first case, a Staten Island magistrate allowed a man to serve his ex-wife with notice that he had filed a motion to terminate his child support payments. The court allowed the man to do so because he had been unable to locate her through any other means in order to serve her as required. In the second case, a Manhattan judge granted a woman's motion to serve copies of her divorce petition on her husband through Facebook's messaging system. The woman had attempted to contact him by phone, had hired a private investigator and had searched such things as motor vehicle records in failed attempts to locate him.

While these two cases both had facts that involved people who did not wish to be found, it is possible that such alternative means of process service will be allowed under broader circumstances and in more jurisdictions. People who are wishing to file for divorce in Georgia currently must still follow the traditional service of process rules, but those rules may broaden in the future. If a person is having trouble locating their spouse in order to serve them with divorce papers, a family law attorney may be able to help.

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