GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV)- Divorce can be a complicated process and having an uncooperative or missing spouse only adds to the difficulties. When you file for divorce the divorce complaint must be ‘served’ on the defendant, in this case your spouse, so that he has notice of the proceedings and have an opportunity to be heard. At times, it is difficult to serve papers on a spouse who either doesn’t want a divorce and avoids the process server or whose location is unknown.
Recently, The Washington Post (Eugene Volokh, April 9, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com), reported that a ruling by a judge in New York city allows divorce papers to be sent by way of Facebook. The ruling stated that the papers must be sent every week for a minimum of three weeks to be legally binding and that they still had to attempt to have the papers served in person and/or by email before using Facebook.
In Michigan, if your spouse cannot be served because you don’t know where he is and the process server cannot locate him your attorney must file a motion for alternative service. When alternative service is granted, often the court allows the complaint information to be sent or left at their last know address and also published, for a period of time, to satisfy the due process requirement (informing your spouse you have filed for divorce and allowing him to be heard in court) by the best means available under the circumstances. Publication in local newspapers is often used, but more and more newspapers have disappeared and social media has taken their place. However, most commonly in Western Michigan, the divorce complaint is published in newspapers. In Grand Rapids, The Legal News is often used which is a publication that is filled with various legal complaints that have been filed with the court. But Is this always the best means available under the circumstances to inform someone that a divorce complaint has been filed against them? Most non-lawyers are not even aware that The Legal News exists so they don’t read it and fewer people are reading newspapers.
With social media exploding and becoming so much a part of our everyday lives it isn’t a far reach to think that in the near future the courts of the State of Michigan may also decide to use Facebook to publish legal complaints to satisfy the due process requirement when it comes to divorce. We will have to wait and see.
Nothing herein constitutes a legal opinion