In a sign of the times, a Manhattan judge allowed a woman to serve divorce summons to her husband via Facebook. The 26-year old nurse had been having an extremely difficult time getting a hold of her husband. It was only through phone call or Facebook that she was able to reach him. Even a private investigator was unable to find a location in which to deliver the summons. With those facts in mind, the judge ruled that serving her husband through social media was next best option.
The decision, while novel, is not necessarily surprising. As the judge concedes, “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.”
Purpose of a Summons
The purpose of a summons in our civil justice is to ensure the defendant/respondent knows he/she is being sued. In the case of divorce, it is so the other party knows their partner is seeking a divorce. Delivering the summons in-person is always the first choice, but as this case presented, that is not always possible. In cases where the party cannot be found, traditionally the options were to leave a summons on the door of their last known address, give it to someone of a suitable age and discretion at the defendant/respondent’s address or publish it in the paper. Ultimately, these options are not ideal and give no guarantee of notice. Electronic delivery of a summons is the obvious next best choice.
While there has been no documented case of a summons being delivered by email, delivery through social media is a logical step. In this case, the judge granted permission for the nurse to transmit the divorce summons via Facebook’s private messenger feature. Not only does the service note if it has been “seen” by the recipient, but the judge ordered that she repeat the message once a week for three straight weeks in addition to calling and texting her husband.
Notice of Service in Illinois
In Illinois, there is a specific process established for serving summons, which includes: 1) voluntary acceptance; 2) sheriff service; 3) service by special process server; 4) service by publication; and finally 5) service by special order of the court. Arguably, if a similar case was to arise, service via Facebook would fall under option five. The respondent has 30 days from the date of service to file an appearance with the court (i.e. acknowledge the summons and the fact they are being sued/divorced).
Divorce is a complex and time consuming process, but the right attorney can walk you through the necessary steps. If you are considering divorce, and have questions, contact our experienced DuPage County divorce lawyers today.