Court rules woman can serve divorce papers via Facebook: Like?

A New York State Supreme Court justice has ruled that divorce papers can be served via private Facebook message. Is the immediacy of social media harming marriages?

Jeff Chiu/AP/File
Facebook's 'like' symbol appears at the entrance to the company's campus in Menlo Park, Calif, in 2014.

Spouses looking for a quick exit from their marriages now have a new way to serve divorce papers: Facebook. 

According to The New York Daily News, State Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper allowed aspiring divorcée Ellanora Baidoo to serve her husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, with a divorce summons via a private Facebook message. The message is to be repeated once a week for three consecutive weeks or until “acknowledged” by Ms. Baidoo’s husband, a man whom news reports characterize as rather uncommunicative.

The couple married in 2009 in a civil ceremony. Media reports state that “Blood-Dzraku has only been in touch with his wife via phone and Facebook.”

Many on Twitter reacted with jokes about needing new buttons to "Decline Divorce Request," and other quips.

Still, there's something to be said for using the world's most popular social networking service for a legal notice. As Nancy Van Tine, a Massachusetts lawyer specializing in domestic relations, points out,  before this case, the customary practice when one of the parties was missing was to publish a summons in a newspaper local to where he or she last lived.

"I think the Facebook service is way more effective, especially if the missing party has a Facebook account," says Ms. Van Tine. "The point of service is to put the other side in a divorce on notice. Given the spreading effect of Facebook (and other social media) I am pretty sure he’s more apt to learn of the divorce with a Facebook post than a legal publication."

To one New York couples therapist, it's only natural that Facebook would become the next venue where divorce battles are declared and waged.

“Social media has served to make us more disconnected than we’ve ever been before,” says Andre Moore, director of Marriage & Couples Counseling NYC. “Facebook has our heads spinning.”

Mr. Moore, a psychoanalyst and couples therapist, says that the immediacy of social media has done marriage and relationships more harm than good.  

“Quick or short, that’s only good if you’re in Special Forces or in an emergency situation," says Moore. "You’re reacting and not coming at the problem in a meaningful way.”

“There are ways to work through a lack of communication,” he says. “Nothing quick was ever good as a long-term solution. Getting married quick. Getting divorced quick. It’s not going to end well.”

That said, there is something to be said for a clean break. "In a lot of cases, unless there are children involved, it can be very healthy to have that total disconnect from the other person after a divorce," says Sevin Philips, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of the national Relationship Counseling Center, which has 109 offices nationwide. In this case, however, he adds that, "The husband has a legal responsibility to communicate for the purposes of divorce."

But kids, of course, can complicate the picture: “My advice if there are children as a result of the marriage," says Moore, "is to try and work it out through family therapy because going down to family court here is a blood bath!”

Moore concluded, “With all that we see, Facebook, social media, courtrooms and all of that aside, we really do believe in marriage in this joint we work in here. We really do believe that most people can make it. If I didn’t believe it I wouldn’t be taking classes this week, myself, to keep up on all the latest ways to help.”

He adds, “Sure, new challenges, issues come with new things like social media. So we learn new ways to cope and new ways to reconnect in a more tangible way in places where saying someone is a ‘Friend’ means something more than clicking on their name.”

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