How To Get Divorced On Facebook, Because Just Changing Your Relationship Status Doesn't Really Count
By now, you’ve probably heard about how 26-year-old Elanora Baidoo will legally file for divorce on Facebook, revolutionizing the way people can get divorced in the future and you're probably thinking one of two things: First Facebook, next LinkedIn or another social media site? Or more importantly, can I get divorced on Facebook?
Baidoo’s husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, went missing, keeping in loose touch with Baidoo through Facebook messages and occasional phone calls. The two, from Ghana, were married in 2009, yet did not have a traditional Ghanaian wedding ceremony like Baidoo wanted. The marriage was never consummated and the couple never lived together, and Blood-Dzraku went MIA in 2011. Without a permanent job or address, authorities have been unable to find him.
"I think it's new law, and it's necessary," said Baidoo's attorney, Andrew Spinnell, to the New York Daily News.
In an editorial in CNBC, Divorce Attorney Brian Perskin wrote, “Countless people in New York are unable to get divorced or obtain orders of custody of their children because they do not know the whereabouts of their estranged partners. Often, the estrangement is purposeful, as the other party does not wish to get divorced or he or she wants to make the other's life more difficult.”
Now, due to New York Supreme Court Judge Matthew Cooper’s ruling, serving someone with papers, via publication, no longer applies. “Service by publication is not only extremely expensive, but it is not as effective as posting the notice on a social media site," said Perskin.
These are the steps Baidoo took to legally file for divorce in New York, because hey, maybe Facebook's the best place for you to issue your divorce papers, too.
1. Try your best to find your spouse.
Baidoo tried everything to find her husband before taking another course of action. However, since he has no permanent address or employment — and even a private investigator could not find him — there was no location to serve him divorce papers. In a CNN piece, Baidoo's attorney, Andrew Spinnell, said she is not asking for money. "She just wants to move on with her life and get a divorce."
2. Check the laws in your state.
Of course, divorce laws vary state-to-state. “Previously, New York law required a summons for divorce to be served on a person directly, which, in some cases, may prove nearly impossible if a person is purposely evading service or that individual's whereabouts are not easily ascertainable,” Perskin said in his CNBC commentary. Summons would be sent to the person’s last known address. Baidoo’s lawyer, Spinnell, filed an application and asked for "service by alternate means," i.e., Facebook in this instance.
"I think allowing service by Facebook is ingenious and would render moot many of the system's inefficiencies," said Perskin.
3. Make your case to the judge via an order to show cause.
An “order to show cause” requires that the party explains, justifies, or proves something to the court. Regarding Facebook, one party can prove that the other uses it regularly to communicate. “This could be accomplished if the person requesting alternative service is a friend of his or her spouse on Facebook,” Perskin said. “In that scenario, he or she could simply print out the last 30 to 60 days of the other's posts to prove to the court that Facebook is a regular form of communication.”
4. Wait while your lawyer does his or her thing.
Your lawyer will then begin the Facebook messaging process. “Contesting service by Facebook would prove difficult for the objecting party,” Perskin said. “If the summons were served by a private message between an account holder and the party being served, it not only would be obvious that the documents were delivered, but I am quite sure a representative of Facebook would be able to certify that a particular private message between two accounts was delivered.”
In Baidoo’s case, her husband will get notified once a week for three weeks. “It's splitsville if he either acknowledges a message or refuses to respond,” states an article by Engadget.
5. Divorce by default.
Baidoo's lawyers have yet to hear back from her husband and her lawyer is still in the process of sending messages to him. In general, if the person in question refuses to respond to the summons, the judge can proceed with a "divorce by default." If the judge grants your motion, you will receive a final divorce decision without your spouse's participation or signature.
After all is said and Facebook messaged, congratulations, you’re divorced! Of course, as technology continues to evolve, the ways in which people get divorced will probably shift, also. “This decision opens the door for creativity for lawyers and litigants alike and brings the court system closer to adapting to the times and current technology in the 21st century,” Perskin said.
Images: Getty Images; Giphy (4)