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ELECTRONIC SERVICE OF PROCESS: Is the use of Social Media the new means for process of service?

Posted by attorney Lori Strobl

ELECTRONIC SERVICE OF PROCESS:Is the use of Social Media the new means for process of service?

The methods for service of process may need to be updated according to one state judge. A Minnesota judge presiding over a domestic relations case thought that general delivery would be a waste of postage as the defendant was out of the country and there was no known address for the defendant. The judge ordered Plaintiff to serve notice to her husband via email, “Facebook, MySpace or any other social networking site."

The judge stated “General delivery made sense 100 years ago, but let’s be real…Nobody, particularly poor people, is going to look at the legal newspaper to notice that their spouse wants to get divorced." He further went on to say “The traditional way to get service by publication is antiquated and is prohibitively expensive…Service is critical, and technology provides a cheaper and hopefully more effective way of finding respondent."

Other courts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K. allow electronic service, but as of yet the United States has not followed suit in many of its state and federal courts.

While there are now numerous avenues for electronic service such as email, phone texts, and social media sites, few can agree on how this form of service should be implemented. There is no real guarantee that an email has been received unless a read receipt was attached to the email. Many emails could inadvertently be sent to one’s junk mail file. As far as social media sites are concerned, there is no guarantee that the person the notice was sent to is the person that has access to the account. Service would also be difficult in cases where the person to be notified has a common name. There could literally be hundreds or more profiles with that name. Likewise, cell phone texts present the problem of who has access to the messages and there is no guarantee that the message was received.

Another problem with electronic service is that many low-income families do not have access to computers in order to receive such service. So, until a uniform plan for implementation of electronic service of process is put into place, it would seem that traditional service of process will remain the norm.

As with any rule, there are exceptions.

Please seek professional assistance with any questions or specific situations.

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