Want to avoid facing a judge over your divorce or child support issue? In the past, some deadbeat parents could just avoid the process server charged with delivering their court summons. But now thanks to Facebook, deadbeats have one less place to hide.
A New York City family court ruled on September 12 that Staten Island man, Noel Biscocho, could use Facebook to serve his ex-wife with a legal notice regarding child support.
The decision was the first of its kind in both New York and the United States. So, why did the family court rule this way?
Well, because Biscocho had not been able to deliver papers in any of the normal ways. The man's ex-wife, Anna Maria Antigua, had moved with no forwarding address, and his children were not responding to his phone calls.
Further, Biscocho was also able to show in court that Antigua was regularly liking and posting photos, demonstrating that she "maintains an active social media account with Facebook." And because he had already tried all other methods, the court finally agreed that he did "have a means by which he can contact (Antigua) ... namely the existence of a social media account."
But how will the courts evolve with respect to their relationship with social media? Will it remain a "last-ditch effort" solution or will it become more mainstream?
Things evolve. I can remember in the early days of Facebook when we were satisfied to just reach out to old friends, or share a photo. But these days, Facebook has become a hub for advertisers, marketers, news sources, philanthropic causes and other groups (in addition to that "throwback" use we all joined to experience, socializing).
So, will there be an immediate impact that results from this ruling? According to Louisiana attorney Jennifer Matte, who specializes in family law, "The NY ruling will have no immediate legal effect in other jurisdictions at this time. Surely, it will enlighten other courts on potential means of procuring service upon individuals who intentionally make themselves unavailable to sidestep the law. In the NY case, it appears that service was attempted by all avenues, through law enforcement and by a private process server, which would be necessary prior to any other means in Louisiana."
So for now (unless you've been dodging court papers for some time), there is no precedent in place that you could reasonably expect to served papers via Facebook - at least for the time being.
Could Facebook come to serve as a vehicle to regularly serve legal papers in the future? Matte added, "In time, the people’s voices to their elected officials would determine [via legislature] the conducive changes appropriate with increasing technology and social media."
With the potential uses of social media growing faster than ever, it is easy to get a little worried about your own privacy. Do we really want to be that accessible to the world?
"I advise and caution my clients of the pervasive dangers associated with frolicking about the Internet," explained Matte. She added, "Experts and neophytes are equipped to tap into your information, habits and whereabouts that can be misconstrued by the best legal minds. If in doubt, don’t!"
As they say on airplanes that reach cruising altitudes, "you are now free to move about the cabin." But, as you do choose to participate in social media sites like Facebook, be aware that there is the potential for surprises, turbulence, and even danger ahead.
Just ask Anna Maria Antigua.