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Can child custody papers be served through Facebook?

Initiating a legal case concerning the rights and responsibilities of parenting is not always a simple matter. When one party does not wish to participate, he or she may go to great lengths to avoid legal service. That leaves the other party in a difficult position, as the rules of service in Texas and elsewhere are very clear in regard to how a child custody case can be initiated. A recent case in a different state illustrates the challenges of properly serving legal paperwork.

The case centers on a woman whose husband left her after only three months of marriage. She has reason to believe that he left the country and is now living abroad. However, her attempts to locate him in order to serve him with divorce papers have been unsuccessful. With few other options, she decided to serve him through Facebook. That effort was rejected by a court of law.

The judge in the case ruled that the wife had failed to properly prove that the Facebook account in question actually belongs to her husband. She also failed to show that her husband used the account for the purposes of communication. That leaves her unable to obtain a divorce and move forward with her life, or to settle matters of property division and child custody.

The state that heard her case is one in which landmark rulings were recently made concerning Facebook and legal service. However, there is no consensus in that state or any other concerning the use of social media to properly deliver legal documents. The day may come where divorce and child custody papers can be filed through Facebook or other social media sites. For now, however, individuals in Texas or elsewhere will continue to rely on more traditional means of legal service.

Source: New York Post, "Judge rejects divorce papers served through Facebook", Julia Marsh, Dec. 9, 2016

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