An otherwise forgettable New York divorce case made national news after the judge in the case ruled that the woman seeking a divorce from her husband could serve him with the divorce summons using a private message through Facebook. When the couple split, the man left his residence without leaving a forwarding address. Not only this, but he has no address on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles and is not employed. The only contact the woman has had with her estranged husband is an occasional message via Facebook. Based on this, the judge found that service by Facebook of the divorce summons was the method most likely to apprise him that a divorce petition had been filed and what he needed to do to respond.
Service of Process – The What and the Why
When you initially file a divorce petition, your spouse must be informed of the petition and the date the petition is set for hearing. This is because the law grants your spouse a limited amount of time to respond to your petition and assert any claims he or she may have against you as it pertains to the divorce action. In most circumstances, you pay a service fee so that a process server can deliver a copy of the divorce petition and summons to your spouse in person. This delivery can be made at your spouse’s residence or at his place of employment, or anywhere else he or she may be found.
If your spouse cannot be found, but another adult is living in your spouse’s house and this person is over the age of 18 years and confirms your spouse is living there, the process server may be able to leave the petition and summons with this person. In cases where your spouse cannot be located at all, courts typically allow you to post a legal notice in the local newspaper for several weeks.
In any service of process method, the goal is to make the petitioner filing the divorce action to take whatever measures are most likely to result in the other spouse having actual knowledge and notice that a divorce petition has been filed against him or her and what he or she needs to do to respond. Thus, if the other spouse fails to respond or take action, the court can enter a default judgment against him or her comfortable in the knowledge that all reasonable measures were made to contact and inform the defaulting spouse. In the New York divorce case, it is this overarching policy reason that led the judge to permit “service by Facebook.”
A Minor but Crucial Detail
Do not overlook or underestimate the importance of service of the divorce petition and summons on your spouse. Your divorce case can be delayed or even dismissed if you do not take the proper measures to serve the petition and summons on your spouse. Our skilled DuPage County family law attorneys know the importance of proper service of process and know how to respond if your spouse is difficult to find. Contact our Wheaton or Oswego office to discuss your divorce case and concerns today.