Greg Welden likes to tell a story about how, when he first started working in the Law (in 2001), he wasn’t even provided with a computer. I should probably milk this for all it is worth (after all I am the younger partner). However, in truth, it reflects the nature of this profession, revealing how slow us lawyers are to adapt to change. Of course even the legal profession is not immune to change, especially that which is facilitated by rapid advancements in technology.
Not surprisingly, Family Lawyers were the first to really begin to exploit the opportunities provided by the social media revolution. Since 2008/9 lawyers have turned to social media sites such as facebook as a means for gathering information, often content that is incriminating, to be used in divorce and childrens’ proceedings. This has become such common practice now that many lawyers routinely advise clients to exercise extreme caution when posting information about their activities in an online platform.
More recently, the use of social media as a legal tool was taken a step further when a father was granted a court order to serve documents to his ex-partner using a social media platform. This situation evolved when the father via his solicitor, filed an affidavit outlining the man’s unsuccessful attempts to contact his ex-partner who had actively chosen not to make contact so that a resolution regarding the care of their 8 year- old child might be finalised. Accordingly, in a landmark decision, a court order, granting sole parental responsibility to the father, was administered by facebook in April of this year.
Interestingly, the main concern associated with using any form of digital media as the means to serve documents, is the need to ensure that the documents were, in fact, delivered. Furthermore, it is critical to ensure that the documents were not only delivered, but they were received by the intended recipient. With email and fax being the more common forms of digital service undertaken, it is advised that the sender seeks consent from the other party prior to sending the documents, that a read receipt is requested (for emails), along with a return confirmation that the documents were received.
It is our advice making telephone contact with the other party to confirm receipt of the documents and that any evidence of service is retained (ie fax transmission reports, notes related to the time and place of delivery).