Social media has closed many of the gaps between people. We now stay connected with our friends, family, and loved ones with a simple click of a “follow” button. But this shift extends beyond our personal life. Social media has made serving legal papers easier, and depending on your perspective, this can mean great news. In the past, it was easy to flee to another state or country to avoid being served. These days, you can run, but you can’t hide.
Social Media as An Alternative Method
Because of the evolution of technology, serving court summons has expanded to email, fax, and most recently, social media. Platforms include Facebook and Twitter, which were used during a case in 2011. In the divorce case of Mpafe v Mpafe, a woman was unable to get in contact with her husband for more than a year. Also, in March of 2015, Baidoo v Blood-Dzarku used Facebook as a means to serve divorce papers.
How to Correctly Identify the Account
The problem with using social media as a means to serve legal papers is that it can be challenging to identify whether or not the account belongs to the correct person. Things like the longevity of the account can help ensure that it is the right person. Additionally, if you have any communication with the person, you can put those conversations together in an affidavit. Unfortunately, if there’s not enough sufficient evidence that the account is connected to the correct user, a judge can rule that you cannot serve that person through social media.
Will They Get the Notice?
Just because someone has had a Facebook or Twitter profile for 10+ years doesn’t necessarily mean they are active on it. They may not even see the notice, which defeats the purpose. If you’re trying to serve someone through social media, look for clues of activity. These clues can indicate light to heavy use, which means they’ll be more likely to receive the notice:
- Profile picture changes
- Status updates
- Liking other posts
Why Use Social Media to Serve Papers?
To be honest, using social media to serve papers is still not a practice many judges love. There is a high risk that the person may not be who they say they are, or be inactive online. For a judge to justify using social media as a means to serve papers, you must prove that you have done your due diligence. This means that you have attempted to contact them both on your own and through the courts. Clear efforts, lack of successful contact, and things like change of address will help show the judge that social media is the last resort.
Now that social media is gaining legitimacy in legal cases, stay mindful of what you’re posting, and how you’re using your platforms. Social media is not a place where you can do and say whatever you want without consequences. Whether you’re having trouble contacting someone or you’ve been served through social media, Rapier & Bowling can help. Contact our professional legal services team today and learn about your options.