Can I serve my ex-spouse through Facebook?
“Service” of court documents refers to the legal procedure of how those documents are delivered to the opposing party. Documents which start a family court proceeding, such as an Application or a Motion to Change, are required to be delivered personally on the opposing party to ensure that that party is aware of the legal proceeding.
What happens if you do not know where the other person is or if the other person is evading service of the documents?
In the last 5 years, Ontario courts have increasingly allowed litigants to serve court documents through social media. Facebook Messenger is the most used of the social media platforms, but LinkedIn and Instagram have each been allowed in limited cases.
Service of court documents through any social media platform must first be authorized by the Court. That means that you will need to bring a motion asking for an Order for substitutional service through social media on the opposing party. A Court may consider allowing you to serve your family court documents by social media where you can show that you have already taken all reasonable steps to locate and serve the other party through more traditional means (i.e. through a process server). You also need to satisfy the Court that serving documents through social media is likely to bring those documents to the other party’s attention. If serving by Facebook Messenger, this may mean establishing that the Facebook account holder is actually the opposing party (i.e. by identifying the individual through the profile picture, other photos, or posts) and, further, that he or she was recently active on Facebook (i.e. through recent posts). If allowed by the Court, serving family court documents through Facebook requires a private message to be sent through Messenger advising the other party of the proceeding and / or attaching the documents to the message itself. It does not mean that you can simply post a “you’ve been served” message on the other party’s Facebook timeline.
Despite the amount of people who actively use social media accounts every day, service of family court documents through any social media platform is a decision Courts approach with caution and remains the exception to the rule.
Carnegie Law Office is a boutique family law office with over 20 years’ experience empowering families to make choices for their children, their own lives, and their future.