You may have recently seen on television or on the Internet a popular story featuring a new method of serving divorce papers to a MIA (missing in action) spouse that was recently approved by Judge Matthew F. Cooper from the Supreme Court (trial court) of New York County. On March 27, 2015, in Baidoo v Blood-Dzraku, Judge Cooper allowed a wife to serve her MIA husband via her attorney through the private messaging application of Facebook and to follow up through phone calls and text messages. In this case, husband and wife married in 2009 but never resided together. As a result, Wife was required to demonstrate to the court that she could not have her estranged husband personally served and could not find alternative means to do so. Specifically, she was unable to locate a home address for the husband through the post office and did not even have an e-mail address for the MIA husband, which compelled the court to allow service by Facebook as a means of last resort. Husband refused to accept service when she tried to call him.
The judge found that given the frequent and common use of social networking sites, courts are permitting such a method of service and that such a method was constitutional and achieved the goal of actual delivery. However in the majority of cases that permitted service through social networking sites also required service through alternative means. The wife requested to use Facebook as an exclusive means of service, which created a case of first impression. The opinion discussed how other statutorily approved methods of service, such as service by publication through the local newspaper was problematic in that it was expensive to advertise and the MIA spouse may not receive notice of the impending divorce action if it was buried in the obscure part of the newspaper or was not widely circulated.
Will this new trend catch on in other jurisdictions? Discussions are already underway. While this recent New York case has grabbed the national spotlight, Attorney Peter J. Bronzino of The Bronzino Law Firm has successfully advocated on his client’s behalf for a New Jersey judge’s permission to serve an MIA spouse through Facebook. In New Jersey, the court allows a divorcing spouse to file a motion for substituted service if a spouse has gone MIA. Typically, courts will allow service by publication through the local newspaper. However, in today’s times, social networking sites may be a viable option given the speed and convenience to track a spouse that is evading service of the summons and divorce complaint.
The Bronzino Law Firm: Helping Clients With Filing and Serving Divorce Complaints to “MIA” Spouses
If you reside in Ocean County and the surrounding areas and anticipate having difficulties serving your spouse, please contact Attorney Peter J. Bronzino for a free initial consultation to discuss all of your service options. The Bronzino Law Firm has helped divorcing spouses track down and obtain divorces from MIA spouses. Contact us today locally at (732) 812-3102. We look forward to hearing from you.