Judge utilizes social media to serve divorce papers

A lot of people consider divorce to be one of the most challenging things they will ever encounter in their lifetime. What starts as the difficult decision to dissolve the marriage quickly moves into the next challenge: serving your spouse divorce papers. Here in Massachusetts, this must be done within 90 days of filing a complaint. The court summons is then delivered to your spouse via a sheriff or constable.

But as a recent news story illustrates, sometimes serving divorce papers isn’t this easy. Some of our Worcester readers may have already heard about the case out of New York which seems to have grabbed national attention for the unique way in which divorce papers are being served. That’s because a judge is allowing a woman to serve the papers via Facebook and for good reason: she doesn’t know where her husband is.

This is a problem not exclusive to New York. In states across the nation, one question often arises when a spouse is elusive: how do I serve them divorce papers in person if I can’t find them? In Massachusetts, our laws provide an answer to this question by allowing a person to get court approval to publish the summons in a publication such as a newspaper. With greater access to the Internet and so many people on social media though, it’s no wonder why the judge in the case above decided to utilize technology as a form of publication.

It’s important for our readers to note though that judges in our state will only allow publication of a summons in instances where a person has tried everything in their power to serve the summons but have still been unsuccessful. Even then, it’s difficult to say if a judge in our state would make a similar choice to use Facebook as the publication platform versus a newspaper.

Sources: NPR, “A Facebook First: Judge Allows N.Y. Woman To File For Divorce Using Site,” Krishnadev Calamur, April 6, 2015

The Massachusetts Court System, “Service of Process of Domestic Relations Complaints in Probate and Family Court,” Accessed April 7, 2015