The Ultimate Unfriending: Manhattan Judge Allows Wife To Serve Divorce Papers Via Facebook

facebook6n-1-webThere is an interesting ruling out of Manhattan where Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper has allowed nurse Ellanora Baidoo to serve her elusive husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku (left), with divorce papers via a Facebook message due to her husband’s lack of a current address. Cooper noted in his opinion: “The past decade has also seen the advent and ascendency of social media, with websites such as Facebook and Twitter occupying a central place in the lives of so many
people. Thus, it would appear that the next frontier in the developing law of the service of process over the internet is the use of social media sites as forums through which a summons can be delivered.”

Cooper runs through the various options in cases where service is not possible:

“DRL § 232 permits plaintiffs to request permission to utilize one of the alternative methods allowed under the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) that does not require “in-hand” delivery to the defendant. One such method, often referred to as “substitute service,” involves delivering the summons to a person of “suitable age and discretion” at the defendant’s “actual place of business, dwelling or usual place of abode” (CPLR 308 [2]). Another method, known as “nail and mail” service, requires affixing the summons to the door of a defendant’s “actual place of business, dwelling or usual place of abode” (CPLR 308[4]), and then, as with “substitute service,” mailing a copy to the defendant’s “last known address” or “actual place of business.” A third method is “publication service,” where the summons is printed in a newspaper designated by the court and which can be granted upon a showing that “service cannot be made by another prescribed method with due diligence” (CPLR 315).”

200px-Facebook.svgThe court notes that “although the parties married in 2009, they never resided together, and the last address plaintiff has for defendant is an apartment that he vacated in 2011.” It also noted that her husband has refused to make himself available to be served with divorce papers and private investigators failed to locate him. The Department of Motor Vehicles has no record of him. Accordingly, the court ruled:

Specifically, because litigants are prohibited from serving other litigants, plaintiff’s attorney shall log into plaintiff’s Facebook account and message the defendant by first identifying himself, and then including either a web address of the summons or attaching an image of the summons. This transmittal shall be repeated by plaintiff’s attorney to defendant once a week for three consecutive weeks or until acknowledged by the defendant. Additionally, after the initial transmittal, plaintiff and her attorney are to call and text message defendant to inform him that the summons for divorce has been sent to him via Facebook.

50 thoughts on “The Ultimate Unfriending: Manhattan Judge Allows Wife To Serve Divorce Papers Via Facebook”

  1. Nick said …

    Facebook is the new venue for news, like it or not.

    Lawd help us if that is even slightly true. I don’t like it for “news” other than my singular use for one family, and personal information swaps, living in Africa that I want to stay in touch with…otherwise I refuse to use it. I don’t expect to expire as a result, either. Add Twitter to my refusal list as well. Some call it a concise medium…I can it brain flatulence too easily fired off…and by users who often must post serially just to say their bit.

  2. Aridog,

    Nothing to fear since you have nothing to hide? Today if you simply support “small government” or “campaign finance reform” and you write a letter to your member of Congress – you will almost certainly end up on a terrorist watch list. Bureaucrats and politicians don’t like that type of legal freedom of speech exercises.

    You won’t be arrested or confronted (to avoid lawsuits) but CoinTelPro-type tactics will be used to harm or destroy your livelihood. Federal, state and local authorities participate in these “color of law” crimes. If you don’t believe me try it and see where you are 5 years from now. Without confrontation the Judicial Branch can never police the Executive Branch agencies.

    Democracy itself can’t exist with excessive secrecy and violating the constitutional rule of law. You have very much to fear from warrantless activities.

  3. They got married in 2009 and never lived together. She doesn’t know where he is. But waited five years to divorce him. A suspicious mind says the marriage was an immigration scam. A foreigner who squires U.S. citizenship through marriage has to stay married for five years to become a naturalized citizen. He won’t object to the divorce. Once it’s final, he can make more $$ by marrying someone else.

  4. When I was a lawyer in a prior incarnation I did not go kicking and screaming into the computer age but embraced it. What helped me was learning how to type in 8th Grade. I came out of gym class and saw all the girls go into this large class room. Typing One was the title. I thought, yeah, I can learn to type. Well if you can type you can redo your drafts of your briefs and letters and whatnot and do not need a secretary. Money saved is money earned and productivity is awesome. But when Facebook came along I saw it as a scam and as a hazard. There is a reserve clause in he Facebook agreement:
    “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” That means you wifeypoo and your summons.

  5. Isaac

    The device has to be turned on first, If the software has never been booted up and turned on then it is not in use,

  6. I have long thought, as I read the legal notices in local newspapers, WTF?? Hopefully, all you geezers realize newspapers are dying. and young people would not pick up a newspaper if they could get an orgasm doing so. Facebook is the new venue for news, like it or not. We adapt or perish. Hell, there’s a guy on this thread who still uses the Yellow Pages. When I get a new Yellow Page book I just throw it in the recycle bin. Twenty years ago, I had Yellow Pages from all states. We had a Yellow Pages bonfire about 10 years ago. It was spectacular.

    Adapt or perish is what Darwin has taught us. Attorneys were maybe the last professionals to accept computers. But, teachers were @ about the same pace. Both professions came kicking and screaming into the digital age. Doctors as well. You should hear them scream about Epic!! Maybe you have? Pogo?

  7. Issac at April 7, 2015 at 1:08 pm … I see you managed to swipe my tinfoil hat for the day. I’ll now be searching the bushes around my house for microphones…since none of my computers have photo capability … on purpose.

    However, I don’t care who listens in, since I don’t say things they give a rat’s tinker dang about…and I have a decades of experience with various intelligence outfits and how they operate and who they target. I doubt I’m very interesting. Maybe I need to say some crap stuff now and then to pique that interest and see how soon the gray suits arrive at my front door. It’s not like they haven’t been there before over time…and always left empty handed.

  8. the funniest part about this case is the name of plaintiff’s attorney.

  9. I’ve read more than a thousand, probably 2-3k. They are always part of the background investigations I’m hired to conduct. And, they are often a treasure trove of information.

  10. PaulS, You are correct about agreeing to accept service, and reading divorce files.

  11. Divorce files are open records in many states. There are sometimes sections that remain confidential, usually if they involve psych records for litigants, or children involved in a custody dispute. But, the file is open. Hell, some are now online for chrissake. I have read divorce files in 7 different states, off the top of my head. New York is not the center of the universe, like some provincial people like to think.

  12. Service should be made easier. The initial notice is only an issue if you are seeking a default judgment.

  13. many of you folks are all over the lot. i’ll take the worst items one-by-one.

    “Wouldn’t Facebook then be bound by 1st and 4th Amendment restraints also? Essentially acting as an arm of the government.”

    the 1st and 4th amendments protect individuals from wrongful acts of the government. serving a summons is not a governmental action.

    Dust Bunny Queen:
    “If I were to be sent an important document via Facebook or be “served”, I would be totally unaware of it.
    When you are being “served” important papers there can be NO substitute for actually serving those papers upon the actual, not virtual, body of the person being served.”

    as both mr. turley and judge cooper make clear, substituted service (without actual hand-delivery) is completely lawful. if you had read the conclusion of cooper’s decision (quoted at the end of turley’s column), you would have seen that he also ordered multiple transmittals, telephone notification, and text message notification.

    Pogo Hears a Who:
    “How does the court prove he received the summons?”

    the court doesn’t have to. as judge cooper writes, ” ***Under the circumstances presented here***, service by Facebook, albeit novel and non-traditional, is the form of service that most comports with the constitutional standards of due process. Not only is it reasonably calculated to provide defendant with notice that he is being sued for divorce, but every indication is that it will achieve what should be the goal of every method of service: actually delivering the summons to him.” (emphasis supplied)

    besides, the only one who has to prove service is plaintiff’s attorney (see below).

    Paul C. Schulte:
    “It is true that under ordinary circumstances, were he served, you could go to the courthouse and read all the messy details of the divorce.”

    nope. not in new york state. although most court files are matters of public record, the only persons who may request and inspect a divorce case filed in the offices of the various county clerks are the parties to the case and their attorneys. matrimonial files are specially marked so as to identify them. then again, less-than-honest clerks have been known to accept things of value from investigators and reporters who don’t care about obeying the law or committing crimes.

    Darren Smith:
    “Returns of service could be an issue here.”

    nope. no more so than any other lawsuit. proof of service (“return of service”) is accomplished by someone, presumably plaintiff’s attorney, filing an affidavit with the court certifying that each and every step required by judge cooper has been done.

    “I can envision I respondent claiming false service.”

    just how is he going to do that? in order to contest service of process, a defendant must make a formal appearance in the lawsuit – with or without a lawyer. this appearance can be done by the service of a formal answer containing the affirmative defense of lack of jurisdiction of the court by reason of improper service, or it can be done by the filing and service of a pre-answer motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction under CPLR 3211(a).

    if this is done by an attorney hired by defendant, the attorney will demand what is called a “traverse hearing.” this is a framed-issue mini-trial where a judicial hearing officer takes evidence and testimony to make a determination about the validity of service. at the traverse, plaintiff has the burden of proof, and plaintiff’s attorney will repeat under oath the statements made in the affidavit of service. unless the defendant himself is present in the courtroom to contest anything, the hearing officer closes his eyes, lifts the scales of justice, and finds only the testimony of plaintiff’s attorney. that leads to: “traverse dismissed!”

    if defendant shows up in person, another copy of the legal papers can be hand-delivered to him as soon as he steps out of the courthouse, regardless of the results of the traverse.

    if defendant doesn’t hire an attorney, defendant must specify on his papers his proper mailing address, at which point the court will then allow standard substituted service at that address.

  14. DBQ,

    There was actually a serious debate a while back asking if regular attorneys could subpoena NSA records for American court cases, including domestic issues like divorce.

    It’s an interesting debate, if the evidence exists can it be obtained via a subpoena to the NSA from a divorce attorney or other attorney? The NSA pierced the wall between foreign and domestic.

  15. Great thread. No toxic personalities ruining it. Just normal people discussing an interesting topic. Always look for things for which to be grateful.

  16. The NSA can easily forward a video of the husband reading the Facebook post from the camera they have installed in the system.


    Actually, I don’t have a camera installed on any of my desk computers, and our laptop is too old and cheapy to have a camera function. I do have an added on Logitech camera on one of my computers. I keep it unplugged from the usb port until the time I want to use it. For those occasional Skype sessions with family. If I am at a computer with an actual camera, electrical tape over the lens is a good idea.

    In my office practice, I routinely blocked out the camera function not only because I needed to preserve my client’s privacy in case the cameras were hacked, but just because.

    If anyone wanted to hack the camera and watch me they would be supremely bored and disappointed. I mean really really bored. Right now they could get a session on how to use up an entire box of Kleenex in a few hours and see the messy office behind me where I have been sleeping in order not to infect my husband. 🙂

  17. I agree w/ folks say about return of service issues. But, like MikeA stated originally, if a divorce is uncontested, boilerplate, then this would be an expeditious way to handle service. Folks, we had an attorney give advice on how to lessen costs of litigation. LISTEN TO HIM! It’s quite rare.

    1. Nick – if the divorce is going to be uncontested, you can agree to accept service, saves a lot money.

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