Summons via Social Media Starts New Wave of Communication

  • Cases are being reviewed regarding sending legal documents via social media.
  • Authenticity of the absent party needs to be established before a court will consider the option.
  • This method is now being used to send legal documents to individuals outside of the U.S.

Technology can be a great resource in communicating to others. The evolution of communication has continued throughout history, as the ties of humanity break and bind as the years go by.

With the continuing technological advancement in forms of social media, we, as a society are constantly finding new ways of reaching one another for consistently new purposes.

Rejecting the request

According to recent court rulings, as long as you are not serving divorce papers through those purposes, you’re cool. A Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice was forced to reject a woman’s request to serve her husband with a summons for divorce through Facebook.

According to the New York Post, Manal H. Qaza testified that she was in communication with her husband, Abdulla Ashalabi, through Facebook, but the judge was hesitant, given that the most recent post from the profile in question was from April 2014. Ashalabi left her six months pregnant and three months after they wed in June of 2011, but the divorce was filed this year.

Part of the case was based on locating Ashalabi, whom Qaza believes was deported to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Her and her lawyer tried many different ways of locating him, in order to deliver the legal papers, but her council was unable to authenticate the Facebook profile as being her husband’s and that he had used this means of communication as a way of communicating.

With so much at stake during a divorce, the judge felt that both parties could not be reasonably informed of the events occurring and the case itself. The Constitutional right to custody and visitation was in jeopardy and needed to be upheld.

Sending a poke

Verification seemed to be the key component in the decision, as there was another case in 2014, where a judge authorized the serving of legal papers via Facebook. Noel Biscocho, a Staten Island resident was told he could use the social media platform to serve his ex-wife, Anna Maria Antigua, a legal notice stating that he does not wish to pay any more child support.

The couple’s son turned 21, and he wished to cancel his court-ordered $440-a-month child support payment. When he attempted to reach his ex-wife, he was told she moved out without giving any sort of forwarding address or contact information.

Not only was the first case of its kind in the state of New York, but it also was the first attempt in U.S. history that didn’t involve serving someone overseas.

Message received

New York also was the scene of a case involving a woman attempting to serve her husband, of seven years, divorce papers. Despite hiring a private investigator, she was unable to locate his address and effectively deliver the legal documents, and she explained to the court that her only contact information was a cell phone number and a Facebook profile, according to the Huffington Post.

Due to the amount of attempts made, the judge granted her permission, stating in his ruling that the “advent and ascendency of social media” has made social networks “the next frontier” of “forums through which a summons can be delivered.”

According to court records, the timestamp and “seen” popup involved in Facebook’s Messenger system allowed the woman to verify that the divorce papers had been delivered to her husband.

Establishing a dialogue

Previous to these cases, appellate courts in New York authorized permission for a plaintiff to serve a defendant via email. This was allowed because it was shown that the two parties already were communicating via email.

The establishment of communication is key, in order to for courts to allow the distribution of legal notices through electronic and technological platforms.

The importance of notification is due to the fourteenth amendment, which has a clause that states that no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Due to the marital and parental rights being established within U.S. jurisdiction, the parties attempting to be notified are legally entitled to the marital and parental rights in question. This makes communication a vital step in moving forward with the process.

Even if you are unable to communicate with or locate someone, social media allows for instant and verified means to communicate with one another, no matter where in the world they may be.

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