A New York judge has ruled that a woman who was unable to locate her husband using traditional methods could serve him with divorce papers through a private message on Facebook. The decision was reached after emailing, telephoning and even hiring a private detective all proved to be unsuccessful.

This follows a 2014 decision, also in New York, that permitted a man to notify his ex-wife over Facebook that he wanted to stop paying child support. As with the later case, he had been unable to reach her in any other way, and she regularly participated on Facebook.

The law in New York is written in a way that allows judges to make the interpretation that service of process can be done in this unconventional manner if necessary, and it is likely that in the future other judges in the state may approve it. However, it may be some time before other states begin doing the same, although some attorneys have predicted that laws throughout the country will eventually be rewritten to recognize the role social media plays in people’s lives.

Those who are contemplating a divorce may want to consult an attorney who has experience in family law matters. It is not often that an estranged spouse will attempt to hide in the hope that he or she won’t be served with a divorce petition, but if so, it could be possible to use the precedent of this New York case. In most situations, however, the attorney will need to handle more conventional things such as divorce negotiations that could lead to a comprehensive settlement agreement covering property division and other issues.