Serving your spouse online? Divorce courts increasingly say it’s possible

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What does a “No-Fault’ divorce mean in NC?”


If you’re preparing for a North Carolina divorce, you likely realize the first step will require formally notifying your spouse of your decision to end the marriage. This step is known as serving notice. Typically service takes place in person, by hiring a process server or local law enforcement to deliver the necessary documents. In cases where the person is difficult to locate it can be possible to serve notice by other means, including by certified mail. In the worst cases, where spouses appear to have vanished without a trace, publishing a notice in a local newspaper can suffice. But what about social media? Increasingly, social media is being viewed as possible means of effecting service. To find out more about the possibility of using Facebook or Twitter to start your divorce, keep reading.


laptop Charlotte Divorce LawyerBefore we start talking about social media, let’s talk about service and why it happens in the first place. Service is required because all parties are supposed to be made aware that a court case has commenced that could have an impact on them. This way, if the person wants to fight the case he or she has the ability to do so. After all, if you never knew a case was happening you would never have the opportunity to object.


So where does social media come in? In some cases, it can be very difficult to locate a spouse. If you separated years ago, it’s possible you both have simply lost touch. In other cases, the person may be purposely avoiding contact. Either way, in person or mail service may not always be possible. Though service by publication (posting a notice in the newspaper) would still be possible, but it can be expensive, might not be effective and results in private details being shared publicly. Social media might, in such cases, be worth considering. After all, service via Facebook is free, you’re able to tell once a person logs in and reads a message and, depending on your specific settings, is no worse from a privacy perspective than posting a notice in a local newspaper.


One case on the technological cutting edge occurred back in 2015 in New York. In Baidoo v. Blood-Draku, a judge allowed the wife to use Facebook to serve her husband. In that case, the couple had been estranged for seven years and the wife had long lost track of his whereabouts. After hiring a private investigator to locate her husband, all that was ever turned up was a cellphone number and a Facebook profile. The woman was able to prove to the judge that the Facebook page was his and not a hoax, using posts and messages and activity logs to verify that her husband was indeed the owner of the account. The judge agreed that Facebook was a sufficient means of serving notice and acknowledged in a decision that social media represented the next frontier for a summons to be delivered.


Since Baidoo, other spouses have asked for and won permission to use social media to serve notice on a hard to find spouse. Though no one believes Facebook will replace process servers any time soon, social media might be an attractive alternative to service by publication, perhaps becoming the preferred service of last resort.


If this is something that you think might be useful in your case, you need to be prepared to defend your request. You’ll need to first prove that you’ve exhausted every other possible means for locating your spouse. Once you can demonstrate a home address is impossible to locate, you’ll need to do what you can to prove the social media account is legitimate. Proving authenticity of ownership as well as the frequency with which the account is used are two good ways to assuage a judge’s doubts.


If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter, then you need the help of experienced family-law attorneys in Charlotte, North Carolina who can help guide you through the often confusing process of divorce. Please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.


About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAWMatthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A certified Family-Law Specialist, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state and administrative courts in North Carolina, before the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, and before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.





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