A New York judge has ruled that a woman can serve her husband with divorce papers via Facebook, the Associated Press reports. In a relatively novel move that notes the prevalence of social media as a communication tool, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper, gave Ellanora Baidoo permission to serve her husband with the divorce summons via private Facebook message, which will be repeated once a week for three weeks, unless he acknowledges the service before that time. According to the article, Baidoo's husband has been difficult to track down and she has only had contact with her husband by phone and Facebook.
While this method of service is fairly uncommon, it is not the first time a New York Court has permitted it. According to an article in the American Bar Association's Litigation News from December, 2014, the Family Court of New York, Richmond County allowed a petitioner attempting to modify his child support order to serve the respondent via Facebook because personal service was "impracticable." The court noted that other attempts at service had failed, but that the respondent "maintains an active social media account with Facebook," and cited recent "likes" by respondent as evidence of her active use of the site.
The ABA article addressed concerns with the reliability of Facebook and problems with authenticating service, citing the lack of proof that the right person actually read the message and issues of fake social media profiles as some of the potential pitfalls of this method of service. But the article also references a dissent in an Oklahoma case where the court did not allow service by Facebook as support for this alternative method of service. The dissenting justices in that case found Facebook service was not any less reliable than other service methods because, “[f]ace-to-face discussions can be denied, letters can remain unopened; and faxes can be lost."