A US Supreme Court judge has ruled that a New York woman can serve divorce papers to her soon to be ex-husband via Facebook, but could this happen in Australia? The short answer is, yes.
Sometimes during a separation, people avoid being served divorce papers. Perhaps they are evading money orders for a property settlement, attempting to sidestep spousal maintenance or just simply trying to play games.
It is often a time consuming and costly process trying to find someone who is deliberately evading the service of legal documents.
In Australia, if someone avoids being served with divorce papers, a Family Court judge has the power to look at creative ways – including social media – to notify them about court cases. It’s called an Application for Substituted Service.
A lawyer can make an application to a judge which explains that one party is avoiding being served papers, but they’re clearly active on Facebook or other social media sites.
If the judge is given the evidence and is satisfied that the person has an account that they regularly use, then an order could be made to serve the papers online.
Social media is the modern way of communicating, so family lawyers are increasingly using these online accounts to find people and serve important papers.
And it’s not just Facebook or online social media. A judge can rule that divorce orders be served via text message or any other electronic communication method available.
A spouse has the right to be involved in family court proceedings against them. This means that documents filed with a court must be provided or ‘served’ to them at least 28 days before the court hearing, or 42 days if they’re overseas.
Going through a separation is a difficult time for everyone involved and it’s best to get legal advice if you have any concerns about locating someone and serving them papers.